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September 20, 2021

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UNLV basketball staying home for most of non-conference schedule

0121_sun_UNLVBenedictineMesa1

Steve Marcus

Players warm up before a game between the UNLv Rebels and the Benedictine Mesa (Ariz.) Redhawks at the Thomas & Mack Center Thursday Jan. 21, 2021.

UNLV released its non-conference schedule for the upcoming season on Wednesday, and the home-heavy slate is good news for local fans who are looking forward to attending games again after the socially-distanced 2020-21 campaign.

There are 12 non-conference opponents scheduled before UNLV heads into Mountain West play, and 10 of those games will be played in Las Vegas.

Kevin Kruger will make his head coaching debut on Nov. 10 with a home contest against Gardner-Webb. UNLV will then play two more home games against Cal (Nov. 13) and North Dakota State (Nov. 15) before leaving the Thomas & Mack Center for the first time.

They won’t be going far, however. The scarlet and gray will travel down the street to face Michigan at T-Mobile Arena on Nov. 19 in the first round of the MGM Main Event, which figures to be one of the marquee games of the season. They’ll then take on either Arizona or Wichita State on Nov. 21 in the second round.

After a tune-up against Whittier on Nov. 24 at the Thomas & Mack Center, it’s time for another big game as NCAA runner-up UCLA comes to town on Nov. 27.

Following the UCLA game, UNLV will hit the road for the first time by traveling to Texas for a date at SMU on Dec. 1. From there, the scarlet and gray will head directly to the Bay Area for a contest at San Francisco on Dec. 4. Those are the only two road games on the non-conference schedule.

UNLV will then return home for games against Seattle (Dec. 8), Hartford (Dec. 11) and Omaha (Dec. 15) before taking a week off. They return to the court to wrap up non-conference play against San Diego at the Thomas & Mack on Dec. 22.

The team will then take a nine-day break before opening Mountain West play with a home game against San Diego State on Jan. 1.

The 13 non-conference contests bring UNLV’s schedule to 31 total games this year. Michigan and UCLA are the clear headliners, as they finished last year ranked No. 3 and No. 13 in the KenPom.com rankings, respectively. Arizona (No. 29), SMU (No. 56), Wichita State (No. 68) and San Francisco (No. 93) were also in the top 100.

Gardner-Webb (No. 182), Hartford (No. 194), San Diego (No. 195), Seattle (No. 213) and Omaha (No. 300) are the lowest-ranked teams on the schedule. Whittier is the only non-Division I opponent.

It's also going to be an especially sweet season for UNLV legends Freddie Banks and Robert Smith, as the school announced their jerseys will be retired. Banks, a Las Vegas native who played from with the scarlet and gray from 1983-87, will have his No. 13 jersey retired on Nov. 27 before the UCLA game. Smith, a point guard on UNLV's first Final Four team in 1977, will have his No. 10 jersey retired on Feb. 19 before a game against Colorado State.

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

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