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Game Preview: Colorado State hosts UNLV in major game for both sides

UNLV and Colorado State. This matchup has been hyped up this whole week and rightfully so. The Rams are 18-7 (8-3) while the Runnin' Rebels are 19-7 (7-5). Both teams could use a win against eachother since both are currently in the Top 40 RPI and a win here would make it very hard for either team to not make it to the NCAA Tournament. Other than NCAA Tournament implications, this game has a lot riding on the MWC Tournament seeding.

With only 4 games to go in the regular season (including this game) for UNLV and 5 games to go for Colorado State, both could practically clinch the MWC 3 seed, even with Colorado State currently owning a 2 game advantage over the Rebels in the loss column.

A lot of people will look at Colorado State's 2 game lead on UNLV and New Mexico and say that Colorado State has all but wrapped up the 3 seed in the MWC Tournament. At the same time, a lot of people will probably also forget that UNLV has already finished their games against BYU and San Diego State while Colorado State still has to go on the road against them.

If we assume that those two games are losses for Colorado State, then UNLV's matchup against Colorado State becomes for third place in the Mountain West. A UNLV win would put the Rebels one game ahead of the Rams with UNLV still having to play New Mexico. If UNLV loses against New Mexico, then the tiebreaking procedure goes like this, per Mountain West press release:

If two teams tie for a position, and one holds a win-loss advantage during regular season play, that team reveives the higher seed. If the two teams split their games during the regular season, each tied team's record shall be compared against the team occupying the highest position in the standings, counting down through the standings until one team gains the advantage, thereby gaining the higher seed. If two teams remain tied after all tie breakers have been exhausted, the last tie-breaker when determining seeds for the Conoco MWC Basketball Championships shall be team RPI, as determined by the most recent NCAA RPI available on Saturday, March 5, 2011.

Let's see what the records for each team against the other MWC teams in order from highest to lowest 'In this scenario':


Colorado State UNLV
San Diego State


BYU 0-2 0-2
New Mexico 1-1 1-1
Air Force 2-0 2-0
Utah 2-0 2-0


2-0 2-0
TCU 2-0 2-0


At this point, the tiebreaker would go to the most recent RPI which most likely would be in UNLV's favor since they have a marquee non-conference win over Wisconsin while Colorado State has a couple of Top 100 wins, but not much else. Let's say UNLV has a better RPI, the Rebels win the 3 seed over CSU even with losing to New Mexico and only beating CSU in the second half of conference season (not including the lower half of the MWC).

Basically, a UNLV win over CSU means all you have to do is take care of business against Utah and Wyoming and the Rebels should get the 3 seed in the MWC tournament. On the other hand, if Colorado State wins, they basically clinch the MWC 3 seed because at that point, they would hold a 3 game lead over UNLV, plus the tie breaker with only 4 games remaining. Even if the Rams were to go 1-3 after a win over UNLV and the Runnin' Rebels win out, CSU still gets the MWC Tournament 3 seed because they swept UNLV in the regular season.

As far as the actual game goes and what each team needs to do to win, the Rebels are going to have to stop Colorado State's great penetration, which means a lot of zone. The problem for the Rebels is that their whole defense is predicated upon a high pressure man-to-man setup and moving away from that to a zone for much of the game could throw UNLV out of its rhythm. Colorado State should look to do the same, as far as defense goes, since UNLV's offense is mainly centered around driving and kicking the basketball to the outside.

An interesting thing that I picked up from UNLV is that in practices since Tuesday, players have not been allowed to wear team gear. I'm not sure if this is a mental ploy Kruger has picked up on or if he's just trying anything he can at this point to motivate the team. If it is the latter, then we might be in a very dangerous area.


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