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Eight UNLV basketball games that will define the season

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Mikayla Whitmore

UNLV’s Tervell Beck (14) goes in for a score in an exhibition game against Alaska Fairbanks at the Thomas & Mack Center, Friday, Nov. 3, 2017.

With the start of UNLV basketball season less than a week away, now is a good time to scan the schedule and circle some of the Rebels' more noteworthy contests.

Nov. 11 vs. Florida A&M

The season opener figures to be an enlightening experience. Most of the Rebels’ roster is brand new, so this will represent fans’ first time to see the team in action. And five-star freshman Brandon McCoy is likely to make his debut in this one after sitting out the team’s lone exhibition game due to an ankle injury. Florida A&M isn’t a marquee opponent by any means, but this won't be about the opponent — it's about meeting the Runnin’ Rebels.

Nov. 20 vs. Rice

The last time the Rebels played at T-Mobile Arena, they were unceremoniously blown out by Duke, 94-45, last year. UNLV should put on a better show this time around. This game is part of a two-day bracket, and a win over Rice would advance the Rebels to play the winner of Ole Miss/Utah the following day in the final of the MGM Resorts Main Event.

Dec. 2 vs. Arizona

UNLV supporters may remember Dec. 23, 2014, as the last truly big home win for the program. On that night, an undefeated Arizona team came into the Thomas & Mack Center ranked No. 3 in the nation, and the Rebels scored a 71-67 upset that prompted fans to storm the court. This year’s Arizona squad is similarly talented and ranked No. 3 again. Can UNLV pull off another shocker?

Dec. 30 vs. Boise State

The Mountain West opener should tell us a lot about the rebuilt Rebels. On paper, they are talented enough to challenge for the league title, but we won’t know for sure until we see how they stack up against the better teams in the MWC. Boise State is being touted as a potential champion, so this should be a perfect early test for UNLV.

Jan. 27 vs. San Diego State

The Aztecs have beaten UNLV the last 11 times in this rivalry series, so this game will represent a chance for Marvin Menzies’ crew to prove things have changed for the better. San Diego State is poised for a run at the league crown, so a victory for the Rebels would announce that they are for real.

Feb. 7 at UNR

Last year, the Wolfpack routed UNLV in Reno, running up the score (104-77) and making a spectacle out of the situation. The first meeting between the two rivals this season should be more evenly matched, and though not many current Rebels were on the 2016-17 team that got destroyed up north, the ones who were would certainly revel in the chance to get some revenge.

Feb. 28 vs. UNR

With UNR appearing to be a strong contender for the league championship, this has a chance to be the most raucous home environment all season at the Thomas & Mack Center. It could also be UNLV’s last chance for a quality victory in the eyes of the NCAA tournament selection committee.

March 10 vs. TBA

This is the Mountain West championship game. If everything goes right for the Rebels this season, they should be playing in this game. Win it, and they’ll head to the NCAA tournament and complete a remarkable worst-to-first turnaround that seemed impossible just a few months ago.

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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