Game Preview: UNLV faces final test before MWC Tournament against New Mexico in The Pit



Lobos hold on for NCAA Tournament lives against Runnin' Rebels.

UNLV is coming off a big road win over Colorado State that has gotten the Runnin' Rebels that much closer to a lock in the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, that 'Almost Lock' status won't turn into lock status until they get at least one more good win. Whether or not that comes in the Mountain West Tournament or tonight, the win will have to come in order to put the Rebels securely on the right side of the bubble.

New Mexico is on a bad losing streak. They have now lost three in a row to Colorado State, San Diego State, and Utah. The first two games were really important and both could have placed them squarely on the bubble with a win, but with that loss to Utah, the Lobos will most likely have to either win out or go to the MWC Championship after winning out the rest of their regular season. For the scenario where the Lobos would get an at-large bid, that would include wins over UNLV, BYU, CSU/UNLV and one other member of the MWC upper echelon.

As for stakes in this game, UNLV could cut their chances of getting the MWC Tournament 3 seed in half with a loss tonight.

Here's that fancy table from Monday's Full Court Press showing who would get the 3 seed based on each team's records:

 

UNLV (3-0)

UNLV (2-1)

Colorado St. (4-0)

Colorado State wins due to better conference record.

Colorado State wins due to better conference record.

Colorado St. (3-1, beat SDSU)

Colorado State wins through second part of tiebreaking process.

Colorado State wins due to better conference record.

Colorado St. (3-1, beat BYU)

Colorado State wins through second part of tiebreaking process.

Colorado State wins through second part of tiebreaking process.

Colorado St. (2-2)

UNLV wins due to better conference record.

UNLV wins through the final part of the tiebreaking process - RPI.

As you can see, a UNLV loss at The Pit not only damages their NCAA Tournament resume, but also greatens the odds that UNLV will get the MWC Tournament 3 seed from 1/4 to 1/8. In otherwords, UNLV doesn't exactly need this win for them to get the MWC Tournament 3 seed, but it would make it much harder for them to if they lose.

Drew Gordon has been great for the Lobos since the BYU game. He's been a monster down low and he's trying to carry this team by himself. Unfortunately, New Mexico won't be able to win with productivity only coming from Drew Gordon and Dariese Gary. The Lobos have a ton of other young talent, but they won't be able to harness it until a year or two from now. Until then, it looks like the key for New Mexico's winning formula is get the ball to Drew Gordon in the post. He commands double teams and makes it almost impossible for a team to stop the New Mexico offense when the wing players are hitting threes.

The simple way for UNLV to win has been the same for almost the entire season - speed the game up. When the game comes down to half-court tempo, the Rebels tend to settle for defended three point shots with 20 seconds still left on the shot clock. Speeding the game up, like the Rebels did during the second half of the CSU game, will really make it hard for New Mexico to stay with the deep guard rotation UNLV possesses.

Game starts at 6:00 P.M. PST

 

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