UNLV continues their run through the bottom of the Mountain West as they host the TCU Horned Frogs. After a three-game struggle, UNLV rebounded over the weekend to blast Colorado State 70-39. It was UNLV's first complete effort in quite some time. TCU was blown out at home 68-51 by San Diego State, as they have alternated wins and losses the last three weeks, with their wins coming against the two MWC bottom-dwellers.
The last time these two teams met, TCU got a fairly balanced offensive effort, but Tre'Von Willis scored a career-high (at the time) 30 points, and was strongly supported by Chace Stanback's 19 points, and another 10 from Matt Shaw. Since that game, while UNLV has battled with the titans of the MWC, while TCU has dropped to 4-8 in conference and is looking for anything to right the ship.
UNLV is once again a heavy favorite and looking to add to a tournament resume that is close to enough, but maybe not quite there. The three straight losses dropped UNLV into the 40s in RPI. While that's certainly not enough to exclude them from the tournament, the biggest worry is the on-going surge of a school like Connecticut. The Huskies currently stand at 17-11 with an RPI of 41 after a monster home upset of West Virginia. While it should come down to the numbers, if you're a believer in any kind of East Coast bias, you might be getting a little nervous.
I think my own nerves just come from last season's slide into the NIT. If you're not a lock for the tournament, you never know what might get in your way. After all, a mid-major like Northern Iowa should roll to their conference title. But upsets along the way could take away from the pool of at-large bids. This applies to any conference. Teams like UNLV want favorites winning conference tournaments, not Cinderellas.
In the meantime, all the Rebels can do is win the games on their schedule. And after UNLV's showing against Colorado State, there is no reason for them not to take care of business against TCU. The Horned Frogs do bring some talent to the table. They're led by Ronnie Moss and his 14.4 ppg and 6.3 apg. UNLV actually contained him fairly well last time, holding him to just 9 points. Moss generally gets help from Zvonko Buljan (12.0 ppg/8.5 rpg) and Edvinas Ruzgas (10.8 ppg).
UNLV will be looking for another balanced effort. Tre'Von Willis has been the key throughout the season, but UNLV is at its best when he doesn't have to carry the entire scoring load. Anthony Marshall has been stepping up his game as of late, and these late season games could be great confidence boosters for him heading into postseason play. Chace Stanback is the de facto #2 guy on this team, but if Marshall can become a consistent contributor, UNLV will be in great shape. If they can get sufficiently healthy by March, they could be rolling quite deep into the conference tournament.
TCU Horned Frogs