If I'd told you a month ago that there would be a team from out West ranked in the top 25 at the start of December that's led by players who signed out of high school with UCLA coach Ben Howland, you'd naturally assume I was talking about the Bruins. Well, guess what? While the program from Westwood renovates Pauley Pavilion and struggles to draw fans to come see it play in the Los Angeles Sports Arena, there's another team that's filling seats and winning games. Meet UNLV, led by UCLA transfers Mike Moser and Chace Stanback.
The Rebels announced their arrival on the national scene under first-year head coach Dave Rice with their 90-80 win over then-No. 1-ranked North Carolina last Saturday night at the Orleans Arena in the Las Vegas Invitational. In the immediate aftermath of that epic win, Moser was asked where his team would go from there. The 6-foot-8 sophomore replied matter-of-factly, "To Santa Barbara." Moser was right to focus on the task at hand. Wednesday night UNLV won a hard-fought, double-overtime game against Orlando Johnson and a very good UCSB team, 94-88.
At 8-0, Rice's group is shaping up as the team to beat in the new-look Mountain West. That being said, the Rebels will face plenty of challenges between now and March, starting with a schedule that looks like something Tom Izzo put together. Here's what you need to know about UNLV -- past, present and future.