Tuesday, March 5, 2013 | 2 a.m.
CBSSports.com's Jeff Borzello joins Las Vegas Sun reporter Taylor Bern to discuss UNLV's seeding possibilities in Part One, and then at the 15:30 mark Taylor is joined by SI.com's Andy Glockner who offers his insight to the Mountain West's collective standing as we approach tournament time. All rights for the intro, outro and intermission music to alt-J, so go buy their album.
- UNLV Extras: Rebels control their destiny for the 2 seed in league tournament
- Moser opens March with a return to form in UNLV’s romp at UNR
- Rebels preparing to win eighth straight game against UNR with or without Bennett
- Rebels in good tournament seeding position with chances left to improve
- UNLV’s Bennett day-to-day with nerve pain in his left shoulder
- Las Vegas sports books benefitting from volatile college basketball season
- How does Rebels’ Bennett stack up against nation’s elite freshmen?
- All UNLV men's basketball coverage
They’ve won four straight games and five out of the past six, and you could argue they’re playing the best basketball of the season.
No, not UNLV, though those descriptions could certainly fit the Rebels, too. They refer to UNLV’s opponent tonight, the Boise State Broncos (20-8, 8-6 Mountain West Conference), who are widely expected to be just one more quality victory away from getting into the NCAA Tournament. They’ll get a chance in the Thomas & Mack Center at 7 p.m. on Time Warner Cable SportsNet when they go for the regular season sweep against UNLV.
Most of the bracket projections currently have Boise as either one of the last teams in or one of the first teams left out of the field. A win today or Saturday when they host San Diego State should be the clincher, though Broncos coach Leon Rice said he knows better than to say crossing a certain line will get his team in.
“The line moves,” he said. “You just want to put yourself in the best position.”
Rice said he has addressed the team’s tournament potential with his players at various times over the past two weeks. Although some coaches pretend they don’t see any of the projections, he said he’s fine openly discussing where it looks like they stand at any given moment. That way, there’s no misunderstanding about the work the Broncos still have to put in.
“We’re not going to have any regrets in (the summer) that we didn’t put it all out there,” Rice said.
On Feb. 2, Boise State solidified its NCAA Tournament chances with a 77-72 home victory against UNLV in which the Broncos led the whole way. That was the first completely healthy game the Broncos’ Jeff Elorriaga (concussion) had played in a couple of weeks. He has appeared in every game since, including playing at least 38 minutes in half of them.
Although Anthony Drmic (18.3 points per game in conference play) and Derrick Marks (16.7 ppg) show up more in the box score, the team functions better when Elorriaga’s in the lineup than when he’s not. After defeating UNLV, the Broncos lost by one at San Diego State on Chase Tapley’s 3-pointer in the final seconds and then won five of the next six, the lone blemish a 10-point loss at New Mexico.
UNLV coach Dave Rice agrees with Leon Rice (no relation) that both teams are playing at least close to their best basketball right now. While the Broncos come in hunting for a ticket to the tournament, the Rebels are trying to ride the momentum of their four-game winning streak to secure a good seed in the conference tournament and in the NCAAs.
The Rebels can win out and clinch the No. 2 seed, meaning they would avoid a team such as Air Force or Boise State in the quarterfinals. Defeating the Broncos would add a sixth top-50 RPI victory, a number that could go up again in the conference tourney. So while Dave Rice would certainly like to see the Mountain West get a fifth team in the big tournament, it’s not his responsibility to help Boise get there.
Dave Rice said he’ll again start Mike Moser at power forward tonight and bring freshman Anthony Bennett off the bench. Moser is coming off a season-high 20 points against UNR, and Bennett is still dealing with nerve pain in his left shoulder.
“He was sore today, but he practiced,” Rice said.
Getting those two on the court together is a priority the rest of the season, though it will likely come only when Bennett moves to center. That’s how the team played before Khem Birch was eligible.
Exactly how all of the Rebels’ pieces will fit together down the stretch is a question they’ll begin to answer tonight. On the other side will be another team trying to sort out its future, one they hope is heading to the same 68-team destination as UNLV.