College Basketball Nation: Chace Stanback

Rapid Reaction: Colorado 68, UNLV 64

March, 16, 2012

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Quick thoughts on 11th-seeded Colorado's 68-64 victory over No. 6 seed UNLV:

Overview: Colorado carried the momentum of its four-game run to the Pac-12 tournament title into a convincing second-round NCAA win over UNLV at the Pit. This wasn’t close. Colorado looked like it was the champ of a major league from the opening tip against a team that ended up behind New Mexico and San Diego State in the Mountain West. The confidence with which the Buffaloes played, from making 3s to contesting shots to rebounding, was unmatched at times by the Runnin’ Rebels. This scrappy bunch of Buffs was playing with house money. Colorado coach Tad Boyle said Wednesday that the pressure was all off the Buffs. He was right. They played as loose as any of the eight teams in the field here at the Pit. But they are still the Buffaloes and couldn’t close. UNLV made quite a run to get it within one possession, but then Colorado showed poise, created turnovers and converted free throws.

Turning point: UNLV had cut the deficit to three, and the Runnin’ Rebels were on the verge of making it a one-point game. But a quick turn of events occurred when Andre Roberson blocked a shot and it led to a runout for Carlon Brown, who flushed home a jam. That gave the Buffs a 60-55 lead and a chance to breath. The Runnin’ Rebels would cut the lead to three one more time at 67-64 with 8 seconds left on a rainbow 3-pointer by Chace Stanback.

Key player: There were a lot of choices here, but a pair of back-to-back 3s by Austin Dufault early in the second half were decisive. They helped send a strong message that the Buffs weren’t going to back down. Dufault ended up with 14 points. He was an efficient 3-of-4 on 3s. But his bang-bang triples were crucial to creating some distance between the two teams after the break.

Key stat: Rebounding. The Runnin’ Rebels went into the game as the more aggressive rebounding team. It shouldn’t have been close. And it wasn’t. The Buffaloes dominated the backboard. Colorado outrebounded UNLV 43-30. UNLV couldn't get second shots on a consistent enough basis to take the lead.

Miscellaneous: Colorado gets major props for its fan contingent. The Buffs brought their A-game. I remember going to a few CU games in Boulder in the '90s, and it was never this loud. The enthusiasm for this team has certainly resonated. ... NCAA president Mark Emmert didn’t last the whole second game. I’m sure he was off to another site for Friday. ... Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was behind the Colorado bench and so was interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas. Neinas lives in Colorado, and the Buffs used to be in the Big 12/Big Eight. ... The Buffs had the karma going the moment they stepped on the Pit floor. Assistant coach Tom Abatemarco was an assistant on the 1983 NC State team that won the epic title game in this building.

What’s next: Colorado will play Baylor on Saturday in what would appear to be a mismatch. The Buffs don’t have the interior length to match the third-seeded Bears. But why would anyone doubt the Buffs' ability to make this a game and pull off the upset? This will easily be the toughest game for the Buffs since this run started.
As good as the afternoon was, with exciting upsets and huge road wins over top-five teams, the evening may have matched it in the vital FOPM statistical category. (FOPM stands for freak outs per minute. It's a tempo-adjusted metric, naturally.) Let's lead with what may be the result of the day -- Syracuse's very first loss of the season, at Notre Dame.

Notre Dame 67, No. 1 Syracuse 58

What we learned: Nobody's perfect. OK, yeah, Murray State is still perfect, but you get the drift: Everyone loses eventually. Sooner or later, the Orange were going to have a particularly bad shooting night. Sooner or later, they were going to struggle on the road. Sooner or later, they were going to do these things against a coach and a team that had designed the perfect gameplan to take advantage of this opportunity. As it happens, that coach was Mike Brey. That team was Notre Dame.

Of course, the Fighting Irish don't have a tenth of the talent available to Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. What do the Irish have? The Burn. That's what Brey calls his team's intentionally slow, clock-killing offense, and while it isn't always the preferred strategy in South Bend, it is something the Irish keep in their back pocket when they find themselves facing a bigger, stronger, faster, more skilled, pretty-much-all-around-better opponent.

Indeed, as ESPN's Doris Burke noted late in the game, the Irish played a sort of semi-burn Saturday night. They lulled the Cuse into seven fewer possessions (61) than its average adjusted tempo (68) on the season (including a handful of late heaves when the game was out of reach), but ND was also opportunistic: When it broke SU's press, it didn't always pull out and set up the halfcourt offense. It was a clinic in opportunistic decision-making. (At one point, it ended in a contested fast-break dunk by Jack Cooley. Jack Cooley? Jack Cooley!)

Syracuse, being Syracuse, still managed to force a mess of turnovers. At several points in the second half, as Notre Dame forward Scott Martin struggled time after time to inbound the ball on his own baseline, it appeared the Irish were just a few possessions away from a late collapse. But the Orange's poor shooting (they posted a 40.0 effective field goal percentage) and ND's solid free throw shooting sealed this game in the closing moments.

Burke called it a "masterful" gameplan from Brey and, as usual, she was dead on: Notre Dame knew exactly what it needed to do to take a walk through any door Syracuse left ajar. When the time came, it executed.

Going forward, this loss may knock Syracuse out of the top spot in the rankings, but it shouldn't change the perception of this team much. First of all, the absence of leading rebounder and shot-blocker Fab Melo (due to an unresolved academic issue from the fall semester) was a blow to this team's inherent interior advantage. Second, Syracuse didn't shoot the ball well. Frankly, it didn't play well. Overreact if you like, but it's the opinion of this writer that, well, hey, these games happen.

For Syracuse, it was bound to go this way eventually. When it did, the Irish were ready.

No. 15 Mississippi State 78, Vanderbilt 77 (OT)

What we learned: The Commodores will struggle with capable frontcourts. They struggle late in close games. They struggle on the defensive end. They are, in other words, the same Vanderbilt Commodores we've come to know and love in each of the past three seasons. Their recent improvements created the notion that this team had turned some vague corner, that it was finally ready to assume the top-10, Final Four-worthy preseason expectations foisted upon them.

Instead, on Saturday, we saw the team that led us to doubt that status in the first place. Vandy yielded a 12-point second-half lead, allowed Mississippi State to score 1.14 points per possession and got vastly outrebounded on both ends of the floor. In the end, even with very good chances to win the game -- particularly the final shot in regulation, which ended up being an uncontested four-foot shot for Festus Ezeli (which he missed) -- Vanderbilt just couldn't make the key defensive plays.

In the meantime, Mississippi State deserves credit for a major road win. Forward Arnett Moultrie was brilliant (21 points, 14 rebounds, three steals, one block) and guard Dee Bost was just as good (24 points, five rebounds, four assists and a handful of key second-half shots). Even Renardo Sidney, who struggled for much of the game and suffered an injury in overtime, got in on the act, hitting a monster 3 with 1:22 remaining in the second half.

Three days ago, the Bulldogs went to rival Ole Miss and lost and looked vulnerable -- even downright overrated -- throughout. Their ability to rebound from that loss with a win on the road against a streaking Vanderbilt team, one that had won its past eight games -- including on the road at Alabama -- is to be commended. Surprising stuff, to say the least.

No. 12 UNLV 80, New Mexico 63

What we learned: UNLV is still the Mountain West favorite. Yes, yes, San Diego State certainly has a claim to that distinction, too, especially since its first two conference results -- a two-point home win over the Rebels and an incredibly impressive road win at New Mexico -- were among the most impressive back-to-back performances we've seen from any team in any league this season. New Mexico is no slouch, either. Before Wednesday's loss to SDSU, the Lobos had won 13 in a row. There are three very good teams in the MWC, folks. That much we know.

Then again, I'd say we knew that already. The main takeaway from Saturday night's best late-night matchup -- and this is a good old-fashioned eye-test thing to say, but I'm doing it anyway -- is that UNLV just looks like the best team in this league. The Rebels have few, if any, holes in their attack. They have talented players at every position. Their guards push the pace; their forwards run to the rim; their wings hit 3s with ease. Anthony Marshall, Chace Stanback, Mike Moser, Oscar Bellfield and even reserves like Carlos Lopez and Justin Hawkins -- these players are perfectly suited to Dave Rice's new emphasis on uptempo basketball, and when you watch them play, it shows.

The Mountain West race is going to be fascinating, and we'll hear more from the Lobos -- and, of course, the league-leading Aztecs -- before the season is out. Sure, I'd take UNLV as the favorite. But whatever happens, if two of these three teams are playing, it promises to be very entertaining.

A few more observations from the Saturday evening that was:
    [+] EnlargeJamie Dixon
    AP Photo/Keith SrakocicPitt lost its ninth game Saturday, matching the highest season loss total of Jamie Dixon's tenure.

  • Bad times got worse for Pittsburgh on Saturday night, as the Panthers fell to No. 21 Louisville at home, 73-62. In case you're counting, that's Pitt's eighth straight loss and seventh in a row in Big East play ... for the first time in Pitt hoops history. Ouch. Even worse? According to ESPN Stats and Information, this is the first time Pitt has lost four straight home games since 1999-2000. The loss is also Pitt's ninth this season. Jamie Dixon-coached Pittsburgh teams have never recorded more than nine losses in a regular season. There are myriad issues afflicting the Panthers right now, chief among them defense, but it's hard to see any major improvements coming any time soon. If this wasn't a lost season already, it is now.
  • Neither VCU nor Old Dominion are likely to end up with a chance at an at-large bid come March, but their meeting tonight was still full of implications for the CAA title race. Before Saturday, ODU was 6-1 in conference and VCU 5-2, both right there hanging around with George Mason and Drexel in the Colonial standings. In other words, Virginia Commonwealth got a rather massive 61-48 win, handling the lackluster Monarchs rather easily at home. Shaka Smart's team is still rebuilding after last year's miracle NCAA tournament run, but they're not nearly as far down as most would have expected. Keep your eye on the Rams.
  • The C-USA race is going to be interesting. Marshall appeared to have the best odds to challenge Memphis' purported superiority, with Southern Miss a notch or two below -- a dark horse at best. After Saturday -- when Southern Miss topped Marshall and tied the Thundering Herd at 4-1 in league play -- it seems clear things aren't quite that simple. There are no remaining unbeaten teams in the league, with UCF at 5-1 and Memphis, Marshall and USM all now residing in second place at 4-1.
  • I don't know if we'll call the Pac-12 race "interesting." "Mystifying" feels more appropriate. Either way, consider what went down in the conference Saturday: Cal fell at Washington State (not an unforgiveable loss, given how well Wazzu has played at home, but still) just as the Bears appeared set, thanks to a blowout Stanford loss at Washington, to create some separation between themselves and the rest of the league. Meanwhile UCLA -- which keeps struggling, week after week, to sort things out -- fell on the road at Oregon, which is now 6-2 and tied atop the league standings. Elsewhere, lowly Utah not only didn't lose, but actually blew out Arizona State in Salt Lake City; and Colorado held on for a one-point home win over Arizona. Those Pac-12 power rankings are going to be a bear to write. I can't wait.
  • Two results from the West that shouldn't be dismissed. Long Beach State, a team that played perhaps the most grueling nonconference schedule in the country, continues to see the dividends from that gauntlet. On the road Saturday night, LBSU went into the Thunderdome and absolutely obliterated chief rival UC Santa Barbara, 71-48, the talented squad that's beaten the 49ers in the Big West final in each of the past two seasons. And in Laramie, Wyoming beat rival Colorado State -- which had won eight straight -- 70-51 to improve to 16-3. Yes, 16-3. What a job by first-year coach Larry Shyatt. And what a performance by USC transfer Leonard Washington, who set career highs in points (32) and rebounds (14).
  • As for the momentum Nebraska created with that dramatic victory over Indiana on Wednesday? Ohio State did not seem to care. Buckeyes 79, Huskers 45. So much for that.

What we learned from Saturday's games

January, 14, 2012
It didn't look like a great slate of games coming in, but Saturday turned out to be full of upsets and last-second thrillers. Here are some things we learned from all the action ...

The Top Three

Florida State 90, No. 3 North Carolina 57
What we learned: Wow. A true beatdown. Perhaps we don’t have an elite team in college basketball this season. North Carolina has as much potential as any team in the country to warrant that title, but Saturday’s meltdown -- the most lopsided of the Roy Williams era -- contradicted much of what we thought we knew about the Tar Heels. The Seminoles are always feisty against Carolina and Duke and tend to be giant-killers, but this was just silly. The Noles were 12-for-27 from the 3-point line in this victory. Deividas Dulkys was 8-for-10 from beyond the arc and scored a career-high 32 points. He had scored a combined 32 points in his previous nine games. The Tar Heels lost their fire once the barrage began. The Seminoles saw a vulnerable team and pounced. For the third time this season, the Heels lost a game outside of Chapel Hill. But in this loss, they were bullied and lethargic. How will UNC recover, and what on earth is the ACC about right now?

No. 2 Kentucky 65, Tennessee 62
What we learned: Cuonzo Martin’s Volunteers haven’t looked like an 8-9 squad over the past week. In their past three games, they’ve defeated Florida, nearly knocked off Mississippi State on the road and battled Kentucky for all 40 minutes. Freshman Jarnell Stokes, the highly touted prep player who joined the team Monday, recorded nine points and grabbed four rebounds in his debut. Once Stokes gets into shape, he’s going to have a major effect on a Tennessee squad that led Kentucky by eight in the second half and stuck with the Wildcats until the end. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (17 points, 12 rebounds) and Anthony Davis (18 points, 4 blocks) are two of America’s best, but their squad is going to get caught in league play soon if it continues to show up only after halftime.

No. 1 Syracuse 78, Providence 55
What we learned: This game was over when Ed Cooley announced stud point guard Vincent Council would not play. The Friars’ leading scorer might not have affected the final outcome, but he could have helped his squad’s deplorable offense (3-for-14 from beyond the arc, 22 turnovers) against Cuse's press. Council was a beast in PC's 31-point destruction of Louisville earlier this week. But Syracuse proved, again, that it’s the undisputed No. 1 team in the country. SU has separated itself from one of the most competitive leagues in the country. The Orange’s 19-0 start matches the best in school history. With North Carolina losing to Florida State and Kentucky struggling against Tennessee, it’s about time that Syracuse gets more credit for its strong start. Best team. In the country. No debate.

The Midwest Upsets

Northwestern 81, No. 7 Michigan State 74
What we learned: Oh, Big Ten. How you always find a way to amaze us. Within the past week, the league’s top three teams all have fallen in upsets. At home in Evanston, the Wildcats (losers of four of their previous five entering the game) snapped Michigan State’s 15-game winning streak as John Shurna led four double-figure scorers with 22 points. This game meant a few things: (1) There’s far less separation between the top and bottom of the Big Ten than there appeared to be two weeks ago. (2) Much like Michigan and Wisconsin, the Spartans are looking for a consistent No. 3. Draymond Green and Keith Appling were the team’s only two scorers in double figures. (3) Northwestern needs to prove it can put together a string of games that resemble Saturday’s outing. The Wildcats have pieces, but they tend to showcase their potential in spurts. Wonder whether this season will be different.

Iowa 75, No. 13 Michigan 59
What we learned: I can’t figure out Iowa or the Big Ten right now. The Hawkeyes knocked off their second nationally ranked opponent in two weeks. And in a Big Ten that’s as hard to peg as any league in the country right now, the Hawkeyes look like a factor. I didn’t say contender. But the Hawkeyes prove the Big Ten doesn’t offer any easy victories. No pushovers in this conference (see Minnesota-Indiana, Northwestern-Michigan for further proof). For Michigan, this game just confirmed how much the Wolverines rely on Tim Hardaway Jr. He is 17-for-55 in the team’s four losses. The only way the Wolverines -- now 1-3 on the road -- will make a push toward the top of the Big Ten standings is if Hardaway is more consistent.

Oklahoma 82, No. 18 Kansas State 73
What we learned: Frank Martin was enraged after his team lost to an undefeated Baylor squad Tuesday at home. He preached defense in his postgame interviews. That was a major challenge for the Wildcats on Saturday, too. The Big 12’s eighth-ranked scoring defense allowed a Sooners team that lost its first three Big 12 games to shoot 55 percent from the field. K-State's performances against Mizzou and Baylor suggested the Wildcats deserve a spot among the Big 12’s elite. That’s not necessarily the case anymore, with the Wildcats having dropped three of their past four games. Their conference slate gets easier from here over the next few weeks, but the Cats will find themselves in vulnerable spots, especially on the road, if their defensive woes continue. That's now 3-8 in its past 11 Big 12 road games for KSU. After a strong debut, Lon Kruger’s squad fell hard (the Sooners had lost four of five entering Saturday’s game). But the Kansas State victory should be a major confidence booster for OU. The Sooners snapped a 14-game losing skid against ranked opponents.

The Mountain West Thriller

No. 22 San Diego State 69, No. 12 UNLV 67
What we learned: The Mountain West is going to make noise in March. The league’s top two squads, both nationally ranked, battled for 40 minutes in San Diego. This wasn’t a basketball game. It was a title fight. I wasn’t there, but it felt like a tournament game from my couch. This game had some of the best back-and-forth action I’ve seen all season. Neither team could pull away. Jamaal Franklin (team-high 24 points) tumbled over a photographer in the final seconds and hurt his ankle. But he returned to the floor moments later and scored the game-winning bucket. Steve Fisher continues to exceed expectations after losing Kawhi Leonard to the NBA draft and three other starters. The Rebels won’t beat the top squads in their league or the NCAA tournament if their two leading scorers, Chace Stanback (7 points, 3-of-9 shooting) and Mike Moser (9 points, 3-of-11), struggle in big games. But San Diego State is headed to Las Vegas on Feb. 11 for the rematch. Can’t wait to see that. This matchup wasn’t just a boost for the two teams on floor; it was a boost for the entire league. The Mountain West is tough. And don't forget about New Mexico, which won its 13th straight with a victory at Wyoming. The Aztecs and Lobos go at it Wednesday night.

Taking Care Of Business

No. 9 Missouri 84, Texas 73
What we learned: The Tigers aren’t conventional. They’re undersized in a league with a multitude of skilled bigs and they’re not very deep. But Frank Haith used seven players in his second consecutive victory since last week’s lopsided loss at Kansas State. Ricardo Ratliffe led the Tigers with 21 points (10-of-12). Marcus Denmon, who had six in a win at Iowa State on Wednesday, scored 18 against the Longhorns. Phil Pressey (18 points, 10 assists, 0 turnovers) continued his impressive play. Few teams possess the perimeter depth and skill to challenge Missouri’s talented backcourt for 40 minutes. J’Covan Brown scored 34 points for the Horns, matching the combined scoring tally for the team’s other four starters. But they couldn’t defend a Mizzou team that held a 43-30 edge at halftime and finished with four scorers in double figures. A week ago, folks questioned the Tigers' legitimacy. But they clearly have regained their mojo since the KSU loss and should pose a threat to any top-tier Big 12 team.

No. 20 Mississippi State 56, Alabama 52
What we learned: Alabama entered this game on a five-game winning streak. But Bama won’t beat most teams in the SEC by scoring 52 points. JaMychal Green (14 points) was the Crimson Tide's only double-digit scorer. The Bulldogs weren’t much better. However, Arnett Moultrie’s 25-point, 13-rebound output was the difference. The two teams combined to shoot 4-for-26 from the 3-point line, but Dee Bost was 3-for-3 from long range in the closing minutes and that was that. Man, the SEC is confusing. Kentucky is obviously the league’s best, but who are Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5? This was an opportunity for these squads to make a definitive statement about their places in the league. Didn’t really happen. I expected more from this one, but hey, Mississippi State will take the win.

Some more observations from Saturday

  • Baylor looked like a national champ in its 106-65 victory over Oklahoma State. No, the Cowboys aren’t an elite team. But the Bears shot 52 percent on 3-pointers (15-of-29) and had almost twice as many rebounds as OSU (48-25). Nine players scored for the Bears. Their depth is underrated, and it’s going to be a huge asset in March.
  • [+] EnlargeMaalik Wayns
    AP Photo/Al BehrmanMaalik Wayns, left, dropped 39 for Villanova in a loss at Cincinnati.
  • Iowa State blew a 12-point second-half lead and lost its second consecutive matchup against a ranked opponent in its 82-73 defeat at Kansas. But with Royce White (18 points, 17 rebounds), the Cyclones can win nine or more in the Big 12. By the way, a career-high 28 points out of Tyshawn Taylor should quiet a few of his critics.
  • Connecticut is such a different team when Alex Oriakhi and Andre Drummond are fully engaged. Drummond (10 points, 13 rebounds) and Oriakhi (12 points, 7 rebounds) were impressive in the Huskies’ 67-53 win at Notre Dame, ending the Irish's 29-game home win streak. The Huskies didn’t have Ryan Boatright, but they played like a complete team with their bigs being so active.
  • Pittsburgh played better Saturday but still lost at Marquette 62-57. The Panthers, the models of consistency over the past decade, have lost six straight and are 0-5 in the Big East. Holy cow. Let that one sink in.
  • His team lost once again in a close game at Cincinnati, but it's worth mentioning the effort by Villanova's Maalik Wayns, who had a line of 39 points (6-of-13 from 3), 13 rebounds and six assists, and put his struggling Wildcats in a position to win on the road.
  • Xavier has won three in a row, after topping St. Bonaventure 77-64. Mark Lyons and Tu Holloway combined to score 33 points in the victory. The Musketeers didn’t secure any signature wins during this mini-revival, but that doesn’t matter. X needed to get back to winning as it prepares for the Atlantic 10's toughest squads. Until someone in the conference knocks off the Musketeers at the Cintas Center (where they've beaten 42 consecutive A-10 opponents), this team is still the league favorite in my opinion.
  • Conference USA should be fun this season. Like Xavier, Memphis -- a decisive winner at Houston on Saturday night -- should still be considered the favorite until someone proves they can beat the Tigers on the road. But Marshall and UCF played a classic in a 65-64 Thundering Herd victory, and both could give Memphis trouble. Southern Miss is right in the mix as well.
  • Meanwhile, in the Mid-American Conference, Akron now has to be considered the favorite after a 68-63 victory over Ohio, which looked so solid in nonconfernece play but has faltered of late. The Zips have wins at Mississippi State and Marshall. If they make the NCAA tournament, look out.
  • Have to be impressed with the way Oregon swept the Arizona schools. Winning in Tempe is nothing to be overjoyed about, but winning in Tucson -- no matter how mediocre the Wildcats have been for most of the season -- is still special for any Pac-12 school. The Ducks are as good a bet as any to win this crazy league.
  • You know who won't win the Pac-12? The Ducks' rival, Oregon State. The Beavers have played great at times this season, but the bottom line is 1-5 in a down conference after a horrendous double-digit loss at Arizona State on Saturday.
  • You know who just might win the Pac-12? Stanford. The Cardinal now are 5-1 in the conference after a 20-point beatdown of Colorado, which began 3-0 (all at home) but got a rude awakening in the Bay Area by Cal and Stanford.
  • Gonzaga was shaky early Saturday night, but the Zags have to be happy with their 62-58 win at Loyola Marymount, a team that has knocked off UCLA and Saint Louis this season. Mark Few's team was absolutely humiliated at Saint Mary's on Thursday. A bounce-back victory was a must, and the Zags got it done.
Melo sets Syracuse record
Fab Melo blocked a school-record 10 shots as Syracuse defeated Seton Hall 75-49 on Thursday. Etan Thomas previously held the Syracuse record with nine blocks, which he reached on three occasions. The performance doubled Melo’s previous career high of five.

Melo had eight blocks at halftime, and was poised to challenge Dikembe Mutombo’s record of 12 in a Big East conference game. But Melo logged only eight second-half minutes in the blowout. It’s still tied for the third-most blocks in a Big East game.

Rebels runnin’ up the score
UNLV shot 67.1 percent in a 124-75 win over Central Arkansas. It’s the most points scored by UNLV since the 1990-91 squad that included Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony. It’s the most points scored against a Division I opponent since Seton Hall put up 134 on VMI in December 2009.

UNLV’s bench scored 82 points, the most by a bench against a Division I opponent since UMKC got 94 points from its reserves in a 2007 loss to Oakland. Chace Stanback came off the bench and went 9-for-11 from 3-point range to lead all scorers with 29 points.

Moore owns the boards
UAB’s Cameron Moore pulled down a school-record 24 rebounds in a 56-49 win over George Washington. It’s the most rebounds in a game since December 2009 when Morgan State’s Kevin Thompson grabbed 25. Moore also led all scorers with 19 points, and had a double-double at halftime.

His 24 rebounds equaled George Washington’s team rebounding total on the night. In the second half, he single-handedly outrebounded the Colonials 14-12.

Everything but the points
The outcome of St. Joseph’s 81-50 win over Morgan State was never in doubt, so let’s just focus on one of the strangest lines of the season. Halil Kanacevic had seven blocks, eight rebounds, 12 assists and five fouls in 22 minutes. Oh, and he went scoreless.

His 12 assists fell two shy of the school record, and were the third most this season without scoring a point. His seven blocks tied the most in a scoreless game this season. Not surprisingly, he’s the only player in at least the past 15 seasons with 12 assists and seven blocks in a game.

Here's what we learned on Saturday

December, 17, 2011

Saturday’s slate of games featured some surprising finishes. Teams were exposed. Others were discovered.

It was a tutorial on the unpredictable ebb and flow of the college basketball scene this time of year. Here are a few things I learned:

No. 1 Syracuse 88, North Carolina State 72

What we learned: The Orange aren’t just deep -- they're really good

Syracuse has been praised as one of the deepest teams in the country. The Big East power possesses a talented backup at every position. Sometimes, however, the “depth” tag suggests a team lacks individual talent. That’s not the case with the Orange. North Carolina State started strong but Syracuse didn’t panic. It just turned to its stars. Dion Waiters (career-high 22 points), Scoop Jardine (16 points) and Kris Joseph (21 points) led an SU squad that hit 56.5 percent of its shots. North Carolina State was up early and then -- Bam! -- the Orange snatched the game back. Even with a target on their backs as America’s new No. 1 team and a highly publicized investigation of a former assistant coach, they continue to operate like a team without any distractions. Cuse has survived every Bernie Fine development and overcome the obstacles on the floor. Can’t get overly excited quite yet about a team that just played its first road game, but the Orange seem to have it all right now.

No. 13 Florida 84, No. 22 Texas A&M 64

What we learned: Florida’s backcourt is a matchup nightmare for opposing teams

Well, the Aggies don’t belong anywhere near the top 25, judging by Saturday’s lopsided loss to the Gators. They can’t score. The Big 12’s worst scoring offense and worst free throw-shooting team couldn’t find the buckets to compete with Florida. Give UF credit for attacking early (opened the game on an 18-2 run), putting its potent offense to work and getting to the free throw line (30 attempts). The Gators are going to have trouble against bigger teams given their size disparity, but as Saturday’s game proved, opposing teams continue to have problems matching up against a team with their backcourt depth (three guards scored 16 or more, led by Kenny Boynton’s 22 points and his six 3-pointers). One question remains, though. Patric Young took two shots. You have to wonder whether he’ll become a more consistent part of Florida’s offense in SEC play. One thing is clear: When this team gets going, it’s a hard one to stop. There are still defensive concerns, but the Gators are going to compete in the SEC if they continue to produce this level of offense.

No. 7 Baylor 86, BYU 83

What we learned: Perry Jones can lead Baylor to a national championship

Baylor’s NCAA title hopes will be directly linked to its identity outside of Waco. The Bears were 1-3 away from their home floor during the nonconference portion of last season’s schedule. Those road woes followed the Bears into the Big 12 season. In a gritty game Saturday against a BYU squad that’s always tough on its home floor, Perry Jones III scored a career-high 28 points and played with the heart that’s expected of a star. After suffering a late knee injury, Jones checked back into the game and scored on a putback with 20 seconds to play that capped the win. Pierre Jackson blocked Brandon Davies’ 3-point attempt at the buzzer. BYU held a 13-point lead in the first half, but Jones kept the Bears alive in a hostile environment. He’s NBA-lottery good. We knew that before Saturday’s game, but since his return from an NCAA-mandated suspension at the start of the season, he’s looked like an NCAA championship-caliber leader, too.

Gonzaga 71, Arizona 60

[+] EnlargeElias Harris
AP Photo/Kevin P. CaseyGonzaga rode Elias Harris' 25 points to victory over Arizona.
What we learned: Gonzaga is not discouraged by early struggles, but Arizona might be

This was a significant game for a pair of teams that had dropped from the rankings in recent weeks as they failed to meet preseason projections. Both needed this game in Seattle. Gonzaga played like it understood the stakes. Arizona did not. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 14-0 lead to start the game, and Zona spent the rest of the contest trying to close the gap. But that early onslaught from Gonzaga set the tone for the rest of the afternoon. The Zags held off Arizona’s late charge that cut the deficit to 62-56 with 2:03 to play. The Wildcats’ leading scorer, Solomon Hill, went 1-for-7 and finished with six points, his second single-digit effort in three games. The fall continues for Arizona, an Elite Eight team last season but one that has lost four of its past seven games. Give Gonzaga credit, though. The Zags seemed motivated and focused, despite suffering their recent ups and downs. Saturday’s version of Elias Harris (25 points) should help Gonzaga in what should be an excellent WCC race with BYU and Saint Mary's. Hopefully, the 2-for-11 player who showed up for last weekend’s loss to Michigan State never returns.

UNLV 64, No. 19 Illinois 48

What we learned: UNLV is legit

With about 41 seconds to play in this game, Illinois' D.J. Richardson drove right in and went up for a dunk that wouldn’t have affected the outcome. But Quintrell Thomas swatted the shot like it mattered. Thomas and Mike Moser gave UNLV a combined 30 points with leading scorer Chace Stanback (2 points) struggling, as UNLV strolled into Chicago and locked up an Illinois team that came in at 10-0. The Runnin’ Rebels now have dropped a pair of undefeated, nationally ranked squads (North Carolina, Illinois), and their only two losses came against quality opponents on the road (Wichita State, Wisconsin). This Mountain West standout is legit. The Rebels can clamp down defensively. Illinois went 16-of-63 from the field (7-of-25 from the 3-point line). Surprisingly, Illinois didn’t feed big man Meyers Leonard (3-of-8) enough in the second half. During some stretches, Leonard’s teammates just missed him and settled for bad shots. Other times, however, Leonard couldn’t breathe with UNLV defenders swarming him.

No. 4 Louisville 95, Memphis 87

What we learned: Josh Pastner is still trying to figure out this team

Let’s start with giving Louisville credit. The Cardinals held off Memphis’ relentless pursuit, after watching their 13-point second-half lead become a 58-55 deficit. Behind Russ Smith’s career highs of 24 points and seven steals, Louisville pulled off a solid home win. But it also was another game in which Memphis baffled observers with its inefficient use of its immense talent. Will Barton is special (28 points, 16 boards), and he’s surrounded by a variety of highly skilled athletes. But that hasn’t been enough for the Tigers. Their four losses have come against quality opponents, but at what point will this group get over the hump? When will it stop playing in spurts and begin improving shot selection in tight stretches? Those are all key questions for Pastner going forward. He has some talented players on his roster. But getting all that talent to work together is still a challenge.

More observations from Saturday:

* No. 2 Ohio State stayed strong when Jared Sullinger left Saturday’s 74-66 victory over South Carolina with a foot injury, but you have to wonder whether the sophomore’s ailments will hamper him and the program the rest of the way.

* With Cody Zeller, who scored 21 points in Saturday’s 69-58 win over Notre Dame in Indianapolis, the No. 20 Hoosiers can compete for the Big Ten title.

* Both Mississippi State and Detroit proved they’re legitimate conference contenders during the Bulldogs’ 80-75 victory over the Titans. MSU is 11-1 now, while the return of center Eli Holman (12 points, 9 rebounds) increases Detroit’s potential of winning a Horizon League title.

* The Missouri Valley race will be the most competitive in the country. Indiana State’s 61-55 win at No. 25 Vanderbilt was just a reminder of the conference’s parity and talent. The Sycamores will compete with Creighton, Northern Iowa, Wichita State and Missouri State in what should be a heck of a two months in the Valley.

* J'Covan Brown continues to keep 9-2 Texas afloat in the Big 12’s fringe contender conversations. He scored 23 points in a nice 77-65 victory over Temple.

* A game-winning tip-in with a second to play by Butler’s Andrew Smith helped the Bulldogs snap a three-game losing skid with a 67-65 win over Purdue. The Big Ten is really big this season, and Purdue lacks a consistent interior presence. That will create a variety of issues for the Boilermakers in conference play.
WICHITA, Kan. -- More later, but a few quick thoughts from Wichita State's 89-70 rout of No. 18 UNLV.

Overview: Early-season losses to Alabama and Temple seemed like a thing of the past for Wichita State following a commanding 89-70 victory over 18th-ranked UNLV at Koch Arena. Joe Ragland scored a career-high 31 points and Carl Hall added 17 for the Shockers, who completely annihilated a previously-unbeaten UNLV squad that defeated NCAA title contender North Carolina just eight days earlier.

This was the Wichita State team people had been expecting to see all along, the one that entered the season on the cusp of the top 25 and was tagged as the favorite to win the Missouri Valley Conference title. The Shockers proved Sunday that they'll definitely be in the hunt along with Creighton and Indiana State (and possibly Northern Iowa). They also picked up a much-needed out-of-conference win against a quality opponent that will look good on Selection Sunday.

Turning point: Ragland's 3-pointer midway through the first half broke an 18-18 tie and ignited a 9-0 scoring run for the Shockers, who were never threatened after that. Ragland had 19 points at intermission and made all five of his shots from beyond on the arc in the opening 20 minutes. As hot it was offensively, Wichita State also did a nice job on the other end by holding UNLV standouts Mike Moser and Chace Stanback to a collective 10 points in the decisive first half.

Why Wichita State won: The basket looked like a hula hoop to the Shockers, who made 59.3 percent of their shots. Whether it was Ragland pulling up from 3, Toure Murry connecting from midrange or Garrett Stutz or Hall muscling up for a short jumper inside, the Shockers seemingly couldn't miss.

Why UNLV lost: It's tough to beat any team that was as hot as Wichita State was Sunday. But the Runnin' Rebels definitely could've stepped it up on defense, where they often appeared soft and overmatched. The other factor was the sellout crowd of 10,269 at Koch Arena, which is one of the toughest road environments in all of college basketball. UNLV was clearly rattled and Dave Rice's squad missed badly on a number of shots.

Star of the game: Ragland, who had 19 of his career-high 31 points in the first half, is the easy choice here. The senior made eight his nine 3-point attempts to pace the Shockers. Ragland also went 5-of-6 from the foul stripe while notching three assists. Ragland entered the game averaging 8.7 points.

What’s next: Wichita State plays at Tulsa on Wednesday before hosting Utah State on Saturday. UNLV will regroup with what should be an easy win against Cal State-San Marcos Wednesday before traveling to Madison for a tilt with Wisconsin on Saturday.

UNLV's running game off to a slow start

November, 2, 2011
UNLV coach Dave Rice's debut ended in victory but it also made them realize there is more work to do if the Runnin' Rebels are going to live up to their name.

After one half of an exhibition game against Washburn, the Rebels trailed by a point, shot 17 percent from the field, and missed all eight of their 3-point attempts.

UNLV rallied to win an ugly 58-50 game without suspended star Chace Stanback and took a step toward working out the kinks of their new offense, according to the Las Vegas Sun.
But it was a learning experience, too, as the Rebels realized quickly that many future opponents will also know that with their desire to run, there will be several game plans designed around trying to slow them down to a crawl.

"I think with the athletes we have and the way we're trying to push the tempo and play, I think there are a lot of teams that will try to take the air out of [the ball] a little bit," Rice said. "So that's something we'll have to learn to deal with.

Despite the lackluster stats from the early portion of the game, perhaps UNLV got its biggest compliment before the contest. Former coach Jerry Tarkanian, whose offense Rice played in and is using as inspiration, offered his endorsement of the team in his latest Las Vegas Sun blog entry.
I’m just very impressed with the ball club. I told Dave how surprised I was with how many players he has. His roster is deeper than any of mine were.

There is a lot of excitement right now in the community for what he is doing and that running style of play. I can’t wait to see it on the court, too.

But they can’t live off that excitement. They have to go out and prove themselves -- they have to get out there and run.

UCLA transfer has meaningful new number

October, 13, 2011
While at UCLA during his freshman season, top-100 recruit Mike Moser wore No. 1 but didn't particularly get his number called much. With the Bruins finishing that year 14-18, Moser only contributed 0.6 points and 0.5 rebounds before deciding to transfer.

He's changed his jersey number to 43 now after resurfacing at UNLV to become one of the potential impact transfers in the Mountain West, and according to the Las Vegas Sun, the new number represents the chip on his shoulder from not playing much at UCLA.
Not long after UCLA transfer Mike Moser arrived in Las Vegas last summer, he went to play ball in an open gym session. Over his shoulder, he heard some people talking about him.

"I remember I walked in and some guys were like, 'That's the kid from UCLA, but he only averaged like 4.3 minutes a game,'" he recalled.

And that's how he settled on No. 43 for the UNLV jersey that he's patiently waited a year to don.

The funny thing is that in his lone year playing for the Bruins, the once highly touted recruit actually played 4.7 minutes per game, but it's not the exact number that matters. For Moser, it's about proving his doubters wrong.

The 6-foot-8 Moser should be motivated this season after missing so much time since becoming Oregon's Mr. Basketball in high school, and for him, there is a model to follow. Rebels teammate Chace Stanback also transferred from off of Ben Howland's bench and became the team's leading scorer and rebounder. Another former Bruin, Drew Gordon, is the Mountain West preseason player of the year at New Mexico.

UNLV fans should hope to hear Moser's name a lot given that he should fit in well with Dave Rice's up-tempo offense, which will need athletic big men to get up and down the court. Chances are, he'll be playing more than what the jersey number called for in the past.

Is it UNLV's time to strike?

June, 17, 2011
It's still far too early in the offseason to start projecting next fall with anything resembling meaning. But here are a few things we know about the UNLV Running Rebels:
  • They have a new coach, Dave Rice, a former UNLV great, 11-year UNLV staff member and former Utah State and BYU assistant coach who will be walking the sideline as a head coach for the first time this season.
  • They have much of 2010-11's solid NCAA tournament team returning.
  • Star guard Tre'Von Willis is not one of those returners.
  • Chace Stanback, UNLV's other primary scorer, is. But Stanback could miss at least a few games for a DUI arrest he racked up in late May.
  • The Mountain West will not be nearly as tough as it was in 2010-11.

That last point might be the most important of all.

Sure, how Rice handles Stanback's situation will be intriguing. And yeah, Rice will have to prove that he's capable of overseeing a program in his own right, which, for new head coaches, is always much easier said than done.

But the most salient piece of information about UNLV's impending season is how its conference gives the Rebels an almost immediate, de facto boost toward the top of the standings. Consider the offseason in the Mountain West. San Diego State lost four starters, three seniors and junior lottery pick Kawhi Leonard. Brigham Young waves farewell to national player of the year Jimmer Fredette, and also to the MWC; BYU will now play its hoops alongside Gonzaga and St. Mary's in the West Coast Conference. Colorado State, another nascent competitor in 2011, lost its two best players to graduation.

Only New Mexico, which returns former UCLA transfer Drew Gordon and impressive freshman point guard Kendall Williams -- and adds a solid batch of talent from the spring signing period -- appears poised to compete for top honors in the conference.

SDSU is rebuilding. BYU is gone. This thing is wide open.

It's hard not to see this as a benefit for the Rebels. UNLV frequently scheduled tough nonconference slates under Kruger, and that isn't going to change in 2011-12; the Rebels will have games against USC, vs. North Carolina (or South Carolina), vs. Wichita State, at Wisconsin and vs. Illinois in Chicago's United Center, among others. In other words, UNLV doesn't have to worry about skating through an easy nonconference season only to fail to gain the requisite respect and RPI boost once MWC play begins. UNLV's path to a league title is more open than at any time in recent Rebels history. The key is winning a few of those nonconference games even if Stanback faces a lengthier, far less lenient suspension than Willis faced under Kruger in 2011.

Nothing is guaranteed to Rice's team, of course. We're a long way away from UNLV and New Mexico's duel for the MWC title. But more than ever before, it appears to be a two-team duel, one UNLV has a fantastic shot at winning. All the Rebels had to do was return a few players and not go anywhere in last summer's conference realignment. The result? Let's just say, for Rice, there are worse ways to begin your coaching career.

Chace Stanback case will test Dave Rice

May, 19, 2011
There's plenty of offseason left before Dave Rice makes his head coaching debut, but he will be tested even before the season tips off.

Chace Stanback, the Rebels' top scorer and rebounder from last season, was arrested for allegedly driving under the influence last week. That means one month after leaving BYU to return to his alma mater, Rice is already in the spotlight/

He issued a brief statement earlier in the week after the arrest became public. He followed it up Thursday with another statement sent to media members and posted on the team's website:
"I take this situation with Chace Stanback very seriously. I am disappointed with the bad decision that he made last week, but I will support and help him through the process. Chace and I have met several times and he has consistently expressed regret. He is a valued member of our team, but he has a very clear understanding of what is expected from each individual in this program and that his actions were unacceptable. The process is ongoing and when it is complete we will have further comment regarding a resolution."

The investigation into the case is ongoing, so discipline isn't expected until that is completed. But given that this is the second leading scorer in as many years to come down with a serious legal issue heading into the season, Rice's response becomes magnified.

Last season, Lon Kruger suspended Tre'Von Willis after the senior guard pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor related to a domestic dispute. Kruger handed down a suspension that consisted of two exhibition games and the regular-season opener against UC Riverside. He eventually tacked on a second regular-season game against Southeastern Louisiana before Willis played in a win against a ranked Wisconsin team.

Media members weren't satisfied, and now, Las Vegas Review-Journal columnists are putting on the pressure for Rice to get the disciplinary action right. Ed Graney writes that Kruger "went too soft" on Willis, and Ron Kantowski wants to see Stanback banned for at least five games.
A five-game suspension, or more, isn't out of the question. No glorified scrimmages against Grand Canyon and Washburn this time. Five games, minimum, that count for something when the selection committee meets to discuss the brackets next spring.

Five games will show that UNLV learned from the Willis debacle.

Five games will show that Dave Rice means business, that he isn't such a nice guy, per his reputation, when it comes to serious matters such as driving under the influence, when a lapse in judgment can result in other people being hurt or so much worse.
Saddle Up is our semi-daily preview of the night's best basketball action. It really needs to get a workout in before the holidays.

UNLV vs. No. 11 Kansas State, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2: At this point in the season, you probably didn't think we'd be debating which team, UNLV or Kansas State, is better. But it's a legitimate debate.

Both teams are impressive in some ways and deficient in others. Kansas State has its stifling defense and preseason All-American guard in Jacob Pullen, but the Wildcats have struggled on offense, scored just 44 points in Saturday's loss to Florida and were blown out the last time they played in the Sprint Center by a vastly superior Duke team. UNLV has its solid all-around play and the offensive brilliance of Chace Stanback, but the Rebels have lost two out of their past three, including a home loss to UC Santa Barbara last week. Both teams need a bit of a rebound from those disappointing recent results; both teams need to get their variously high aspirations back into the realm of the realistic.

For Kansas State, that means a few things. For one, the Wildcats have to find some offense; last season's No. 13-ranked offense (by adjusted efficiency, of course) is this season's No. 74. That's due in large part to the disappointing play of Pullen, who is missing from the perimeter more than he did last season and going to the foul line far less. As a team, Kansas State is the second-worst in the nation (!) at getting to the foul line, and a chunk of that blame rests on Pullen's shoulders.

For UNLV, it means finding a way to keep Kansas State off the glass. The Wildcats are good at one thing on offense so far this season: chasing down offensive boards. They're the 10th-best team in the nation at grabbing their own misses. UNLV is the 214th-best at preventing offensive rebounds. That smells like trouble for the Runnin' Rebels. Kansas State may not be shooting well or getting to the foul line, but if UNLV can't keep them off the glass, the first two factors might not matter all that much.

Either way, this should be a good one. Pomeroy's computers give Kansas State a 53 percent chance of winning, as good an indicator as any that tonight's lone marquee game will be hard-fought, tight, and full of intrigue until the very last drop. And no, I will not apologize for that mixed metaphor. It's been a long day.

Everywhere else: You can't see it on TV, but if recent results -- the Trojans taking Kansas to the wire; Tennessee losing to Oakland and Charlotte -- have anything to say, USC at Tennessee should be a lot closer than any Volunteers fan is constitutionally ready to handle. ... Coming off a loss to UCLA, BYU travels to Ogden for an in-state battle with capable Weber State. ... UNC-Asheville will be the latest team to visit Jared Sullinger's house. ... San Diego State welcomes San Fransisco to SoCal. ... The 7-2 IPFW Mastodons get a crack at Purdue in Mackey Arena. ... Texas A&M will look to keep its forward momentum rolling against Wagner. ... William & Mary goes to Chapel Hill. ... Unbeaten Cincinnati will have something of a challenge at Miami of Ohio, which took down Xavier earlier this season. ... Solid mid-major game alert: Valpo meets Oakland in the Lou Henson Award Tournament. ... and Wichita State will look to avoid a glaring disappointment in its home match up with Tulsa.

UNLV brings back black uniforms

December, 3, 2010
Why don't more schools wear all-black uniforms? Has there even been an all-black uniform scheme -- no matter the sport, and no matter the level -- that didn't look thoroughly awesome? I contend that there is not. Which is why it's good to see UNLV breaking with recent tradition, ignoring superstitious overtones and doing the aesthetically pleasing thing: bringing back the all-blacks.

On Wednesday night, UNLV debuted its new all-black uniforms in an 82-51 blowout against Illinois State. To be historically precise, the uniforms aren't exactly new. UNLV used to rock the all-black look with some frequency. Then, in 1999, according to Las Vegas Sun reporter Ryan Greene, the Runnin' Rebels wore the uniforms in a non-conference game against North Carolina only to lose the game and see top junior college recruit Kenny Dye suffer a shoulder injury that eventually cost him his college career.

Since then, the school has entertained a supposed black-uniform "curse." Only recently, as players constantly clamored for the jersey scheme, did the Rebels decide that maybe curses aren't real and that maybe uniforms don't cause teams to lose and players to get injured. And just like that, they're back:
“We all liked it. Everybody liked it,” junior forward Chace Stanback said. “We’ve been asking for it for a long time, and we kind of joked around about it before coming over here, and they surprised us with them. Coach said something about (the curse) before the game. But ultimately, we just had to come out and play hard.”

The all-black duds, which were accented by tall black socks and black Nikes, gave UNLV a bit of motivation for a game that many might have looked at as one that was tough to get up for. Instead, from the sound of it, the players were like little kids on Christmas morning when they first saw the new uniforms before departing for Illinois.

“It’s something different. You don’t really see too many schools with all black uniforms,” sophomore guard Anthony Marshall proudly said. “If we would have lost tonight, we probably wouldn’t have worn them again, so we’re happy to get the win with them so we can continue to wear them.”

High-five, UNLV. The all-black look is far too underused in sports, and any opportunity to use it must be taken. Curses be damned.

In the meantime, San Diego State is sitting over here wondering what all the fuss is about.

Runnin' Rebels Chace down the Racers

November, 27, 2010

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Despite the way Chace Stanback has burst into the headlines as UNLV’s go-to player, it certainly didn’t happen overnight.

Last season, in his first year of action with the Rebels, the 6-foot-8 forward started and contributed to an NCAA tournament team, but felt himself being too passive around his new team and resolved to get aggressive.

Three years ago, he was struggling to simply crack the rotation of a Final Four team at UCLA and played sparingly before finding new life in the desert.

“It wasn’t a good fit,” Stanback said of his time with the Bruins. “I’ll leave it at that.”

Stanback doesn’t have to say much, as his game-high 19-point performance in a 69-55 semifinal win over Murray State at the 76 Classic served as a statement via bullhorn to those who haven’t noticed his rise.

[+] EnlargeChace Stanback
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonChace Stanback led UNLV with 19 points on Friday.
Stanback was 7-of-8 from the floor on Friday night, drained three 3-pointers and used his length to help disturb a fast-paced Murray State offense.

“Chace is obviously making shots, but defensively, he’s playing with much more awareness and readiness from a year ago,” said UNLV coach Lon Kruger, whose team advances to play in Sunday night's final against Virginia Tech (ESPN2, 9 ET).

In a game that pitted the Runnin’ Rebels against the Racers, it was no surprise the game turned into a track meet. Murray State had no answer for Stanback and struggled to solve a swarming UNLV defense that forced 16 turnovers and caused the Racers to shoot 34.8 percent from the field.

The Rebels, 5-0 and already riding high after their recent win against a ranked Wisconsin team, were happy to out-execute their opponents at their own game.

“We try to do what we do -- make them adjust to us,” Kruger said. “Keep them from being comfortable in the halfcourt. We were disruptive and caused some havoc.”

The Rebels do it with five transfers on their active roster, including Stanback, Kansas transfer Quintrell Thomas (12 points, six rebounds) and Kentucky transfer Derrick Jasper (10 points, four rebounds). Last year’s leading scorer, Tre’Von Willis, came to Vegas from Memphis and is expected to continue working his way back into game shape after missing the first four games of the season due to suspension.

Willis contributed two field goals in 15 minutes off the bench, while Stanback continues to play the starring role.

Of course, Las Vegas has produced its share of talent as well. Rebels guard Anthony Marshall is a native and made his own emphatic statements with his two blocks. He came out of nowhere to swat Isaiah Canaan’s attempt at a driving layup in the second half.

Asked if he thought he could catch Murray State’s speedy point guard, Marshall said, “I just tried to sprint.”

It’s a fast start for UNLV, after all.

Report: UNLV lands another transfer

April, 26, 2010
UNLV, which went to the NCAA tournament behind the efforts of transfers such as Tre'Von Willis, Chace Stanback and Derrick Jasper, is reportedly adding to its collection of players looking for second chances.

According to the Las Vegas Sun, the Rebels have picked up a commitment from former UCLA forward Mike Moser, who was once named Oregon's Mr. Basketball, but played limited minutes with the Bruins.

The 6-foot-8 forward joins Stanback as former UCLA players who transferred out as freshmen and with three years of eligibility left.

"The way the season worked out for me this year, I feel it is necessary for me personally to make a move somewhere else so I can play," Moser said in a statement upon transferring after averaging only 4.7 minutes per game.

By the time Moser becomes eligible, Willis and Jasper are among those who are expected to depart, giving way to a new someone to shine under the bright lights of Las Vegas.

MWC to get four bids? Believe it.

March, 13, 2010
I typed that headline in shortly after the San Diego State win, only to later realize Andy Katz tweeted the same thing.

We think it's going to happen. The first sellout Mountain West Conference tournament crowd of 18,500 saw it for themselves.

And for the rest of the nation, well, UNLV forward Chace Stanback is hoping you were paying attention to the four teams he thinks should all get to dance.

"I definitely think it was proved tonight," he said. "San Diego State won, and we played well. There's a lot of talent in this league. I don't think people realize that. We showed it."

The conference has shined over two days of games, featuring big performances from stars like New Mexico's Darington Hobson and BYU's Jimmer Fredette. Transfers like Stanback from UCLA and Tre'Von Willis from Memphis impressed for UNLV.

And San Diego State features a freshman talent named Kawhi Leonard who Pac-10 schools left alone. He stepped up tonight with big 3-pointers that put New Mexico down early -- big shots considering he shoots .219 from beyond the arc.

So let's talk up the MWC.

Asked to state his team's case after San Diego State defeated eighth-ranked New Mexico, coach Steve Fisher declined and said, "Our goal is to cut down the nets tomorrow.

"We added to the resume with this win, no question about it."

But Lobos coach Steve Alford, whose last lost came more than two months ago, was more willing to say it. He had seen enough of the Aztecs to know they deserved a bid.

"There's no doubt in my mind," he said.