UNLV on Monday finalized plans for its holiday tournament next season.
And, for the first time in four years, the Rebels will host the event on their home floor.
UNLV will host a four-team event on Nov. 23 and 24 — the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving — at the Thomas & Mack that will include Iowa State, Oregon and Cincinnati.
It will be the program’s first time hosting a holiday tournament at the Mack since the 2008-09 season, when the Rebels lost both games in a field that included Cal, Cincinnati and Florida State. UNLV lost to both Cal and Cincy on back-to-back days.
The field for this tournament appears to be just as strong.
Iowa State is one of the Big 12’s true dark horse title contenders this year under second-year coach Fred Hoiberg. The Cyclones are 12-3 overall and 2-0 so far in league play this season, and have built from the ground up under Hoiberg in much the same fashion that UNLV did under former coach Lon Kruger, with a wave of Division-I transfers doing most of the heavy lifting.
Cincinnati was an NCAA tournament team a year ago, and could find itself in the same position this season. After a disappointing 10-3 non-conference season against a schedule that wasn’t terribly challenging, the Bearcats are off to a 2-1 start in the Big East.
Oregon might add the most intrigue to the field. The program, much like Iowa State, is quickly building under a second-year coach in Dana Altman. Two of those building blocks, however, are local Bishop Gorman products who the Ducks attained by beating out the Rebels. One is sophomore point guard Johnathan Loyd, and the other is current Gorman senior forward Ben Carter, who stunned many here in town when he signed with Oregon back in November.
Since hosting the Global Sports Classic back in 2008-09, UNLV has participated in the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu (Christmas 2009), the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif. (Thanksgiving 2010) and the Las Vegas Invitational at the Orleans Arena earlier this season over Thanksgiving weekend. In this year’s event, the Rebels stunned many around the country by knocking off then-No. 1 North Carolina in what was a truly 50-50 atmosphere just down the street from the Mack.