Today UNLV Head Basketball Coach Dave Rice made it public that the annual series with Louisville would be postponed for two seasons at the request of the Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino. This comes right off the heels of a bitter loss that the Runnin' Rebels had in Louisville when they squandered a few sizable leads and actually, looking back on it, really hurt the team's confidence.
Louisville was set to play in the Thomas & Mack Center again this season, but that obviously won't happen again until sometime in 2014. While UNLV's 2011 Non-Conference schedule features brand name teams and tough opponents across the board, this drops the value of the home part of the non-conference schedule significantly. Now that this meeting has been rescheduled, UNLV's home games feature Cal, UTEP, and Nevada. That is not nearly as attractive as it would have been with Louisville on that list as well.
With Louisville bailing, UNLV had another opening on its schedule and the new coaching staff certainly didn't waste time. Coach Rice also made it known that UNLV had already replaced the opening with the first game of a home-and-home two game series with Hawaii starting in the islands. The game is going to be on New Year's Eve and that alone has already garnered speculation that the four letter network will likely get involved with the game.Speaking of UNLV's 2011-2012 schedule, here is a rundown of the notable games:
at UC-Santa Barbara - I'll put this into the list of notable games since UNLV was pretty much demoralized at home by these guys last season. The Runnin' Rebels shot 19% in a 68-62 loss to the Gauchos after a deflating loss to Louisville the game before. Let's just put it this way, I hope UCSB doesn't make it over 35 in that game...
at Wichita State - This game will be a part of the on-going MWC/MVC challenge (Not sure why there is one in the first place), but that does not mean that this game should be easy. The MVC is actually known to have big crowds and Wichita State turned a lot of heads with how dominant they were in winning the NIT. Expect this to be a rough game in a hostile environment against a team that is tough to beat.
at Wisconsin - This will be an extremely difficult game to get by. UNLV was able to pull out a close victory over the Badgers last season in the Thomas & Mack Center, but not many were able to get past Wisconsin in Madison - including Then No. 1 Ohio State. Wisconsin returns a lot from last season's team, so this should be a better team playing in an arena that they barely ever get beat in... Bad combination for the Rebels.
Cal - The Golden Bears had a bit of a dropoff last season, but they are still a team with good talent and a well known name. Beating Cal would look good anyway you slice it.
UTEP - UTEP lost two of the program's best all-time players last season in Julyan Stone and Randy Culpepper. They were two of the Miners' best scorers and will be dearly missed, but Tim Floyd (Yes, the USC Tim Floyd) put together a very good recruituing class to help with the outgoing talent. It's really a hit or miss as to whether or not this team will be good this upcoming season, but beating UTEP normally looks good on the resume.
(Neutral) Illinois - Well, it's technically neutral... The game is going to be played in the United Center in Chicago. Either way, the Fighting Illini humiliated the Runnin' Rebels on National TV in the NCAA Tournament. The Rebels will definitely want revenge after getting their butts handed to them in Tulsa. Another interesting storyline to follow is that Marquette transfer Reggie Smith grew up with a handful of starting players for Illinois and this will be the first game he is eligible to play as a Runnin' Rebel.
(Neutral) USC - This is UNLV's first round game in the Las Vegas Classic over Thanksgiving Weekend that will take place in the Orleans Arena. USC had a bad go-around in their non-conference schedule... Losses to the likes of TCU certainly did not look that well. But, a late rally during conference season got them into the NCAA Tournament (With some controversy), only to be demolished in the First Four by eventual Final Four team VCU. In otherwords, they got good late and will be a tough team to beat, this will definitely be no cake walk first round game.
(Neutral) North Carolina (Maybe) - I say maybe because it depends on if UNLV is able to beat USC in the first round of the Las Vegas Classic. This would be a monumental game for obvious reasons. UNC is considered to be a possible Pre-Season No. 1, playing well against highly ranked team on ESPN could leave a good feeling among voters for the rest of the season. Of course one can only dream that the Runnin' Rebels could take them out, right?
That's a basic rundown if the Rebels 2011-2012 schedule, but some other news came out today regarding UNLV's 2013-2014 schedule. The Runnin' Rebels will begin a four game home-and-home series with Arizona that season. Here's what Coach Rice had to say when asked for a comment:
"It's something that was really, really important to start (back up)," Rice said. "It just makes sense. It's been a great rivalry over the years."
"I just remember how many great players were in those games," said Rice, who was on the UNLV team that defeated Arizona in the 1989-90 national championship season, 95-87 in Las Vegas. "It was two teams that played transition basketball, just really exciting games. Most significant is the fact that we're both basically in the same geographical region."
It will really be a lot of fun to watch these games since both teams like to run an uptempo style. Hopefully something sparks during those four games so that the series can keep on going after that.
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