Runnin' Rebels Headed To Albuquerque For NCAAs
March 11, 2012
LAS VEGAS (UNLVRebels.com) - UNLV, which earned its third consecutive bid and 19th overall, will travel to Albuquerque, N.M., to face the University of Colorado at The Pit in its opening round game of the 2012 Division I NCAA Men's Basketball Championship on Thursday, March 15, at approximately 7 p.m. PDT on truTV.
The Runnin' Rebels (26-8/9-5/3rd place Mountain West), who are one of a record-tying four MW teams in this year's field, gathered at the Thomas & Mack Center on campus Sunday to learn their destination in anticipation of earning what was the storied program's ninth at-large bid in history. UNLV earned a spot in the field for the fifth time in the last six years, which is the most of any current MW school during that time.
"We have a lot of goals during the course of a season, but our number one goal is always getting into the NCAA Tournament, so we are pleased," UNLV head coach Dave Ricesaid. "I told our guys that we earned the right to continue playing. This is a great opportunity for us and we are looking forward to getting back to practice on Monday."
UNLV drew a No. 6 seed in the South Regional. Colorado (23-11/11-7/T5th Pac-12 Conference) is the No. 11 seed after winning four games in four days last week to win the Pac-12 Tournament in Los Angeles. The Buffaloes are making their first appearance since 2003 and their 11th trip all-time (9-12 record in NCAA Tournament).
Thursday will mark the first meeting between UNLV and CU since Dec. 22, 1981, when the Buffaloes won 65-59 in the second round of the Las Vegas Roundup at the Thomas & Mack Center. Overall, the Runnin' Rebels are 4-1 in the series with the other four meetings taking place during the 1970s.
"Colorado is a team that is coming in on a roll," said Rice, who is one of only four first-time head coaches to make the 2012 field. "Tad Boyle is a terrific coach who always has tough and talented teams so we realize the challenge ahead of us."
The winner of the UNLV-Colorado game will advance to play the winner of No. 3-seeded Baylor (27-7/12-6/T3rd Big 12 Conference) vs. 14th-seeded South Dakota State (27-7/15-3/2nd Summit League) on Saturday, March 17. UNLV is 1-2 all-time vs. Baylor but has not played the Bears since 1983. The Runnin' Rebels have never faced South Dakota State, which won the Summit League's automatic bid on March 6. The winner of that game advances to the South Regional in Atlanta.
This marks the first time UNLV has ever been a six seed and represents the highest seeding for a UNLV team since the defending champion Runnin' Rebels were a No. 1 in 1990-91. This will be the first time in history that UNLV will play a postseason game in the state of New Mexico as well as the first time the program will compete at a tournament site being held in the arena of a current conference member. The Runnin' Rebels are 9-11 all-time at The Pit, including a 65-45 loss to the Lobos last month.
Thursday will also be the first NCAA game UNLV has played in either the Pacific or Mountain time zones since winning the West Regional in Seattle on March 23, 1991.
"We are looking forward to playing in Albuquerque from the standpoint that it is close and our fans will have the opportunity to travel," Rice said. "We are familiar with The Pit and the great tradition of that building so it's a very good draw for us in terms of location. We are also pleased with the seeding and feel like we were rewarded for our tough non-conference schedule. Also, getting half of the conference into the tournament is further proof of what we've been saying all year about the high-level of play in the Mountain West."
UNLV is 57-47 all-time vs. teams currently making up the Pac-12, including 2-0 this season as Rice's squad defeated USC 65-55 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on Nov. 25, and downed California at home, 85-68, on Dec. 23. UNLV is 3-3 against current members of the Pac-12 in NCAA Tournament play with the last meeting being a 76-72 loss to Oregon in the 2007 Sweet 16.
UNLV boasts an all-time record of 33-17 (.660) in the Big Dance, which ranks 10th all-time for the highest NCAA Tournament winning percentage. The program has made four Final Four appearances (1976-77, 1986-87, 1989-90 and 1990-91) and comes in with an impressive 13-5 all-time record in opening-round matchups.