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May 28, 2015

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

ray brewer:

Trying to figure out where the UNLV win against North Carolina ranks all-time

Image

Sam Morris

UNLV’s Oscar Bellfield, left, and Mike Moser are mobbed by fans after defeating the University of North Carolina during the Las Vegas Invitational championship game Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011, at the Orleans Arena. The Rebels upset the No. 1-ranked Tar Heels 90-80.

UNLV shocks No. 1 North Carolina

KSNV coverage of UNLV basketball team's 90-80 victory against top-ranked North Carolina, Nov. 26, 2011.

UNLV scores big win against North Carolina

UNLV forward Carlos Lopez celebrates the Rebels' upset of UNC with a court full of fans at the Las Vegas Invitational championship game Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011, at the Orleans Arena. UNLV beat the No. 1-ranked Tar Heels 90-80. Launch slideshow »

Reader poll

Where do you rank UNLV's win against UNC?

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One of my biggest pet peeves with sports fans is how we tend to live in the moment. Trust me, I’m not pointing any fingers because I’m guilty as charged, too.

We get so excited at the outcome of a game that we immediately call it the best ever for our beloved team, or irrationally rank it as one of the organization’s all-time top performances.

Sound familiar, Rebel fans?

About 20 minutes after the UNLV basketball team upset No. 1 North Carolina on Saturday at the Orleans Arena, I was asked if the win was one of the program’s top five victories of all-time. Really?

Although the 90-80 win was impressive and something first-year coach Dave Rice can build on, let’s not go overboard with its significance in the history books.

Several are expecting Rice to return the program to its glory years under Jerry Tarkanian and look at the North Carolina win as a step in the right direction. I can’t blame you. Storming the court at the Orleans Arena must have been fun.

But let’s put it in its place.

Everyone agrees beating North Carolina doesn’t top the 1990 national championship game victory against Duke, which is hands down the top moment in program history. It’s also the top moment in Las Vegas sports history, and for several longtime locals, the best day of their lives.

Without putting much thought into it or searching the media guide, I can easily think of five other games that are surely more significant. Let’s start with the 1987 Elite Eight win against Iowa, when the Rebels overcame a double-digit second-half deficit to advance to their second Final Four.

There is also destroying David Robinson’s Navy squad, also in 1987, winning at Arkansas in 1991, beating Memphis State at the buzzer in the mid-1980s and a slew of tournament wins. For instance, everyone overlooks beating Georgia Tech in the national semifinals in 1990 to advance to the title game.

The UNLV program is one with several marquee wins and memorable performances. Beating North Carolina definitely adds to it, but like Rice said after the game, there is still plenty of basketball left. After watching his team shine Saturday night, I can pretty confidently say this win won’t stand alone as a signature moment in Rice’s tenure.

I’m not trying to downplay the significance. It’s a great step in the right direction of returning to the top of the college basketball world.

It’s something locals have patiently waited for since 1992, when the Tarkanian Era needed. Southern Nevadans have become so desperate that they rank each big moment as the most significant, whether it's winning the WAC tournament in 1998 to return to the NCAAs, the epic battles with BYU in the conference tournament finals, Oscar Bellfield’s game-winner at Louisville or tonight’s dethroning of the top-ranked team.

So, now that you’ve had a night to sleep on it, where do you rank the victory? Top 10? Top 15?

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or ray.brewer@lasvegassun.com. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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