The Best of the Best

A UNLV fan recently asked me which of the school’s Final Four teams I thought was the best. It made me stop and think and even reminisce a little. Of course, I have a vested interest in the team I was on—the 1976-77 that went to the Omni in Atlanta and lost an 84-83 heartbreaker to North Carolina. But the 1986-87 team that went to New Orleans and fell to eventual champion Indiana was also extremely well balanced and could easily have won the national title. The 1989-90 team, of course, won it all in Denver. And the 1990-91 team, well, all they did was go 34-0 before that terrible day in Indianapolis when Duke ended the run.

For a Rebel fan, it’s a rush just to list the stars on those teams: Larry Johnson, Stacy Augmon, Anderson Hunt and Greg Anthony in 1989-90 and 90-91. In 1986-87, the starters were Armon Gilliam, Mark Wade, Freddie Banks, Jarvis Basnight, Gerald Paddio. My 1976-77 team started Larry Moffett, Eddie Owens, Glen Gondrezick, Sam Smith and yours truly. (Plus, we had a guy named Reggie Theus.) The more I thought about these groups, the more I began to think about them not in seasons, but in eras—the original Runnin’ Rebels era of the late 1970s, the Armon-Freddie era of the mid 1980s and the Larry-Stacey era of the late 80s and early 90s. Each group had its own style and personality, and in a way its not really fair to compare. But it is fun—so here’s my list:

1. 1989-90 and 1990-91. Yes, they’re two different teams, but the nucleus was the same (though David Butler left and George Ackles came on the scene). These squads were the most dominant of their time. In three years beginning in 1988-89, they scored 100 points or more 36 times, and their record was 98-14.

2. 1976-77. That year, we had 12 consecutive 100-point games, and 23 games of 100 points or more. The year before, we had scored 164 points in a game, and over three years beginning in 1974-75, we went 82-10 and scored 100 points or more 53 times.

3. 1986-87. When you look at the 86-87 squad, it was built for speed and had some great shooters. They ran through the PCAA conference that year to be ranked No. 1 in the country. That year they went 37-2 and scored 100 points or more 12 times. From 1984 to 1987, the team’s record was 98-11. The Rebels also finished with 17 100-point games in that time frame.

Each of these groups helped build the Rebel story—a story that may be getting a new chapter as we speak.