The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels beat the Wyoming Cowboys 49-46 on Saturday night, however, it does not show how bad the Rebels have been all season long.
UNLV was touted as one of the best Mountain West Conference teams heading into the season, but thus fa, it has proven high expectations can turn into bad realities.
On the season, the Rebels are 16-8 and 7-4 in MWC play. Currently, UNLV is third in the MWC and will face the Utah State Aggies next Saturday, giving them ample time to prepare and execute — something coach Dave Rice desperately needs this season.
The Rebels have played extremely poorly this season despite their decent overall record. They were supposed to be ranked all season long with a chance at getting a top-five seed in the tournament in March.
Winners of five of their last six, the Rebels are turning it around of late compared to their lackluster non-conference performance and early conference games. After a disappointing start to the conference season — losing to the Air Force Falcons and the Nevada Wolfpack in back-to-back games — UNLV has picked up the pace by beating the New Mexico Lobos, Utah State Aggies, Fresno State Bulldogs and the Boise State Broncos.
However, if the Rebels can somehow beat San Diego State Aztecs on Mar. 5 they can prove worthy of the preseason conference rankings. But for now they are one of the most disappointing teams in the country, let alone the conference. 16-8 is something to write home about if it were any team but UNLV in the MWC. The preseason expectations have outweighed the regular season performance. They are on their way into turning their season around and will make an argument to burst the bubble on the NCAA Tournament.
John Lloyd is a Pac-12 Basketball Writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @JohnHLloydIII