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April 17, 2014

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

Making four straight tournaments is nice for UNLV duo, but there is more to achieve

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV guard Anthony Marshall yells as time out is called during their Mountain West Conference Tournament game against Air Force Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at the Thomas & Mack. UNLV won 72-56 and will face the winner of the Fresno State vs. Colorado State on Friday.

The Rebel Room

Rebels get a rematch in NCAA Tournament

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The brackets are out and the Las Vegas Sun sports team is here to discuss UNLV's draw as the 5-seed in San Jose, Calif., and a rematch with Cal.

2013 Selection Sunday

Members of the UNLV men's basketball team, from left, Anthony Bennett, Savron Goodman, and Anthony Marshall, learn their selection while watching the NCAA Tournament's Selection Show at the Mendenhall Center Sunday, March 17, 2013. UNLV will play Golden Bears in its NCAA tournament opener on Thursday at HP Pavilion in San Jose. Launch slideshow »

Not to take anything away from the accomplishment of making four straight NCAA Tournaments, but UNLV seniors Justin Hawkins and Anthony Marshall still have more to achieve.

There is still one, or two or three or more, games to win, starting Thursday when the fifth-seeded Rebels take on Cal in year’s tournament. It’s the last chance to add an exclamation mark to what they’ve already done, becoming the first UNLV players since Stacey Augmon and Chris Jeter more than 20 years ago to make four straight tournaments.

Don’t get me wrong, having a big hand in helping UNLV go from the NCAA Tournament bubble each March to a sure-thing lock for the tournament is commendable. They’ve been two mainstays in rebirth of the program and will be praised for their efforts for years to come.

But, even if you ask Hawkins and Marshall, they will say the accomplishment is a bit tainted. Making the tournament is one thing; winning games — and not just one — is another.

Not only have the Rebels failed to win a game on their watch, they’ve played miserably the past two years in lopsided defeats. Remember the train wreck two years ago against Illinois or last year's loss to Colorado? Both games were essentially over by halftime.

The underachieving could end Thursday.

The past defeats, while painful to endure, give Hawkins and Marshall valuable experience once the ball is tipped Thursday in San Jose. They’ve been there and done that.

They won’t be timid when the bright lights of college sport’s biggest event shine. They won’t become tense with the game on the line or rattled when Cal goes on a scoring run.

More important, they should be able to tell if something isn’t right — whatever was broken the past two years when UNLV’s performance, in all honesty, was embarrassing and not an indication of the quality team they are.

Yes, this is a quality team and one of the better programs in all of college basketball.

The proof was obvious Sunday: The No. 5 seed is the best the Rebels have received since being a No. 1 seed during the Final Four year of 1991. That’s a big indication of the respect UNLV has nationally.

In total, they’ve played in six of the past seven tournaments — a pretty impressive streak considering the mess the program became in the two decades since the Rebels made regular tournament appearances.

“It’s a big deal for those two guys to be the first two since Stacey Augmon and Chris Jeter to go to four consecutive NCAA Tournaments,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said. “That is a lot of years. It probably makes me sound old that I was there at that time, but that is 22 years since that has happened. It shows we are making great progress in our program.”

The progress could be disputed by some. Well, unless Hawkins and Marshall really leave a lasting impression by helping the Rebels go on a tournament run.

After all, if it doesn’t happen, they’ll unfortunately be remembered for making and losing in four straight tournaments. That’s much different that what Augmon and Jeter did during their trips.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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  1. Quite an accomplishment for the fella.s Also the seeds are coming in constantly #5(not bad). Rice is getting athletes. The system is only in its second season has: finished second (last year 3rd) made it to MWC finals in tourney (ousted in semis last year).
    I do believe CDR wants better OCC schedule with other high profile universities so fans get their monies worth. I know he wants us back in the Maui Invitational.
    One thing I have learned is to accept CDR coaching style he is still so early into his career I look forward to seeing his progress. If you can recruit that's half the battle. Every average to great coach will tell you have to have the players.
    I thought great season good luck fellas!
    Go Rebs!

  2. Congratulations... Give it everything you have.

  3. Team must dominate the paint if they are going to go far in the tournament. No more ill-advised threes please. If they play inside out with Bennett, Birch and Moser in the half-court; the shooters will have wide open shots and who knows how far this team can go. Go Rebels!!!

  4. I'm not convinced that this team has what it takes to win. 20+ wins or not, they stunk in some of the games they did win. I'm afraid the better team (UNLV) will get beat by the team that wants to win (Cal).