The Rebel Yell is returning
December 05, 2017 3:12 AM
by Ramon Scott
The thrill is on at Thomas & Mack thanks to Coach Marvin Menzies and UNLV Runnin’ Rebels.
Sure, the Rebs lost a pair of overtime games last week, first to a comparable Northern Iowa team as UNLV was caught in a look-ahead to Saturday night’s raucous home game against Arizona, losing to the Wildcats in front of a huge crowd of fans from both schools.
But given the performances of freshman Brandon McCoy and junior Shakur Juiston, expectations are ramping up rapidly after the Rebels garnered a few votes in the polls before the losses.
Nevada was the only other team from the Mountain West Conference to garner any greater attention from the pollsters despite several computer models that rank MWC teams San Diego State, Fresno State and Boise State currently ahead of the rising Rebels.
McCoy, a five-star recruit from Cathedral Catholic High in San Diego, had 33 points on 13-of-17 from the field and 10 rebounds against the Wildcats.
His pal Deandre Ayton is one of just two freshmen in the nation to average at least 15 points and 10 rebounds while shooting over 60 percent from the field this season.
It’s hard to imagine McCoy not heading straight for the NBA after this season, but it would be fun to imagine if he didn’t go.
Juiston has 21 points and nine rebounds for UNLV, which built an 11-point lead in the first half and held the Wildcats to just 35 percent from the field, but U of A bounced back to shoot over 62 percent in the second half.
Senior Jordan Johnson, who had nine assists for the Rebels, is a nice facilitator with a good three-point shot who also plays a lot of minutes. Still, UNLV lost for just the second time in 10 meetings at home to the Wildcats, who were knocked out of the AP poll for the first time in five years after losing three-straight games at a tournament in the Bahamas.
With the Rebels in immediate contention in the Mountain West Conference, there will be several exciting games down the stretch, especially if they can put together a long winning streak over the next month, as UNLV could be expected to be favored in its next 11 games.
Wisconsin (-3, 135) at Temple (Wed., 4, ESPNU): The Badgers opened up conference play on Monday, but travel to Philly here.
The Owls have started 4-2 ATS after failing as an 11-point choice against George Washington at the BB&T Classic on Sunday, while the Badgers are just 2-5 ATS, covering just one of their last six.
Iowa (+7, 153) at Iowa State (Thu., 5, ESPN2): Cyclones had a four-game win streak entering Monday’s home game with N. Illinois, but were just 2-4 ATS, going 2-4 to the UNDER so far. The Hawkeyes won last year 78-64 at home and return everyone but Peter Jok, while the Cyclones were one of the most senior-laden units in the country last season.
Arizona State (-1.5, 161) vs. St. John’s (Fri., 5, P12N): The opener at the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic at Staples Center opens with undefeated ASU and Tre Holder.
The Sun Devils have covered six-straight and have gone 5-1-1 to the OVER. St. John’s stopped by to play Grand Canyon on Tuesday before heading here. The Red Storm was 7-1 entering the week, but just 3-3 ATS.
Oklahoma (+3, 159) vs. USC (Fri., 7:30, ESPN2): The featured matchup at the HOF event at Staples matches a pair of top 30-ish teams, although the Trojans have dropped their last two to Texas A&M and SMU. SC is just 3-3 ATS and 5-1 to the UNDER. Best player at the event is Sooners’ Trae Young, a top national POY candidate and have gone OVER in 5 of 6. OU just 2-4 ATS entering the week.
TCU (-1.5, 153.5) vs. Nevada (Fri., 10, ESPNU): The Horned Frogs entered the week 8-0, but check Tuesday’s hot matchup against SMU, as TCU, now moving into the top 20, was a home favorite in that one.
Frogs have alternated covers so far, putting up a 4-4 ATS mark and have gone 5-3 to the OVER entering the week. The Wolf Pack also came in undefeated this week, but were underdogs on Tuesday at Texas Tech. Still, Nevada is 8-0 ATS heading into that one and 5-3 to the OVER, although had gone UNDER in three-straight.
UCLA (+4.5, 148.5) at Michigan (Sat., 9 a.m., CBS): The Bruins surprised in their similar early spot last year knocking off North Carolina in a top-ranked matchup. The Wolverines lost their stiffest test to-date, dropping an 86-71 road game at UNC, but opened up with a great home cover against Indiana in a sure UNDER.
Michigan junior Moritz Wagner, from Germany, is a dominant rebounder on the defensive glass. Bruins had just one loss entering the week to comparable Creighton in Kansas City.
Wichita State (-4, 150) at Oklahoma State (Sat., 1, ESPN2): The fifth-ranked Shockers passed a nice road test as a short ‹dog at Baylor on Saturday with a nice defensive effort in a 69-62 win and they’ll be asked to lay a little more here.
Wichita State has gone UNDER in three-straight lined contests, while OSU has gone UNDER in all six lined contests entering the week.
Florida (-3, 148) vs. Cincinnati (Sat., 3, ESPN2): Ninth-ranked Gators and 18th-ranked Bearcats meet at Prudential Center in New Jersey in the Never Forget Classic. The Gators had wins over Stanford and Gonzaga (in 2OT) at the PK80 before falling to Duke. Florida, 4-2 ATS and 5-0 to the OVER, had home games earlier this week against Florida State and Loyola Chicago.
Cincy coach Mick Cronin had a rough night in the loss to rival Xavier last Saturday in a verbal altercation with P.J. Macura, and XU snapped UC’s seven-game win streak to open the season.
Minnesota (+3, 162) at Arkansas (Sat., 3:45, SECN): Minnesota’s Jordan Murphy extended his double-double streak to nine games in Sunday’s win and cover over visiting Rutgers. The Gophers have gone OVER in 7 of 8 lined contests to date and have posted a 6-2 spread mark.
The Hogs hosted Colorado State on Tuesday and had lost two of three before that, falling to North Carolina at the PK80, though they beat Oklahoma and UConn there before losing at Houston by 26 points last Saturday.
Alabama (+6, 146) at Arizona (Sat., 7, ESPN2): The Wildcats had a rough time in the Bahamas, but prevailed in OT on Saturday here against UNLV, then jumped right back in against eighth-ranked Texas A&M on Tuesday.
Stars Ayton and Allonzo Trier combined for 67 points against the Rebels. The Tide was stunned on Sunday by Central Florida, losing 65-63 as a 9 1/2-point favorite.
Gonzaga (-12.5, 156.5) at Washington (Sun., 5, P12N): 12th-ranked Gonzaga comes into its first true road game of the season off a matchup last Tuesday at Madison Square Garden with seventh-ranked Villanova at the Jimmy V Classic. The Huskies also met another high-profile opponent earlier this week, as they took on Kansas on Wednesday in Kansas City.
The Huskies failed to cover three-straight games as favorites before that against UC Davis, Kennesaw State and Nebraska-Omaha.
Ramon Scott is a Southern California-based sportswriter covering the preps to the pros for over 25 years. Email: RamonScott@GamingToday.com