NCAA Tournament:

UNLV basketball gets the best-case scenario on a memorable Selection Sunday

The Rebels get the 6 seed in Albuquerque, so plenty of fans have an easy trip to watch them play 11 seed Colorado

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Steve Marcus

Oscar Bellfield, left, Brice Massamba, center, and Mike Moser of the UNLV Rebels react as they find out their selection for the NCAA tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center Sunday, March 11, 2012. The Rebels will face Colorado at Albuquerque.

Rebels to Face Colorado

Oscar Bellfield, left, Brice Massamba, center, and Mike Moser of the UNLV Rebels react as they find out their selection for the NCAA tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center Sunday, March 11, 2012. The Rebels will face Colorado at Albuquerque. Launch slideshow »

Sun's Ray Brewer talks UNLV and the NCAA Tournament

Sun Sports Editor Ray Brewer talks about UNLV's seeding in the NCAA Tournament and its prospects moving forward on KSNV's Sports Night in Las Vegas, March, 11, 2012.

Rebels seeded No. 6 in NCAA Tournament

KSNV coverage of UNLV being seeded No. 6 in the NCAA Tournament and facing Colorado in its first game Thursday in Albuquerque, Sunday, March 11, 2012.

The Rebel Room

Rebels draw Colorado in NCAA opener

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Las Vegas Sun reporters Taylor Bern and Ray Brewer take a look at the UNLV basketball team's opening round opponent in the NCAA Tournament — Pac-12 tournament champions Colorado.

The Rebels' feelings as they took their seats Sunday at the Mack to watch the NCAA Tournament selection show mirrored those of the fans in attendance and those watching at home.

Some, like sophomore forward Mike Moser, were pessimistic after high hopes in recent years turned into trips to the 8 vs. 9 game.

“I was probably thinking kind of negatively about it,” Moser said, “just planning for the worst.”

Others just took their seats and hoped for the best. And nobody had to wait long for the answer.

With the top overall seed Kentucky in their bracket, UNLV is the 6 seed in the South region, playing Thursday in Albuquerque at about 7 p.m. on truTV (Cox channel 54) against 11-seed Colorado. The Rebels would potentially play the winner of 3-seed Baylor vs. 14-seed South Dakota State.

It was the first region that CBS unveiled and it elicited a chorus of cheers in the Mack, where just two days earlier UNLV had lost to New Mexico in the Mountain West tournament semifinals.

While Moser braced himself for bad things, senior guard Oscar Bellfield went in confident that he wouldn’t leave disappointed a third straight time.

“Oscar was like ‘I think we’re going to get a 6,’ ” junior guard Anthony Marshall said. “… Maybe he should make predictions more often.”

Not only did UNLV get a 6, which was the best they could do based on projections from across the nation, but the Rebels are going to a familiar arena that’s also the closest possible destination for fans.

“Albuquerque would have been our first choice,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said.

Added Moser, “We’re just so excited it’s in a place where fans can travel there.”

All in all, the afternoon went better than most Rebels and their fans could have reasonably hoped for. It’s the highest seed since the 1990-91 team notched a 1 seed and lost to Duke in the Final Four and this year’s draw doesn’t look devastating.

“It was a big weight off our shoulders,” Moser said. “We’ve been wanting to play and know where we’re going to be since we lost Friday. Now that all that is determined and set in stone, I think we can concentrate on the next go.”

That starts with Colorado, which had no shot at the tournament until it won four games in the Pac-12 tournament to take the automatic bid. The Buffaloes finished the regular season on a 3-4 stretch and earlier this season lost at home to Wyoming by 11, but the Rebels are more concerned with Colorado’s four-game winning streak.

“They’re coming off a hot streak just winning the Pac-12 so they’re feeling very confident,” Marshall said.

The matchup features a reunion of former high-school teammates with Justin Hawkins going against Colorado freshman Spender Dinwiddie, who played together at Taft in Los Angeles. The Rebels are also familiar with leading scorer Carlon Brown, a senior transfer who had great games against UNLV when he was at Utah.

The Rebels opened as a 5-point favorite. They were also slight favorites the last two years, though, and those losses feed UNLV’s motivation this time around.

“That always stays in the back of your mind,” senior small forward Chace Stanback said. “… What you’ve got to take from that is that you’ve got to play every game like it’s your last. Don’t leave anything on the court.”

That’s exactly what they intend to do, but nobody can be sure how it will turn out. Does finishing 6-5 down the stretch indicate serious trouble? Will their road struggles transfer to a neutral court?

The Rebels have a few days to try to find answers. The fact they get that opportunity is good enough for Rice.

“Whether you close a season exactly how you want to or not, when your name gets called on Sunday it’s a new season and a level playing field,” Rice said. “… It’s something we’ve earned the right to do.”

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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  1. Put two solid halves of basketball together and that Sweet 16 is a reality. Cannot build leads and give them away. Not with a veteran team like the Rebs have.

  2. We only know one thing for sure:
    The Rebels will build a 15 point lead in the first five minutes of the game.

    After that, it's anybody's ballgame.

  3. We're number 6! We're number 6! We're number 6! Jeesshhhh

  4. This has been a season of contrasts for the UNLV Rebels. Over the span of a single game (or even half a game) I have been jumping for joy and then screaming in disgust. This contrast speaks to the season as well, the Rebels basketball team was supposed to be good this year but not really good. Coach Rice was new and as such the team was going to be in a learning, rebuilding and recruiting year. Yet, this team has pulled off a 26-8 record with some serious wins to their credit (North Carolina & Illinois to name two) and playing in a conference that is sending four teams to the NCAA tournament. Yes, they had some troubles on the road but so did SDSU and UNM - the Mt. West is a tough conference. And, yes the Rebels have had a problem with letting large leads get away from them, but 26-8 and a 6 seed in the NCAA tournament for a team that was not supposed to be much this year is amazing. Any city should be jumping out of their skin for a team like the running Rebels of 2011/12. Coach Rice has taken a major step toward restoring UNLV's basketball legacy in only one season. Next year's team will be more mature, deeper, faster and the beneficiary of this year's amazing experience. I look forward to Thursday's game against Colorado and the smile on Mike Moser's face, the grin on Brice Massamba's face when he pounds one in, the determination of Chace Stanback and Oscar Bellfield on defense, Carlos Lopez and his hair and the launch of the 3 pointer by Kendall Wallace. It has been a great season, I wish the team luck in the tournament and look forward to next season's highs (and lows), it's all part of the game.

    Great job Rebels.

  5. "" What you've got to take from that is that you've got to play every game like it's your last. Don't leave anything on the court." Exactly.

    It's a neutral court for the rebs, but it's also a neutral Court for Colorado. They can't get in their head it's a neutral for them and not the other team. Colorado is at the disadvantage going into this game.

  6. To all the naysayers, keep on trolling. All we heard from these people since the beginning was UNLV isn't gonna make the tournament, Dave Rice was the wrong hire, this team is weak/soft/sloppy/etc.

    Well ya know what, it's March. UNLV made the tournament and has the best seed in 20 years. I'm glad the Rebels have proved you wrong another year. It's a great honor and moment for the University to be included and show their hard work has paid off.

  7. The team should watch a tape of the national championship game every day this week and before every game! GO! ROCK! WIN!!!

  8. I continue to be perplexed by individuals who read an article on a newspaper website, take the most negative, antagonistic point of view they can possibly take, and then take the time to post those negative comments on this website. What are you trying to accomplish, exactly? The point of the story is that the Rebels received the best possible scenario they could have hoped for given the results of the season. Would we Rebel fans love the Rebels to be 35-0 with an average margin of victory of 30 points a game and the overall #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament? Of course, who wouldn't want that? But even that doesn't guarantee anything, as the '91 Rebels can attest. Heck, just last year, none of the #1 or #2 seeds made the Final Four. And Butler has made the National Championship game two years in a row as a 5-seed and an 8-seed. As a Rebel fan, I couldn't be happier than going to Albuquerque to play an opponent that I believe the Rebels should beat. As far as looking ahead beyond Colorado, we fans like to do that to think about potential matchups because it's fun to consider how the Rebels would match up against Baylor and potentially against Duke. Neither of those matchups may occur, but it's fun to think about. I guarantee there is no way on Earth that the players are thinking about any opponent besides Colorado. Let us fans enjoy it rather than spewing your negativity and derogatory comments.

  9. Rebelheart I'd rather they watch tape of their game against UNC so they can see how they were playing at the beginning of the season.

    As for the "We're #6" people...it's far better than where most of us thought they would wind up. ESPN's bracketology had them as a #7 in Omaha(yet again) on it's last bracket, so I'll take the 6 in NM over that anytime, although I would have preferred a trip to Portland as that might have gotten Moser energized and worked for those 2 games to help propel us to the sweet 16 out of there. Now he'll just have to want to get motivated to put on a show in NM to help erase the memory of his last visit there.

    It's sad that some of you got your expectations for this team so high after the win against UNC that you can't really see this team for what it is through all it's flaws. I agree Coach Rice has made mistakes with this team, but you can't fault him for the overall outcome of this season. I mean he's not responsible for the fact that Stanback has confidence issues(he had them last season), that Marshall struggles with his jumpshot(still a work in progress), or that the big guys can't hit FT's(since outside of Marshall that's who shoots them most for this team), or for the fact that he shortened his bench as the season went along as they stopped performing(Lopez hasn't been the same since his injuries midseason, Q's hands turned to stone, and Reggie never developed). The last of which has led to the team becoming worn out and losing their legs which has resulted in them wearing out come the 2nd half of most games. Hopefully they'll get a good chance to rest up a bit before Thur.

    I personally hope for the Rebels to come out and play hard for 40 minutes. I hope for them to get back to playing sound defense(no more lapses and miscommunications on the switches or lack of communication all around) and for them to fundamentally rebound the ball(put a body on somebody to include the shooter and follow your shots). If they at the very least improve in those 2 areas then they should do well. If the 3 ball starts to go down and/or if Stanback goes on another streak like in Dec then this team can go very far. Good luck Rebels!

  10. skull1vt is a freakin' mindreader. Spot on!

  11. Thank you I Love March Madness and Skull1vt. Your remarks are on the money and needs to be said and repeated. I'm very happy with the success of this team, warts and all. The naysayers are going to say what they say, but I say---GO REBELS !!!!!!

  12. Out of 347 div. 1 basketball teams, UNLV is ranked #23 in the nation.
    That's the top 6%.

    If that's still not good enough for you, look at it this way: being ranked in the top 6% in 119 teams of Div. 1 football would be #8 in the nation.

    For a first year coach running a new system, it's a great accomplishment, especially coming into the season unranked.

  13. ESPN:
    South Region breakdown
    By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

    Possible Cinderella

    "It's hard to call a No. 6 UNLV a Cinderella. But the Runnin' Rebels could make the Elite Eight. The matchups are favorable. Colorado may have run out of gas in the Pac-12 tournament. The Buffs may struggle to rebound with the Runnin' Rebels, too. Baylor has tremendous talent and length but UNLV already knocked off a similar team this season in North Carolina. So a UNLV run could occur. And beating Duke isn't out of the question, either, with La Vegas' aggressive nature. I'm not predicting this run, but it's more than plausible."

  14. If you claim to have more basketball IQ than Andy Katz, then you shouldn't be writing on local news boards. You should be writing for ESPN.