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August 27, 2014

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

ray brewer:

Debating whether UNLV should continue series with San Diego State

Image

Sam Morris

UNLV forward Mike Moser greets fans after the Rebels’ 65-63 win over San Diego State on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012.

Rebels edge San Diego State

Rebels scrape by conference foe San Diego State, 65-63.

UNLV vs. SDSU - Feb. 11, 2012

This is a three photo sequence of UNLV forward Mike Moser dunking on San Diego State forward Garrett Green during their Mountain West Conference game Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012 at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV won the game 65-63. Launch slideshow »

Thanks for the memories, San Diego State.

That’s the response every UNLV official should be familiar with when asked about continuing the basketball series with the Aztecs. Thanks, but no thanks. With San Diego State leaving the Mountain West Conference after the 2013 season for the Big East in football and Big West in basketball and other sports, the crazy atmosphere for the Rebels' dramatic 65-63 victory Saturday shouldn't be enough to save the series.

Don’t get me wrong. The energy inside the Thomas & Mack Center for Saturday’s game — pregame tailgating, loud and engaged fans, an awesome halftime tribute to the 1987 Final Four team, and even the long bathroom lines — resembled a Saturday afternoon home game during the glory years. It was clearly the place to be in Las Vegas, a town with plenty of Saturday options, with the game selling out midweek.

Let’s just evoke the 48-hour rule and take a look at the long-term benefits of keeping the San Diego State relationship alive. While Saturday’s game was everything you want in a college basketball contest, it’s a series that’s not beneficial for UNLV after the Aztecs leave the league. The Rebels would have nothing to gain by that.

San Diego State always has a hard time scheduling, playing non-conference games this year against Chicago State, Elon, Redlands and San Diego Christian. Add Big West league games against the likes of Pacific, UC Irvine and UC Riverside to the equation, and San Diego State’s RPI will be awful. So a loss to the Aztecs -- something the Rebels have done in nine of the last 11 meetings -- wouldn’t exactly help UNLV’s seeding causes come March.

It’s a rivalry created by the fact the schools are both elite in the Mountain West Conference. There is no history. And, despite a five-hour drive separating two towns and downright amazing games the past few seasons, there will never be any significant history.

It’s not like Missouri leaving the Big 12 for the SEC, and Kansas having to decide whether or not to continue the rivalry, which is one the most storied games in college basketball.

UNLV, which travels to North Carolina next year for a non-league game, should be more interested in scheduling opponents from respected leagues. San Diego State will remain a quality opponent the next few years, but UNLV shouldn’t do the Aztecs — a program they often recruit against — any favors by giving them a marquee game on the schedule.

Again, Saturday was great. The loudest the Mack has been in years. But it’s time to say good-bye to San Diego State. It’s a marriage with no long-term future.

Thanks for the memories, San Diego State.

Here are some observations from Saturday's game.

Justin Hawkins’ clutch, clutch play(s) : Justin Hawkins deserves credit for this victory in a game UNLV was fortunate to win. Ok, lucky is probably a better term. Hawkins’ steal near midcourt as time was running down and San Diego State was pushing the ball up the court eyeing the winning points, shows what a great player he’s become. UNLV was desperate for someone to make a play late, and when each of his teammates seemingly failed to seal the game, Hawkins took matters into his own hands. First, with UNLV holding a slim one-point lead and less than 10 seconds remaining, he grabbed an offensive rebound after a Chace Stanback free throw miss to preserve the lead. He was fouled, making the first free throw and missing the second. However, he atoned for the miss with the game-ending steal. He finished with four points and two steals, but you can’t measure great defense by looking at numbers in the box score. Hawkins is UNLV’s best defender. The improvements he’s made from his freshman year to his junior year are simply amazing. He’s become an important part of the rotation.

Oscar’s great game : When Oscar Bellfield went up for what turned out being a monster one-handed dunk late in the first half, I assumed he was simply going to attempt a layup. I didn’t realize he had such great jumping ability, dunking the ball with a chasing defender in pursuit for a block. Bellfield displayed his often-overlooked athleticism with solid play. While Mike Moser, Chace Stanback and Anthony Marshall have had great seasons, it’s the contributions from Bellfield that make the Rebels dangerous. The senior has been a full-time starter for a majority of his career and has the experience needed to lead his team to victories in March. Saturday, he was at his best. He finished with 15 points, six assists and just one turnover, doing a little bit of everything — hitting 3-pointers, perfectly directing the offense and playing great defense on the perimeter. It was vintage Oscar.

Retire No. 13 : The halftime tribute to the 1987 Final Four team was the icing on the cake for a great afternoon of Rebel basketball. Being in the arena while the team was honored surely brought back fond memories for several with former players and coaches in attendance receiving loud applause. However, the ceremony should have included one announcement. It’s time for UNLV to retire Freddie Banks' No. 13 jersey. He’s one of the best five players in school history and it’s a shame his jersey isn’t hanging next to his good friend Armen ‘The Hammer’ Gilliam’s No. 35.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

CORRECTION: The story initially had San Diego State leaving the Mountain West Conference after this season. The Aztecs won't change to the Big West Conference until after the 2013 season. | (February 13, 2012)

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  1. I agree. San Diego St doesn't deserve to play UNLV anymore. If they think they are too good to be in the MWC then f**k em. Just like BYU. San Diego St and BYU both had great rivalries with UNLV going and against each other but thier egos got in their ways and messed up what could have been continued good rivalries in a solid, up and coming conference. Is BYU any better off in the WCC then they were in the MWC? The MWC again this year is condsidered one of the best conferences in the country and the best on the west coast. #5 in the most recent conference RPI rankings. But BYU left it for a lesser conference. I know Saint Marys is ranked but they are not UNLV or San Diego St. And San Diego St is about to tdo the same thing.I understand the football part of the equation but why leave in all other sports too? The Big West is a joke with lesser teams and less talent. Now they will have to start all over and try to build rivalires that no one cares about. Good luck with that one San Diego St.

  2. SDFU SDFU SDFU

  3. They make one tournament run and their fans and organization think they are Kansas or Kentucky.I say good riddance, have fun in the Big West, and, in the immortal words of Ron Burgundy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pBi69gqV...

  4. No to scheduling SDSU, yes to BYU and Gonzaga and St. Mary's and Arizona. Let's settle this "Best in the West" thing on the floor. SDSU will no longer be in that conversation.

  5. SDSU's athletic director did all other sports they have the biggest disservice by moving just football to the Big East. That says something about a school, and a program, that money only matters. Livengood stated he will never do that with UNLV, and I hope that holds true, especially if the rest of the sports would join a conference like the Big West. It's been real SDSU, but have fun without us.

  6. Well, we all know that football, not basketball, drives the bus. Unfortunately for SDSU, their basketball program will take a major hit by going to the Big West.

    @mj20 - They had to leave the MWC in all other sports. Its the MWC's position that if you are not a football playing member, you are not a member. Same reason BYU had to go WCC in all other sports.

    I wouldn't necessarily be opposed to playing them in the future. It is a good rivalry and fans on both sides bring a lot of passion to these games. Today's game was a prime example. The build up to the game this week and the game day atmosphere hasn't felt like this in years. In my opinion, its a good idea for the top teams on the west coast to play each other. There's UNLV, SDSU, Arizona, St. Mary's, Gonzaga, etc... that should all be playing each other every year.

  7. They should set up a four team tournament "best in the west." in Anaheim between zone, zaga, unlv and...well we need sdsu, buy and saint Mary's also. Play in games for byu, and saint marys against zone and zaga. Just because sdsu and unlv are best right now.

  8. We should, in this order....

    1 - Play teams that generate the most $$$ for the school.

    2 - Play teams that will generate the most interest by recruits because we play those teams.

    Who cares about any other factor such as 'rivalry' and West Coast location?!

  9. The Rebels should try to get into the Pac-12. If they invest in the football program and build a stadium and practice facility on campus, then I think they would have of chance of being invited to the Pac-12. The major conferences are looking to 16 teams, and it's time the Rebels joined a major conference.

  10. Rivalries and a close geographic proximity generate more interest. More interest = more money. Its the same reason we should still play BYU. Those games sold out every single time! If SDSU continues to be a top program, I think the same will hold true.

    As far as recruits, having games in California (SDSU, USC, UCLA) is vital to recruiting since Southern California has a ton of talent at the high school level pretty much every year. Being able to pitch to recruits that they can play close to home once or twice a year helps. May as well play those games against better teams than going over and beating up on a Bakersfield.

    Not saying that all of our games should be against only West Coast schools. Obviously you want to play the top programs in the country regardless of location. My statement is simply that we shouldn't immediately dismiss playing schools like BYU or SDSU because some people get all butt-hurt that they left (or are leaving) the conference.

  11. The constant conference shuffling is becoming ridiculous. As an SDSU fan I very much wanted for the MWC to continue being the great conference it was. When BYU & Utah left with TCU right behind them it became apparent that the MWC was no longer going to be a top tier conference (realistically only us MWC fans viewed our conference as 'top tier', but we know it was). Rumors were swirling that Boise was on the way out and possibly even Air Force (!). SDSU was faced with the prospect of remaining in a much weaker conference or seeking potentially greener pastures.

    The move to the Big East in Football was not exactly universally applauded here in SD. Personally, I think it is ridiculous but there is no denying that it has already helped football recruiting. As for basketball, as another poster has already said, the MWC does not allow non-football members to play basketball. I for one am not happy that the Aztecs will be playing hoops in the Big West. They will play 4 non-conference games a year versus Big East teams which will help their RPI but they are going to need to schedule other elite teams. I hope UNLV remains on the schedule. I always look forward to Aztec-Rebel games and there is no denying that it has been a competitive, well played series of late. Congrats on a great win yesterday. Let's keep this rivalry going (trust me, at least from our side, this IS a rivalry).

  12. Good work, Ron. It's easy to see why SDSU -- a team that has had a remarkable string of success against UNLV -- would want to continue to beat up on a team with a top 10 RPI. But it was their choice to kill the rivalry and we shouldn't reward them for doing that. Time to rekindle some PAC-12 rivalries.

  13. sinatra711 has it right. SDSU is a "rival" because they are a good team that we have to play twice a year. Once they leave for the "Big" West (and especially once Steve Fisher retires and they slide back into basketball oblivion), the rivalry loses significance. Games versus the likes of UNC, Big 10 powers, and other solid teams from the power conferences have far more beneift to us than continuing old rivalries with regional teams. As the MWC continues to lose quality teams, the games against the big-name schools will be more important than ever.

  14. Well Ray I will say one thing about your writing: You know how to stir things up! Your position sounds like a spoiled child. SDSU and UNLV should continue to play each other as should we continue to play BYU. SDSU will be a regional BB power for years to come imo. Once you get the taste of success(BB) the admin and the fans are going to want to keep their high level. The argument about the RPI is invalid. Do you think that are schedules are loaded with Dukes and Michigan States? Better take another look. Don't be a baby and want to take your ball home cause they did something they thought was necessary. We have played SDSU in leagues since the PCAA.

  15. For ALL you TerRebel fans, saying that you have 'Nothing to Gain' in playing SDSU in basketball, is basically saying that you're too scared of the POTENTIAL of continuing to get beaten. The success of both the SDSU team AND the publicity of THE SHOW has, wether you liked it or not, driven you guys to get back on your game in a major way. You guys should be thanking us in a sick and twisted way for placing that fire back in your belly's. For sacking it up and getting motivated once again. That's what good rivalries are all about. Pushing each other in fierce competition and bettering each other by beating each other's brains out. And this is a really good one. Don't be scared to schedule us boys, just because the thought of losing to a BIGwest opponent is likely. Remember, you guys won your national championship in the dun dun dun dun...BIGWEST. RPI is a non factor, as we will also be playing against top tier BIGEAST opponents. But in the end of it all, Conference alignment is as fickle as a fortune cookie. The MWC screwed all of us over, SDSU is just bold enough to step out and do whats right for their university. But despite affiliation, we like it or not, are regional foes. Don't let ONE victory cloud your judgement and think otherwise.
    Either way, SDSU we will continue to be the best hoops in California and the West. We respect all of our opponents and aren't afraid to schedule anyone, anytime, anyplace. Just a shame most have been afraid to schedule us. Maybe because there is too much to loose. But as you boys in Vegas know, Scared Money don't Make None.
    GO AZTECS.

  16. Big_John (did u take thta nickname when u guys were in the Big West?)

    You know...I truly respect UNLV as a program. Speaking of RPI...I wonder how your RPI will drop after you guys just GOT dropped by TCU.
    But thats besides the point at hand.
    If i'm so delusional with our 2 tournament wins...then why do we already have agreements in place for four years of consecutive games with UConn and Memphis both home AND away. hmmm.
    Even you can't deny that that we "picked the fight" with you guys by dominating the series most recently and as we like to say making the T&M in fact our own vacation home. So just keep it real by giving credit where credit is due. We are well aware of unlv's history and tradition...which is why we truly enjoy competing and ultimately beating you guys. take it as a good thing buddy.
    Lastly i truly enjoy this rivalry, and really wish you guys would smarten up, get your act together and come join us in the BIGEAST and Big West. Atleast you wont have to face TCU in that conference.