Five games that might determine how far the Rebels can run

UNLV guard Bryce Dejean-Jones and Boise State guard Jeff Elorriaga fight for a rebound Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV won the game 68-64.
Photo: Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

1. Vs. Illinois (November 26) Four of the top five scorers from last season’s 23-13 Illini squad are gone, but coach John Groce brings in a recruiting class that includes two top-100 guards. For UNLV, it’s a winnable game against a Big Ten team early in the season.

2. At Arizona (December 7) Leaving Tucson with a victory over the AP’s preseason No. 6 team would come close to beating then-No. 1 North Carolina in 2011. Win or lose, it’s a chance to see how UNLV stacks up to a squad many have pegged for the Final Four.

3. At New Mexico (January 15) Steve Alford is gone, but the Lobos aren’t expected to drop off much from last season, returning every major piece from that team, including defending conference Player of the Year Kendall Williams. If New Mexico plays like it did last season, when it squeaked out a slew of close wins, the Rebels should have a chance.

4. At Boise State (February 22) The Broncos surprised a lot of folks with their 21-11 record last season, but they won’t sneak up on anyone this time. The two teams play here earlier in the month, but there’s less to be learned from beating a good team at home. Far more rare is the big road victory.

5. Vs. San Diego State (March 5) It’s tough to tell now whether the Aztecs will be a little down or in the mix again this year. We do know the two fanbases don’t like one another, making the environment a particularly fun one. The games usually match the anticipation, with three of the past four decided by two points apiece.

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