Runnin' Rebels look to take advantage of last chance at marquee win.
Today's game against San Diego State is UNLV's last chance at getting lock status. They do still have Colorado State and New Mexico on the schedule, but with losses on the road there and a loss to San Diego State today, the Runnin' Rebels could easily be on the outside looking in.
San Diego State had lock status since the first edition of bracketology was released, and rightfully so. The Aztecs only loss on the season came on the road at BYU. Their RPI is currently 5th in the nation and the Aztecs have already played three of the four road games against the upper echelon of the MWC.
That final road game for SDSU against the upper echeon of the MWC is today, before a sold-out, raucous Thomas & Mack Center crowd.
In the previous matchup between these two teams this season, San Diego State pulled out a home victory over UNLV, 55-49. Both offense went cold at the end of the game, UNLV scored 4 points and San Diego State scored 5 points in the final seven minutes of the game.
There were two reasons for UNLv being unable to score in the final 7 minutes. 1st, Kawhi Leonard and Malcom Thomas controlled the paint and did not allow anyone to score inside. 2nd, UNLV went cold from behind the arc. UNLV got plenty of open three pointers during that frightful span, but hit none.
There were two ways the Runnin' Rebels could have avoided that issue. 1st, hit your shots. Just hit 3 or 4 of the open threes you got and that game has a different outcome. 2nd, don't allow San Diego State to set up their defense. During that seven minute span, UNLV got one fast break, in which the result was a bad pass and a turnover. Speed up the game and create more fast-break and transition opportunities. That allows for more opportunities inside because you don't have both Kawhi Leonard and Malcom Thomas waiting for you.
In order to make sure the crowd doesn't become a factor, San Diego State should look to keep the pace of the game under wraps. Slow the game down, make it lethargic and don't let the crowd get into the game. If this becomes a shootout, advantage to UNLV who is very good in transition and has the home crowd behind them.
For UNLV to stop San Diego State's efficient offense, it's going to have to try to keep the ball out of the low post and out of Kawhi Leonard's hands. After watching how BYU was able to keep the SDSU post game in control, I noticed that double teaming worked. Whenever SDSU got the ball in the post, they were double teamed and had to immediately kick it back out. Then the help defense would rotate very well and make the possession a very tough one for the Aztecs. If we can do that, then we can negate the Aztecs advantage in the post and try to take advantage at the guard position.
My Prediction? I've got the Runnin' Rebels by 8, 71-63.
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