UNLV faces their hardest competition of the non-conference slate on Saturday evening: a game at Arizona where the house will be rocking. Last year, the Rebels stole a victory. But, this year, they likely won't be as fortunate.
As Jason Bartel, managing editor of the AZ Desert Swarm site points out below, the Wildcats' combination of experience and talent led by Ryan Anderson, Allonzo Trier, and Gabe York may prove lethal for the Rebels who are desperate for a win after Wednesday night's fall out against U of A's in state rival, ASU.
In order to be victorious for the second year in a row, all things would have to go well for the Rebels, including: They would overcome their road ghosts, Pat McCaw has a killer game, and double digit contributions from bench players Ben Carter, Jordan Cornish, and/or Derrick Jones, Jr. And, as Wednesday night proved, the Rebs need more than just scoring; they'll need to play with urgency for 40 full minutes on both sides of the ball.
As I predicted a couple weeks ago, I don't see this game falling in the Rebels' favor, especially not on the road. Jason Bartel agrees as well and has some interesting insights into what has become a "non-traditional rivalry" between both squads in out of conference play. I asked him a few questions leading up to Saturday's match-up:
1. DIFFERENT FROM DAVE RICE'S TENURE AT UNLV, SEAN MILLER HAS EXPERIENCED TREMENDOUS SUCCESS AT ARIZONA. WHAT DO YOU THINK HAS MADE HIM SUCH A GREAT FIT FOR THE WILDCAT PROGRAM?
Bartel: When you have the kind of tradition that Arizona basketball has, it's pretty easy to sell your program to the game's top prospects, but since he's arrived, Miller has out-recruited the rest of the Pac-12 by a mile, and that's the biggest reason for his success in Tucson. I think his personality was just what this school needed after a four-year period where there was a new interim head coach each season as the Lute Olson era came to a screeching halt. He's very personable, but also very intense, and that works well for Arizona.
2. WHO ARE THE 3 MAIN PLAYERS FOR THE WILDCATS THAT UNLV FANS SHOULD BE ON THE LOOK OUT FOR IN SATURDAY'S MATCH-UP?
Bartel: The thing about Arizona this year is there are literally eight guys that could go off on any given night. But the biggest three UNLV fans should be concerned about are Ryan Anderson, Allonzo Trier, and Gabe York. Anderson is a senior transfer from Boston College that is nearly averaging a double-double this year (15.8 points, 9.6 rebounds). He is a force inside, and without Kaleb Tarczewski, he's become the biggest weapon in the post. Trier is a highly-touted freshman that seems to be coming into his own lately. He's most successful driving to the basketball and taking contact, but he can also stroke it from three on occasion. Then with York, he's the deep threat, and has become a valuable leader this year in his senior season.
3. HISTORICALLY, UNLV VS. ARIZONA GAMES HAVE BEEN SOME "MUST-WATCH TV". WHAT DO YOU THINK IT IS ABOUT THIS PARTICULAR MATCH-UP THAT ALMOST ALWAYS PRODUCES AN INTRIGUING GAME?
Bartel: I think it goes back to the Olson/Tark days, but these are historically two of the better programs in the west, and they'll always bring their 'A' games when facing each other. Just look at last year's game. Arizona only lost four games all year, and one of those was to a UNLV team that struggled in the Mountain West. It's just one of those non-traditional rivalry things that both teams step up and play their best basketball of the year. And I don't see Saturday being any different.
4. WHAT'S YOUR PREDICTION FOR SATURDAY'S GAME?
Bartel: Kadeem Allen called this a "revenge" game on Wednesday, and I believe the Wildcats will indeed get their revenge and extend the nation's longest home winning streak. I think it'll be a close game, and a fun one to watch, but Arizona will come out on top with a late run by the score of 82-69.