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Jerry Tarkanian: The only tourney certainty: Anything can happen


Sam Morris

UNI center Jordan Eglseder hugs guard Kerwin Dunham after Dunham scored and drew a foul during their second round NCAA Basketball Tournament game against Kansas Saturday, March 20, 2010 at the Ford Center in Oklahoma Ctiy. UNI upset No. 1 seed Kansas 69-67 to advance to the Sweet 16.

Rebels refocus for NCAA Tournament

KSNV coverage of the UNLV Rebel's standing in the NCAA Tournament, March 14, 2012.

The UNLV basketball team received a great break in the pairings for the NCAA Tournament by drawing Colorado as its first opponent.

I don’t think Colorado is a real good team. They are the fourth best team in the Pac-12 Conference, and it was a fluke they won that tournament. But you can’t take anything away from them. They have momentum on their side.

When you get in the tournament, you can beat anybody. I have seen games in the tournament where the lower-seeded team does everything right and beats the better team.

I saw Princeton knock UCLA out of the tournament when UCLA had all those players that ended up being drafted. For one game, anybody can get hot and make a couple of shots. You can run into a team playing a great game or an official that makes a bad call.

We lost a bunch of games in the tournament when I was at UNLV that I thought we would win. We had a great ball club in 1986, when we lost to Auburn, and there were several other games where we lost despite having the better team. That’s why they play the games.

I haven’t had a chance to give Dave a call to wish him luck in the tournament. I know he had to feel bad after losing to New Mexico in the league tournament. That was the best I have seen New Mexico play all season.

Everybody wants to know who I like to win the tournament. Kentucky is my pick. I haven’t seen a team play as well as them all year. They look unbeatable.

I remember playing Weber State in 1970 during my first trip to the tournament, when I coached at Long Beach State. We played Weber State the following year, too. We had some tough tournament games against Weber State, and they had a great club. Every team is great at this stage of the season.

When I coached at UNLV, going to the tournament was a big deal for our supporters. I had boosters calling the office in early January asking where I thought we’d be playing in the tournament. We hadn’t even played a league game yet and they were planning their trip — talk about pressure.

If we got a tournament bid, we drew as well as anybody. In 1975, when I first took UNLV to the tournament, we played San Diego State in Tempe, Ariz., and we outdrew them 5-1. We easily had 5,000 people there. The following year, we played Boise State in Oregon in the tournament and outdrew them 7-1.

The year that stands out is when we played Arizona in the Sweet 16 during the 1989 tournament in Denver. I remember walking through our hotel lobby and seeing all of the UNLV fans. I went back to my room and told my wife, Lois, how I felt so bad that all of these people spent their money to come watch us play and how Arizona was going to beat us. I thought we had no chance.

We ended up beating Arizona by one point when Anderson Hunt scored on a 3-point play. But we lost to Seton Hall in the Elite Eight, one game short of the Final Four. Seton Hall played Indiana in the Sweet 16 and wasn’t supposed to win, either.

A few of us coaches had dinner the night before, and the talk was about how Arizona and Indiana were going to easily beat UNLV and Seton Hall. That goes to show you anything can happen in the tournament.

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