Las Vegas Sun

May 19, 2019

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Hey, ‘experts,’ meet the Rebels

Ron Kantowski, unlike TV guys, isn’t surprised by UNLV

The Madness Begins

The 2008 Men's NCAA Basketball Tournament started Thursday and the Las Vegas Hilton opened the Hilton Theater, which provided an extra 1,500 seats for people to watch the games. By the middle of the afternoon, the theater is wall-to-wall with people.

In the deep recesses of the Qwest Center, back where the Omaha cops sit idly on their motorcycles, waiting for a Jayhawk to jaywalk, sit two portable restrooms that are better appointed than a Chrysler Cordoba. Somebody even said the seats are made of Corinthian leather.

“CBS Personnel Only,” reads the sign on the door.

This, apparently, is where they deposit Clark Kellogg’s and Seth Davis’ predictions after the game.

A few hours after CBS’ NCAA Tournament studio hosts — and a lot of others — penciled Kent State into the second round of their brackets, the Rebels erased the (not so) Golden Flashes. The final score was 71-58, and if you were watching at home — which for once was a good possibility, considering this wasn’t a Mountain West Conference production — then you know it wasn’t remotely that close.

Either the so-called experts need to get a clue or the Mountain West needs to get a better TV deal. Because these Rebels, overachievers though they may be, are now 27-7 and by Saturday morning will be one of just 32 teams still standing, or dancing, or playing defense like it’s 7 p.m. and they’re getting ready to roll up the sidewalks here.

The Rebels deserve a little respect, and, I suppose, some condolences, too, because next up on Saturday is mighty, mighty Kansas, the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Regional.

You know, that team from up the road in Lawrence. Wilt Chamberlain. Jo Jo White. Danny Manning. Dr. James Naismith, the guy who created the game for cryin’ out loud, coached there. Those guys.

“I’ve seen them play a couple of times,” said UNLV’s Joe Darger, who, because Kent State was no bigger than the Rebels, was able to wander back out to the perimeter and score 18 points in just 23 minutes on 7-of-11 shooting.

Darger wasn’t trying to be funny when he said that, so Wink Adams jumped in to add a little levity.

“I’ve been watching Kansas play all season,” said the Rebels’ shooting guard, who sweated out the flu then made Kent State sweat with a 17-point effort. “Every time you turn on the TV, they’re playing.”

Every time you turn on the TV the Rebels are playing, too. Provided you live in Laramie or Fort Collins and the trailer park is wired for cable.

Maybe criticizing this Mountain West TV deal is like beating a dead horse, but you could make a strong argument it’s at least partly to blame for the Rebels now facing elimination/being in position to shake up the world against Kansas. With the MWC playing in a media vacuum, it’s almost like the tournament committee members don’t know what to do with teams such as UNLV and BYU. So they give them an eight seed, figuring if they made a mistake, a second-round game against one of the top-seeded juggernauts is the perfect way to conceal it.

“Ah, man, I can’t say that,” said Curtis Terry, the UNLV point guard, when asked whether the Mountain West’s limited exposure hurts at tournament time.

Yes you can, Curtis. You’re a senior. You can say anything you want. Besides, I think you just said it with the way you rolled your eyes.

Rene Rougeau, who scored 12 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, said he didn’t see when the CBS knuckleheads disrespected the Rebels not more than five minutes after the tournament went on the air. “Probably a good thing I was asleep,” he said with a shrug and a smile.

No, it was probably a good thing for Kent State that he was still sleeping. Or else it might have been even worse for the champions of the Mid-American Conference, who turned out to be Flashes in the pan.

At one point, Kent State was 3-of-18 from the field with 14 turnovers. At another point, the Golden Flashes trailed 27-6. At halftime, it was 31-10. And the funny thing was the Rebels weren’t even playing that well, at least not on offense.

For the Flashes, a basket was like getting a steak sandwich late at night in Omaha. They couldn’t buy one. “They weren’t doing anything too sophisticated that we couldn’t stop,” said Kent’s Mike Scott, who made just five of his 14 field-goal attempts and, like most of his teammates, couldn’t throw a pea in the Missouri River. “They shot (39 percent) in the first half.”

Trouble was, Kent shot 21 percent. And zero percent (0-for-9) from beyond the 3-point arc. Added Scott: “We were two feet from the rim and missing, just point-blank shots ... I think we were a little too wound up for the game.”

Too wound up? They’ll probably still be picking up springs when Kansas, which slept through a 85-61 victory over 16th-seeded Portland State, starts rocking and chalking and Jayhawking as the second round gets under way.

The Rebels were still handing out business cards, letting everybody know who they are, encouraging people to come out and catch their act, they’ll be here all week, when their coach was asked what UNLV had to do well to upset top-seeded Kansas, like it upset second-seeded Wisconsin in the second round in Chicago last year.

“Pretty much everything, when you think about it,” Lon Kruger said.

This just in: Clark Kellogg and Seth Davis are picking Kansas.

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