No, I am not crazy to believe the Rebels can run the table to the Mountain West tournament.
Yes, UNLV might be down two major contributing big men in Stephen Zimmerman and Ben Carter. Yes, they might be playing under an interim head coach. And sure, they've gone through a couple 3-game losing streaks this season.
But, the schedule for the remainder of their season plays in their favor. Even their final game at San Diego State may bode well for the Rebels who would be seeking resolve after an embarrassing loss to the Aztecs at home in the middle of conference play.
If the Rebels want to shock the Mountain West and develop winning momentum heading into the MWC tourney, this is exactly how they do it:
Play YOUR Game (literally):
Each player has strengths and weaknesses and those have become more apparent over the course of the season. For instance, Jerome Seagears is not a great outside shooter, currently shooting around 30% from 3 in conference play. Seagears must embrace a drive-and-kick out role. Either draw the foul inside or pass to a shooter. Dwayne Morgan should never be shooting from outside 10 ft. He's the only big guy left and he should be pounding inside, constantly. Also, each guard can no longer settle for 3s too frequently, because there's not enough height inside to rebound anymore. And Patrick McCaw, whether he wants to be it or not, must become the floor general, the leader, and be the example for the rest of his squad from here forward.
Everyone is a Rebounder:
There's no such thing as a true 5-man on UNLV's team now. Every single person on the team must be desperate for every loose ball and every shot that goes up. Rebounding has always been about valuing the ball. If the Rebels want to increase their chances on offense, they must tear down offensive rebounds (which is always the most challenging task). But, their ability to stay down in the paint until they pull the ball in on both ends of the court will increase their chances in each game. So, guards will need to begin to embrace their inner Shaq.
It was excellent to see Todd Simon utilize one of his long time bench players in the SJSU game on Wednesday night in Austin Starr. He'll have to continue to use that strategy from here forward. In fact, Simon should be utilizing all hands on deck throughout every game in order to give his regular rotating-seven breathers. Even if these bench players come in for just two-minutes, this strategy is exactly what's needed when a team is so short handed. Also, in this way, it may limit the pile up of fouls that these normal-rotation Rebels will incur by playing so often in each game.
Your Defense IS Your Offense:
Despite losing more games than several of their MWC peers, the Rebels still continue to be one of the best squads in creating turnovers. They are, without a doubt, one of the quickest teams in the Mountain West and they must utilize that to their advantage. Without Carter or Zimmerman, it won't be a block party anymore. Instead, it will be about quick hands. One of the best on the team who has illustrated this consistently throughout the season is Patrick McCaw. Even when shots weren't falling for McCaw, he made his impact on D. If the team embraces his example on defense, the offense will come with it.
All About Attitude:
It's tough when things aren't going your way. UNLV lost two important players so far this season and even a head coach. But, this is a team that's all heart, and from here forward (with being short handed), every game will be a dog fight. So, the times when Dwayne Morgan starts piling on fouls, he can't hang his head, but keep fighting. Or, when Jordan Cornish goes cold from three, keep shooting. Despite their disadvantages from the loss of personnel, the Rebels should remember to keep the attitude of Tom Hanks' character in the classic film, "A League of Their Own." As he's being taunted along the dugout by the obnoxious little boy who whines, "You're gonna lose... You're gonna lose", Hanks proclaims, "We're gonna win... we're gonna win."
No matter the obstacles they face for the remainder of the season, that's exactly the attitude they need to have moving forward and exactly the phrase that should stick in their heads every single game.