Las Vegas Sun

May 23, 2019

Currently: 78° — Complete forecast

The sun has shone on the Rebels, even if they aren’t going to California

For Ron Kantowski, UNLV’s play this year earns a big ‘F’: fantastic

So it’s turf instead of surf for the Rebels, who received a steak sandwich — a trip to Omaha — instead of Pacific snapper, which is what Brigham Young will be having at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

Maybe the NCAA Tournament Committee forgot to change channels for the third or fourth time and missed the Mountain West championship game. Hey guys, the Rebels won. Beat the Cougars by 15.

Yeah, I know the game was played on UNLV’s home court. I was there. Managed to survive without being punched by security guards or fans starting assorted fracases in the stands. But since when is the home court advantage worth 15 points?

Actually, the location of the game is only a small gripe. If I cared about frequent flier miles (Omaha is 1,000 miles farther away than Anaheim) and hadn’t already toured the boyhood homes of Gerald Ford and Bob Gibson on my last trip to Omaha (the Lady Rebels played Creighton there in the 2004 WNIT championship game), I wouldn’t be complaining at all.

But if it’s the Monday after Selection Sunday and you don’t complain about the brackets in some form or fashion, you run the risk of forfeiting your (Sort Of) Working Press Card, and I kinda like the free pretzels.

The committee didn’t do either of the Big Mountain — which is what Billy Packer called the Mountain West on national TV last year — NCAA participants any favors. The Rebels and the Cougars are both No. 8 seeds. They will play Kent State and Texas A&M, respectively. Should they win, and barring roofs don’t start blowing off tournament sites again, they will almost assuredly play Kansas and UCLA, respectively, in the second round. Ouch.

A No. 16 seed, which is what Portland State and Mississippi Valley State are, has never beaten a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which is what Kansas and UCLA are. Portland State lost to Colorado State this year. As for Mississippi Valley State, if this were football and Jerry Rice were granted a 23rd year of eligibility, I’d like its chances against the Bruins a little better.

But unlike last year, when the Rebels received a No. 7 seed when they thought they deserved better, there were no glum faces Sunday when the matchup against Kent State was announced and the red light on the CBS camera came on at Cox Pavilion.

Despite the perceived snub from the committee, the Rebels won two games last year. Even if they win two fewer this year, it will have been a fantastic season with a capital F, because if somebody had told you back on Thanksgiving that Lon Kruger could take Wink Adams and a bag of leftovers and fashion 26 wins and a No. 8 seed in the Midwest Regional out of them, you would have choked on your cranberry sauce.

Then you would have traded a turkey leg for a steak sandwich, no questions asked.

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