MWC TOURNAMENT:

Despite SDSU’s 55-45 triumph, UNLV still confident heading into Selection Sunday

At 25-8 with a strong resumé, Rebels feel tournament-worthy

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Sam Morris

San Diego State coach Steve Fisher salutes fans with the net after their Mountain West Conference championship game against UNLV Saturday, March 13, 2010. San Diego State won the game 55-45.

UNLV Falls Short of MWC Title

For the fifth time in the last six meetings, San Diego State knocks off UNLV, winning the Mountain West Conference Championship, 55-45.

UNLV-SDSU MWC Championship

UNLV guards Tre'Von Willis and Kendall Wallace walk off the court after their Mountain West Conference championship game Saturday, March 13, 2010, against San Diego State University. Launch slideshow »

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With the regular season and MWC tourney complete, what seed do you see UNLV getting in the NCAA tournament?

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The Rebel Room

SDSU POSTGAME: "Like a casual Friday before a three-day weekend"

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Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer discuss a 55-45 UNLV loss in the MWC title game to San Diego State, which didn't necessarily burst the Rebels' NCAA tournament hopes, but rather will simply affect their seeding in the field of 65. Roughly 20 hours after an epic night of semifinal action, fabulous freshman Kawhi Leonard paced the Aztecs to a victory with 16 points and a career-high 21 rebounds.

A year ago, getting to the title game of the Mountain West Conference tournament wasn't enough to keep San Diego State's NCAA tournament bubble from bursting a day later.

Now, after the Aztecs lowered their stress level by securing the league's automatic bid on Saturday with a 55-45 victory against UNLV, the Rebels can still probably head into Selection Sunday pretty confident at 25-8 overall with a firm resumé in its portfolio.

"I'm still confident that we'll be seeded. It probably won't be that high, and I don't expect it to be that high, but I'm sure we'll make the tournament," sophomore forward Chace Stanback proclaimed in the wake of UNLV's second loss this season to SDSU in three tries. "We're definitely down right now, but we've still got a lot of basketball left to play."

Following Friday night's epic semifinal round, both UNLV and San Diego State (25-8) were widely assumed to be solidly in the NCAA's field of 65, with Saturday's title game being played for both pride, seeding purposes and, of course, the guarantee of a ticket to the dance.

Despite some shake-ups on Saturday across the country — provided by the likes of Houston, New Mexico State, Minnesota and Mississippi State — several experts still think UNLV will hear its name called come 3 p.m. Sunday.

Saturday's outcome just might add a bit of nervous energy to the room when the Rebels get together to watch the unveiling of the tourney brackets following the team's season-ending awards banquet.

"I think once our name comes up, then we can finally relax," junior guard Kendall Wallace said. "Hopefully it comes up and we can have a big sigh of relief and look forward to next week.

"I think we've played some very tough teams this year and won the games we've needed to win, for the most part. We had a good road record, we won against some tough teams. I don't know what else they're looking for."

A third tournament bid in four seasons on Sunday also might be the best elixir to help the Rebels forget about Saturday's outcome.

Both teams started off slow, with multiple factors to blame.

Wallace said nerves on both sides may have played a part in the sluggish first half, but another key may have been fatigue across the board, as each team had less than 24 hours to recover from brutal battles in a heated atmosphere Friday night.

UNLV trailed by three at the half, 25-22, and in the second half appeared to take a strong upper hand as SDSU had trouble adjusting to the Rebels' full-court pressure defense.

Forcing Aztec turnovers, miscues and frustration helped the Rebels construct a 38-34 lead with 12:45 to play following a Stanback 3-pointer.

However, the tides turned quickly from there, as UNLV would only muster three made field goals the rest of the way, including two droughts of nearly five minutes between buckets.

In that final 12:45, UNLV was just 3-for-16 from the floor with seven turnovers.

Throughout the night, San Diego State controlled the glass with its long, athletic and hyper-active front line. That ultimately made the difference as UNLV struggled to create offense down the stretch.

SDSU out-rebounded UNLV 37-26, and in three meetings this season, won the battle of the boards by a combined margin of 120-91.

Freshman forward Kawhi Leonard sealed tournament MVP honors with his incredible 16-point, 21-rebound performance, including hitting eight consecutive free throws down the stretch.

The other Aztec towers inside — juniors Malcolm Thomas and Billy White — combined for 14 points and 10 boards.

Meanwhile, after having a career night for the Rebels on Friday in a 70-66 victory over No. 14 BYU, UNLV sophomore Brice Massamba struggled. He picked up two quick fouls, then was bottled up in the second half, finishing with no points, two rebounds and two turnovers before fouling out after playing 18 minutes.

Massamba, junior Matt Shaw and senior Darris Santee totaled just one point and three rebounds.

"When you think about their five man, four man being Thomas and White, very, very active, very athletic, can get out and cover perimeter guys, as well as block shots on the interior," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. "Then of course Leonard is fantastic. He does a terrific job in every way. He may set the standard for strong athletes, combination of both strength and athleticism.

"Everybody would like to recruit a guy to match up with him, but hard to find those."

San Diego State was far from pretty stat-wise, going 18-of-46 from the floor, 4-of-13 from deep and committing 18 turnovers.

But UNLV simply matched that, hitting 17 of 52 shot attempts, going 6-of-22 from 3-point range and turning it over 15 times.

Junior guard Tre'Von Willis, playing on a left ankle still sore from an incident during Friday's second half, scored 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting, while sophomore guard Oscar Bellfield also tallied 11. The sore thumb on Bellfield's stat line, though, was six turnovers compared to five assists.

Stanback had 10 points, seven rebounds and three steals in the losing effort.

Now it's simply time for UNLV to hurry up and wait for Sunday's selection show.

Some teams' bubbles more than likely popped on Saturday with league's such as the WAC and Conference USA now probably gobbling up two bids apiece due to title game upsets.

But UNLV still feels as if it has little reason to worry, as the Mountain West is still on track for a record four NCAA bids. That thinking is probably accurate, and Kruger, after all of his years in the game, has as good a feel for the situation as anyone.

"If there was really a big doubt about us being in then that's a little different for sure," Kruger said. "We've been in the situation before. But this group has obviously accomplished what it needed to to be selected, and we'll just wait and see what the seed is and where we go.

"This group's been in (the tournament field) for a while based on what everyone says. Winning two games this week adds to it. I don't think that's an issue with our guys. They're just disappointed to have lost a championship game."

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Previous Discussion: 66 comments so far…

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  1. Sufferin, first of all, welcome back.

    And UNLV is not a bubble team, no matter how many times you post that. We've been a lock since we beat Utah.

    See you back on the bandwagon next week.

  2. Sufferin, you are not a rebel fan. please start rooting officially for BYU or UNR or some other rival of UNLV. you are the opposite of a fan. it's worthless to even engage you on this discussion because you'll say that you are a true fan. you're a bum.

    great season for the rebs so far. i like our chances in the NCAA's. the familiarity of conference play makes it tough to win. i like our chances against anyone... go rebs!

  3. you're not realistic you are pathetic. UNLV just played a great week of basketball in what is widely regarded as the best MWC tourney yet and you are pushing your agenda of UNLV going to the NIT to make yourself feel better or to push the buttons of the commenters on this site. either scenario is nothing to be proud of... please go back under your rock and continue sketching blue prints for UNLV's on campus football stadium. or better yet, start talking about how hopeless this UNLV team is when they get to the sweet 16 again.

    you are not a fan. you spent the last 5 months plus claiming that these players aren't worthy of a UNLV jersey. i think everyone who reads this will agree that you aren't worthy of the distinction of describing yourself as a UNLV fan.

  4. @sufferin
    why would you bash your own team on a public forum, and then say "i hope we get in" ??

    thats like fans chanting "overrated" to teams you are beating. it cheapens the effort of the team to get that win.

    look man, lets make this real clear, and lets state something extremely obvious for the record, THIS ISN'T 1990. quit living in the past. and don't bash the team that you're an alleged fan of. sometimes venting, as a fan, is healthy for the sport, but trust me, Kruger, the players, the Mtn West, the NCAA committee, ESPN, CBS, or anyone, cares about what you think or say will happen.

    UNLV lost. they got out played by a very good and underrated team. i wanted them to win like every other rebel fan but it didn't happen. get over it. the SUN will be up tomorrow reporting on the seedings that all 4 of them Mtn West Teams will be getting. (that pun was for you ryan)

    overall i think it was a great 3 days of basketball by all teams.

  5. I am not sure how much success Schlabach has had. I do know Lunardi has had a lot of success lately. He has the Rebels as a 7 seed.

    http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketba...

    Funny thing is my bracket looks just like Lunardi's and it also looks like Schlabach's if I turn it the other way. Ooooh and if I turn it this way it looks just like yours sylvester, no wait I was wrong, it looks like I just pulled something out of my, well you know, wait I was right it does look just like yours.

  6. Now I will talk to the big boys on here.

    Lunardi's bracket has UNLV as a 7 with a potential matchup against Ohio State in the second round. I hope he is right. We match up VERY well against both teams with Missouri being the first round game. I don't know how accurate he is at actually picking the seeds and then the matchups but I hope he is right about this one. Plus, being a 7 seed is nowhere near the last 4 in. Which means no bubble at all.

  7. Rebel fever if you honestly think you match up well with Ohio State you are insane. Evan Turner will show you what big time players do to small time wannabe's. You better hope that matchup doesn't happen!

  8. well sufferin, if you had done a little more research on espn's website, you might have noticed that Joe Lunardi also updated his bracket, where he has our "bubblicious" rebels as a 7 seed. Good thing ESPN doesn't pay you to do its bracket forecasts. Wait, does anyone pay you for your input? Didn't think so... Stop trolling and do something productive with your life please.

  9. I was thinking today about the whole "home court advantage" farce, and decided to do some homework... check this out. Results are consistent with regular season performance, both in Vegas and in Denver.

    Season, Tournament record, tournament finish, final season record
    96-97 1-1 Quarterfinals 22-10
    97-98 4-0 WON 20-13
    98-99 0-1 First Round 16-13
    99-00 3-0 WON 23-8
    01-02 2-1 Championship 21-11
    02-03 2-1 Championship 21-11

    DENVER
    03-04 2-1 Championship 18-13
    04-05 1-1 Semifinals 17-14
    05-06 1-1 Semifinals 17-13

    VEGAS
    06-07 3-0 WON 30-7
    07-08 3-0 WON 27-8
    08-09 0-1 First Round 21-11
    09-10 2-1 Championship 24-8

  10. Robert,
    It is unlikely Minny beats OSU, and Miss St. beats Kentucky.

    If one of the aforementioned underdogs score an upset, that leaves UF and UNLV for one spot. Advantage UNLV. UF is 3-8 versus the RPI top-50, UNLV is 6-5.

    However, after last year's hoax of Arizona being included into the field of 65, I am kind of sweating this.

    If MSU and UM both win, there WILL be one "lock" who gets "unlocked" and will be dropped to a NIT #1 seed. I REALLY hope it is not the Rebels.

  11. Regarding Sufferin' I don't think everyone should bag on the guy because he's ignorant. When a nut just screams and screams in public you should just ignore him, I think.

    A few days ago, he was crying about an on-campus stadium and presented everyone with his grand vision-a copy/paste job of Sam Boyd Stadium plopped down in the black parking lot of TMC that would take out two major water lines to the university. Did he know that? No, of course not. But ignorance never stopped nuts before, it didn't then, and it won't in the future.

    As Buddy Holly wrote, Rave On, Suffy, Rave On. We need the chuckles you provide.

  12. On second thought, they'll unlock an A-10 or MVC team before they do it to UNLV....I think.

    Seeing fire marshall bill cutting down that net just isn't right.

  13. LOL @ CJJ!

  14. Some of our "fans" should frame that picture at the top of the page. Seems like they're always rooting for someone else!

  15. What about OK State? What about Richmond and Utah State's overall body of work? They are not as strong as UNLV's.

    Also, Utah State plays in the lowly WAC. Compared to the wars UNLV has been through in the MWC, UNLV gets the nod.

  16. UNLV doesn't have the RPI of those A10 teams but look at their records against top 100 RPI teams:

    UNLV 8-4 (.667)
    Temple 9-5 (.643)
    Xavier 10-7 (.588)
    Richmond 9-7 (.563)

  17. I will give you OK ST. What proves Utah State has a better overall body of work than UNLV other than, "oh, the WAC needs two bids, you know, just to be fair"?

    Try harder.

  18. Allow me to throw out there what I think could be the x-factor in all of this, and maybe this is just the conspiracy theorist in me ...

    New UNLV AD Jim Livengood

    He was not only the AD at Arizona while the Cats held the longest current streak of NCAA appearances -- which will end this year -- but was also the chair of the selection committee in the early 2000s. The selection committee is one of the most tightly-knit 'old boys clubs' in all of American sports. You have to think that he has some pull with those fellas.

    Just sayin' ...

    After all, Arizona some how slipped past SDSU and Saint Mary's to get in last year.

    A phone call from Livengood probably has some pull.

  19. I never questioned Temple or Xavier. R.I. will not be dancing.

    Sell me on why Utah State gets in over UNLV. 17 wins in a row over inferior comp doesn't do anything for me.

  20. Haha, good observation (and not just because it's something we'd want to hear).

    It doesn't seem so wrong when it helps out YOUR team!

    Although, I really, REALLY, don't think there's anything to worry about anyway.

  21. Me either, snyderm, but I think that's the cherry on top which should put some people at ease.

  22. Ryan, that's the political dimension I have been thinking about but haven't discussed yet. There IS pressure out there from all media sources who have the MWC with 4 bids.

    Your Livengood angle definitely has merit.

  23. You can have your opinion. Utah State's cupcake crown does not etch out an appearance over MWC #4 UNLV. USU would be a 5 or 6 seed in the MWC, not champs. Same reason why the Big East gets more in than the MWC. Big East > MWC, therefore Big East receives more bids. MWC > WAC, therefore MWC receives more bids.

    Your Aggies do not dance in front of UNLV. Sorry.

  24. WAC reg season champ does NOT equal auto-bid. Only the WAC Tourney winner gets an auto-qualifier. Sorry.

  25. Their 17 meaningless wins are worthless. The WAC has no other team with an RPI top-50 ranking.
    Sorry to break the news to you, but you're using fuzzy math again.

    Here's the dagger to your argument, however: Virgina Tech. Not dancing over UNLV. Not a chance.

    Prove otherwise.

  26. Go Aztecs!

    And I hope you Rebels fans get an invite too.

  27. You're conveniently leaving out the Hokies' 3-7 record versus RPI top-50 opponents and their best OOC win being against Seton Hall. Also, the Hokies' SOS is almost twice UNLV's.

    As you know, there is no need to flip any coins. UNLV gets the committee's nod.

    Would you please post another list reflecting the proper field? Thank you.

  28. I hope you Spaztecs aren't one-and-done. Unfortunately, you will be. Too bad.

  29. Sufferin has some good points I think he's a little hard on UNLV at times but most fans are. Now while I think we are still in I tend to believe we are closer to the bubble then some of you would like to admit. Look at the track record in 2007 we all thought UNLV was a 4-5 seed including Joe Lunardi what were we a 7. Everyone thought saint marys was in last year and they wern't but who was? UofA . I just don't like leaving it in the hands of the selection committee. On the subject of the WAC regular season champ being left out of the NCAA tournament is crazy they will be in. Will it be over UNLV I don't know but let's all hope Kentucky and duke win " I just threw up in my mouth" but that would definetly help us out.

  30. I also should throw in Ohio st could you imagine if Minnesota, miss st, and georgia tech all win? I'm not going to be very relaxed and friends that's life on the bubble. So tomorrow only go Duke, Ohio st, and Kentucky...

  31. Tired of what NCAA basketball has now become...All about the "big dance". I've changed my position over the years and now put more stock in tangible items you can look back at years from now, like a Conference Regular Season & Tournament Championship. Unless you are a top 10 quality team with a chance to win the national championship, does it really matter to get an at-large 8th or 9th seed and then get bounced in the first 2 rounds? That's not something to look back on years later, frankly it's empty and forgettable.

  32. Been watching (when I could) UNLV since Armon Gilliam and Freddie Banks...before the internet following a team out west was quite difficult (i'm in Kentucky). I feel very good about a spot in the field of 64 for the Rebels...BUT, just to be sure, today (only) I root for Duke and Ohio State. Go Rebels!

  33. Nothing personal Grayback, but some of your comments are idiotic. Sore loser? The Aztecs played a great tournament and your disparaging remarks regarding Coach Fish are moronic.

    GO AZTECS!!!

  34. The Plastic It sounds as if plastic describes you. Because someone posts something that riles your rebel fever you can ridicule them? Your and idiot. You don't have that right. Read the article and move on.
    By the way this big deal about UNLV and the big dance is watsed time. All to soon you delusional rebel fans will turn your television sets off and reality will set it as you wonder what happened. The facts are they really don't belong there anyway.

  35. UNLV is NOT a lock. UNLV is a bubble team. You guys are blind.

  36. History shows the Pac 10 is loved. Do not be suprised if Cal makes it and UNLV does not.

  37. As of NOW, Lunardi has Cal AND UNLV in as 7 seeds...

  38. ...Ryans comment about Arizona slipping in last year as well as Jim Livingood angle...I like UNLV chances even more

  39. UNLV is pathetic. You have home court advantage year in and year out in the post-season tournament and you STILL can't win. Bring the tournament to Salt Lake City and we'll show you what a real team does on its home court.

    By the way, how did the might Rebels do against Utah this year??? It is one of the worst years Utah has had and I don't seem to remember.

    Here is hoping that you make it to the NIT - which is better than you deserve.

  40. Lunardi is showing UNLV a #10 seed? That's a big drop from a #7 seed after losing to SDSU.

    http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketba...

  41. lobo69...

    i think UNM lost to SDSU because hoboson didn't do enough chest pumps during the game .

  42. I see that now...

  43. blah blah blah...play it in Buenos Aires, Moscow, Havana, or Burlington, VT

  44. Can I have the Rebels and FANS that were at the BYU game?

    I have been to my fair share of UNLV games, and the crowd was so docile, it was disgusting.

  45. Hey SugarBowl, we beat Utah when we needed to. Acutally, we swept the entire state of Utah(Utah, BYU) in the Mountain West tournament.

    Besides, none of our players have issues punching people during a game (like Henderson did against BYU) How classless, just shows a lack of respect.

    BTW - Speaking of lack of respect, did everyone notice how San Diego State did not stay on the court for the National Anthem? I would have expected more from a city with a big military presence.

  46. The bubble teams are:

    IN:
    Utah State
    VT
    Minn

    OUT:
    Missippi State
    Florida
    Illinois

    Sufferin (rebel robert) is a fraud.

    He has stated ON THIS FORUM that he will never support UNLV as long as Lon Kruger is head coach.

    He is PRAYING we don't make it.

    He called the Sweet 16 run "luck." And said Kruger would never make it back to the ncaa tournament.

    Then when we made it the next year, he (again) called it "luck" and said Kruger would never make it back to the ncaa tournament.

    All year long he's been on here with the NIT talk. And now all of the sudden he hopes we make it.

    He is a liar and a fraud. ZERO credibility.

  47. Aztecs & fans ... Great tourney. No hate from me, a lifetime Rebel fan. I think and hope you guys do well in the tourney. Any wise UNLV fan knows that it is to our advantage to have the Mountain West teams show well. Happily, though, that does not include Utah. "Sugarbowlchamps," go away. You won't even be in the NIT. It would be interesting if the MWC tourney was in Salt Lake, but since it has absolutely no draw, guess we won't have to worry about it. Maybe next year, loser!

  48. Geezus, UK is rolling over. A Mississippi State win is bad news for UNLV, I'm afraid.

  49. OT in the UK Miss. St. game.

  50. MSU, Richmond lost, looks like sufferen's bubble is bursting

  51. kentucky wins.. no stress

  52. Big surprise there Run, I actually hope Suff makes predictions against UNLV because he is always wrong.

    Gotta wait and see what Minn does today, but I still think UNLV is a lock, and a strong one at that with again another win against BYU down the home stretch.

  53. I think UNLV has definitely settled in.

  54. Vegas71 - Maybe if UNLV had done the same, they would've won. HaHaHa. Another sore loser. How about the Tark not standing up when Coach Fish shook his hand after the game (classless). You're all too fat (think buffet lines).

  55. I think Minnesota and Miss St are in regardless of them losing. I know the numbers don't really justify those two making it, but the old classic " eye" test sure has convinced me that those two teams are clearly better than UNLV.

  56. But who really knows? We will all find out in about 2 hrs. I think this year this is where everyone's "bracket genius" Joe Lunardi is going to be a bit off this year.

  57. abalone, you're a flat out moron. Tark has a medical condition that makes it hard for him to walk let alone get up for someone walking in his shadow. I can't think of what's worse; a sore loser or an idiot that doesn't know the first thing about being a humble winner. Why don't you do yourself a favor and take a walk in the middle of the freeway.

  58. Canes, they pass your test because you want them to not because they actually are better. And who are you anyway to make such an 'expert analysis' anyway. I think I'll defer to my dog first.

  59. Fastcamron do yourself a favor and let your dog take a walk in the middle of the freeway. If UNLV played Minnesota or Miss St. on a neutral court that would be a loss for sure, it's not cause I want it to be dough-boo.

  60. oh, MSU and Minnesota played well the last 3 days...so let's let them in as well.

  61. Oh UNLV beat 5 Mountain West bottom feeders and a heavily overrated, non-athletic BYU team in the last week, let's let them in as well.

  62. lol, okay

  63. Schlabach and lunardi both have UNLV as a lock. It will be tough to say that UNLV is in for sure but some of those teams sufferin considers locks are also still on the bubble like Cal, and Utah State (even though they won the WAC), Missouri is still a big Question mark but should still be in. Virgina Tech very much on the bubble. Also, half those bubble teams mentioned don't stand a chance; Seaton Hall, Mississippi, Florida, AZ State and dayton

  64. UNLV is in...no doubt. Minnesota just lost by 30. Not that these are related, lol.

  65. DONE DEAL

  66. dough-boo? Is that English slang or are you the idiot we all know you are and can't spell.

    BTW, the Rebs are in, further proving that you are no where near the prognosticator that you think you are.