For those questioning the title of this post, follow me on this. Both teams have six games remaining (BYU has seven) after this one and certainly anything can happen in those remaining games to throw the regular season conference title up in the air. However, BYU would seem to have the easiest schedule remaining. If UNLV loses to New Mexico, they drop a game back and still have to go to San Diego State and Utah. If New Mexico loses, they drop a game back and still have to go to BYU. Thus, as far as I can tell, the loser of this game is more or less out of the race for the regular season conference title.
Given the stakes of this game, and the talent on the floor, UNLV-New Mexico should be a highly entertaining affair. This is the first time since 1993 that UNLV will be ranked and hosting another ranked team in the regular season (#15 hosting #18 Georgetown then), and this is the first time since 1991 that two ranked conference opponents squared off in the Thomas & Mack Center. Throw in the fact that it's on national television with UNLV potentially hosting its second straight sell-out for the first time in two-plus decades, and you've got the makings of a great game.
These two teams squared off a month ago at The Pit, in a game that saw UNLV surprise the Lobos in a rare home-court loss. While Tre'Von Willis and Chace Stanback had begun emerging as dual threats for the Rebels, the difference-maker was Kendall Wallace, who came off the bench to pour in seven 3-pointers, six of which came in the second half. With Derrick Jasper on the sideline for a few more weeks, Wallace has moved into the starting lineup. It's safe to say New Mexico will not leave him quite so open this time around. Furthermore, Wallace is often either on fire, or ice-cold, so the team cannot really count on consistent production from him. If UNLV is going to complete the rare season sweep of the Lobos, they'll need somebody else to step up alongside Willis.
The Lobos are led by Darington Hobson who is coming off arguably his best game of the season with 29 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists versus San Diego State. I'd imagine defensively Chace Stanback would draw the assignment, but I'm not certain of that. Normally Jasper might help out, but with his injury the Rebels are a bit smaller than normal. Hobson leads this team, but Alford has brought in talent across the board. Roman Martinez puts up 13.8 ppg and 6.0 rpg, providing a solid #2 to Hobson. New Mexico leads the Mountain West in rebounding, an area in which UNLV struggles mightily at times. If the Lobos can take control of the boards, they have a good chance to pull off the upset in Las Vegas.