Analysis:

Rebels are going to need a little luck on Selection Sunday

Image

Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV guard Bryce Dejean-Jones is defended by New Mexico guard Tony Snell while taking a three-point shot during their Mountain West Conference Tournament championship game Saturday, March 16, 2013 at the Thomas & Mack Center. New Mexico won 63-56.

MWC Championship: UNLV vs. New Mexico

New Mexico head coach Steve Alford finishes cutting down the net after the Lobos defeated UNLV 63-56 to win the Mountain West Conference Tournament championship game Saturday, March 16, 2013 at the Thomas & Mack Center. Launch slideshow »

What follows is mostly speculation, because when it comes to bracketology what else is there?

The one thing UNLV can be confident about following Saturday’s 63-56 loss to New Mexico in the Mountain West tournament championship game is that it’s going to the NCAA Tournament. The Rebels have been squarely in the field of 68 for some time, so the last couple of weeks have been more about getting to a point where they’re playing well enough to have a chance to do something in the tournament.

That fell apart against the Lobos, who were as consistent as the Rebels were erratic. Maybe losing to the No. 15 team in the country is hardly a sky-is-falling moment, but the way it went down will likely have UNLV’s tournament opponents excited about an upset.

The Rebels are expected to land a 6 or 7 seed. Last year with a similar record and resume UNLV was a 6 in Albuquerque, N.M., the closest possible destination. This year that would be San Jose, Calif., or Salt Lake City, though it’s just as likely the Rebels could end up in Auburn Hills, Mich., or Dayton, Ohio.

The top four seeds are all but guaranteed to get their nearest location; beyond that it comes down to some luck of the draw. The higher seed (in this case a 6) could help the Rebels stay on the West Coast, although so could a 7.

That’s because coaches have made it clear to the selection committee that they care more about location than seeding, so a team is often moved a seed lower if it means they can stay closer to home. If the Rebels are slated for a 7, however, it’s unlikely the committee would move them into the 8 for a closer game because of the big difference between potentially facing a 1 seed versus a 2.

At bracketmatrix.com, which averages the seeds over 77 bracket projections, the Rebels are the lowest-rated 5 seed, an opportunity that likely ended with Saturday’s defeat. The site also has Boise State as a 12 seed, appearing in 69 of the 77 brackets.

The Broncos will have to sweat out the Selection Show, proving things could be worse for UNLV. And whether the league gets four or five teams in, UNLV coach Dave Rice said the Mountain West understands the expectations it’s made for itself.

“As a league, coaches, we understand we need to have postseason success,” Rice said. “We should have good seeds and have an opportunity to go on and have good success in the tournament.”

UNLV’s seed probably won’t be as good as it could have been 24 hours ago. That’s OK -- the Rebels will have a chance to snap their four-game NCAA Tournament losing streak and maybe even sneak into the second weekend.

Once they hear their name called, the rest is up to them.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or tayl[email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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  1. These seed projections are ridiculous at times. Joe Lunardi moved Wisconsin down a spot after they beat Indiana again yesterday.

  2. Five seed? Good. Replay of game against Cal? Um, okay. But doesn't that violate NCAA first-round rules?

  3. And its practically a home game for Cal.