A little more than a week ago, many people were saying the Rebels chances of winning the conference race were finished. After losing by 20 points to New Mexico in Albuquerque, the Rebels were down two games, and it seemed the team would have to settle for anywhere between second and fourth in the league. But strong late-season play by Boise State, Wyoming, Air Force, TCU and Colorado State has shaken up the standings.
New Mexico’s seemingly commanding lead in the standings disappeared after a loss to TCU. Meanwhile, San Diego State had lost three straight before beating Wyoming in overtime. Suddenly, UNLV found itself back in a three-way tie for first with the Lobos and the Aztecs. The conference tournament March 8-10 at the Thomas & Mack Center is now shaping up as a free-for-all.
The Rebels own late-season swoon at TCU and New Mexico may have given them a renewed sense of urgency—a desire to prove that they belong at the top of this conference and back in the national conversation.
Players respond to the sense of being overlooked—that’s why, after a big win, athletes love to say how they “shocked the world.” It can be a cliché, but it’s real motivation. As a player, I was always motivated by the things that people said I couldn’t do. First, people said I wouldn’t play at UNLV, then they said I wouldn’t start for the team, and then they said the team would never win 20 games in a year. Well, I think history has changed a lot of that talk—and now these younger Rebels can add to school history by winning and proving people wrong.