1. Recapture its up-tempo mojo The Rebels opened the season with eight straight wins, knocking off then-No. 1 North Carolina to prove they can play with the best of the best. Though they’ve sputtered since February 1—going 6-5 in their past 11 games—the potential is still there for a deep March run … provided the Rebels can run. Teams have found ways to slow down UNLV’s fast break, and when forced into a halfcourt offense, the Rebels haven’t been stellar. The NCAA Tournament is all about forcing opponents to play your style. If UNLV can push the tempo against Colorado—and potentially Baylor beyond that—the Rebels could see their way to the Sweet 16.
2. Get contributions from Moser and Stanback When top scorers Mike Moser and Chace Stanback have played their best, the Rebels have been tough to stop. Problem is, they haven’t excelled together since early January—hence the team’s late-season difficulties. A bum knee has kept Stanback, who hit 21-of-29 3-pointers during one December stretch, from playing like one of the team’s top stars lately. And Moser, a double-double machine and conference player of the year candidate early on, struggled at times as the season wore on. Both being in sync again would create matchup problems for opponents and give guards Anthony Marshall and Oscar Bellfield better looks from the perimeter.
3. Put that backcourt experience to good use Typically, teams that advance in the NCAA Tournament get good play from their guards, and with two veterans in their backcourt, the Rebels are well-equipped in that area. Bellfield has started 111 straight games for UNLV and is hungry to notch his first NCAA Tournament win after getting knocked out in Game 1 the past two years. Marshall has emerged as the Rebel who wants the ball in his hands at crunch time, and his athleticism will be critical against Colorado’s Carlon Brown and Spencer Dinwiddie on Thursday—and potentially Baylor’s Pierre Jackson on Saturday.
4. Ignore its surroundings The Rebels struggled on the road, and there aren’t any more games scheduled for the Thomas & Mack. In the Rebels’ favor: They’ve played one more game at the Pit in Albuquerque this year than Colorado, Baylor and South Dakota State have combined. Can that qualify as a home-court advantage for one weekend?