If this were the early 1990s and a non-conference neutral court match up was announced between UNLV and Duke, college basketball fans across the country would swoon. However, when it was announced that the Blue Devils and Runnin' Rebels would face off against each other at the new T-Mobile Arena on December 10, there was likely the sound of proverbial crickets among the college basketball world.
What was once a storied rivalry between these 90s' hoops titans is now more like a David vs. Goliath narrative. The Westgate sports book verified that this week when the odds makers there put Duke as a 15 1/2-point favorite. This is not simply because Duke is favored to win the NCAA championship next year but also due to the Rebels' depleted roster.
If it were not for the departures of so many key Rebel players last season, this match up would have a lot more allure. Despite a disappointing end to last season, it would have been intriguing to see Patrick McCaw go up against Grayson Allen, or see what kind of damage a now sophomore Stephen Zimmerman could have done below the basket. Yet, the Runnin' Rebels don't get "what ifs."
Instead, they are slated to play the Blue Devils in the first college basketball game at the T-Mobile Arena. Despite this match up not harnessing tons of national press, it is news worthy in both states where these teams reside. Duke travels well, and this Las Vegas "neutral court" site will allow Rebel fans to come out in droves.
Depending on how both teams show in their first several games of the non-conference season, the line may significantly rise or perhaps go down before game time in December. The Rebels are short handed compared to an experienced squad in the Blue Devils. So, if there is a story line, the David vs. Goliath narrative may work. Once the Goliath of the basketball world, UNLV faces an uphill climb in a college basketball landscape that has significantly transformed in the last 25 years.