UNLV Heading To Its 20th Big Dance
March 17, 2013
LAS VEGAS (UNLVRebels.com) - UNLV, which earned its fourth consecutive bid and 20th overall, will travel to San Jose, Calif., to face the University of California at HP Pavilion in its opening round game of the 2013 Division I NCAA Men's Basketball Championship on Thursday, March 21. Tipoff is scheduled for approximately 4:27 p.m. PT on truTV.
The Runnin' Rebels (25-9/10-6/3rd place Mountain West), who are one of a record five MW teams in this year's field, gathered at the Mendenhall Center practice facility on campus Sunday to learn their destination in anticipation of earning what was the storied program's 10th at-large bid in history. UNLV earned a spot in the field for the sixth time in the last seven years, which is the most of any current MW school during that time.
"We're excited to be in the NCAA Tournament again," UNLV head coach Dave Ricesaid. "One of the traditions of this great program is playing in the tournament, so this is a chance to continue building on that. We feel like we've made significant progress this season and are looking forward to Thursday."
UNLV drew the No. 5 seed in the East Regional. California (20-11/12-6/2nd Pac-12 Conference) is the No. 12 seed and is led by conference player of the year Allen Crabbe. The Golden Bears are making their fourth appearance in the last five years and their 18th trip all-time (19-17 record in NCAA Tournament).
A rare rematch of a regular-season matchup, Thursday will mark the third meeting between UNLV and Cal in the last 15 months. The Runnin' Rebels downed the Golden Bears 85-68 at home on Dec. 23, 2011, and then earned a thrilling 76-75 victory in Berkeley on Dec. 9, 2012. Overall, the Runnin' Rebels lead the series 5-1. This will be the first postseason meeting between the two but not the first in tournament play as UNLV hosted Cal in the quarterfinals of the Preseason NIT on Nov. 17, 1989, and earned a 101-81 victory in what was the first-ever meeting between the schools.
"We have great respect for Cal and coach Mike Montgomery," Rice said. "They have a hall of fame coach and terrific players. I had an opportunity to watch them a number of times after we faced them and they played great basketball during the Pac-12 Conference schedule."
This will mark UNLV's first rematch in its opening round of the NCAA Tournament and first year playing a team for a second time during any round of the Big Dance since the 1989-90 season. Head coach Jerry Tarkanian's squad opened its national championship campaign with a 102-91 win over Loyola Marymount on Nov. 15, 1989, and then also took the rematch in the NCAA West Regional Final in Oakland, 131-101, on March 25, 1990.
"Both programs are familiar with each other, having played the last two years," Rice said. "We know how good they are on both ends of the court and how well they play together. We'll certainly have our hands full. It's a tremendous challenge but also a great opportunity to be playing in the NCAA Tournament."
The winner of the UNLV-Cal game will advance to play the winner of No. 4-seeded Syracuse (26-9/11-7/T5th Big East Conference) vs. 13th-seeded Montana (25-6/19-1/Big Sky Conference champions) on Saturday, March 23. UNLV is 1-2 all-time vs. Syracuse but has not played the Orange since 1997. The Runnin' Rebels are 4-0 against Montana with the last meeting coming in 2003. The winner of Saturday's game advances to the East Regional in Washington D.C.
This marks the second time UNLV has ever been a five seed (1984) 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 city of San Jose and the first time the program will compete at the 19-year-old HP Pavilion. Thursday will also be the first NCAA game UNLV has played in the Pacific Time Zone since winning the West Regional in Seattle, 77-65 over Seton Hall, on March 23, 1991.
This is the second consecutive year that UNLV will open the tourney against a Pac-12 team. The Runnin' Rebels are 3-4 against current members of the conference in NCAA Tournament play, with the last meeting a 68-64 loss by the sixth-seeded Rebels to 11th-seed Colorado in the 2012 South Second Round in Albuquerque. All-time, UNLV is 58-49 against teams currently making up the Pac-12, including 1-1 this season (defeating Cal and losing to Oregon).
UNLV boasts an overall record of 33-18 (.647) in the Big Dance, which ranks 10th all-time for the highest NCAA Tournament winning percentage (minimum 20 games played). The program has made four Final Four appearances (1977, 1987, 1990 and 1991) and comes in with an impressive 13-6 all-time record in its opening-round matchups.
The Runnin' Rebels join four other Mountain West teams in this year's NCAA field. New Mexico is a three seed, San Diego State is a seven seed, Colorado State is an eight seed and Boise State is a 13 seed playing in the first round.
"We've talked for a number of years about how high the level of play is in this conference," Rice said. "To get four out of eight teams in last year and now five out of nine in this year's NCAA Tournament speaks volumes about the quality of play and how great the coaching is in the league. This sends a message that there's great basketball being played in the Mountain West."