The first half of the schedule for UNLV’s highly anticipated 2012-13 season is officially set.
The school announced its finalized non-conference slate on Sunday night, and the 15-game jaunt will feature 10 contests at the Thomas & Mack Center, a homecoming game for All-American forward Mike Moser and it’s highlighted by the return trip to Chapel Hill, N.C. to face North Carolina.
The Rebels will likely open the season as a top-15 team thanks to a mass infusion of elite-level talent, including Pitt transfer Khem Birch, USC transfer Bryce Dejean-Jones and freshmen Anthony Bennett — aMcDonald’s All-American — and Katin Reinhardt.
The team will have plenty of opportunities to gel early, asUNLV will play four exhibition games in Canada during a foreign tour Aug. 16-22. They are allowed to practice starting on Aug. 4 in preparation for the trip, which is allowed by the NCAA once every four years.
Following the trip up north, UNLV will travel to take onUCLA in a closed scrimmage on Nov. 3, then plays its lone exhibition game atthe Mack on Nov. 7 against Dixie State.
The regular season begins on Nov. 12 with a string of six straight home games. The highlight of that run will be the Global Sports Classic, which UNLV will host at the Mack on Nov. 23 and 24. UNLV will play Oregon on Friday night, then either Cincinnati or Iowa State — both NCAA tournament teams in 2012 — on Saturday.
UNLV will then have its annual hiatus from action at the Mack with the National Finals Rodeo taking over the building, and following a Dec. 1 contest against Hawaii, the Rebels won’t play on their home floor until Dec. 19, when Northern Iowa comes to town as part of the Missouri Valley-Mountain West Challenge.
In its time away, UNLV will first play at Portland on Dec.4, giving Mike Moser a chance to play in front of friends and family in what will likely be his final season as a Rebel before turning pro.
UNLV then plays at Cal on Dec. 9, takes on Division-III LaVerne at the Orleans Arena on Dec. 13 and travels to face UTEP on Dec. 17. The game in El Paso will likely be the first for star transfer Khem Birch, aformer McDonald’s All-American who transferred to UNLV for the start of the spring 2012 semester.
In the stretch run of the non-conference schedule, the biggest challenge will be the trip to take on the Tar Heels on Dec. 29. The Rebels notched the program’s biggest win since the 1990 national championship game in a stunning upset of then-No. 1 UNC last November at the Orleans. The trip to Chapel Hill will be the first for the UNLV program.
For the second straight year, UNLV’s non-conference schedule is road-loaded, with the team’s toughest — and, honestly, most attractive —games mostly coming away from home.
However, in the 2013-14 season, a pair of major series will continue, with Illinois set to visit the Mack as a return game from last year’s meeting in Chicago. Also, UNLV begins a new four-game set with Arizona in 2013-14 as well, plus the Louisville series will continue a year later, with the Cardinals set for a return to Las Vegas.
UNLV is also working on its plans for holiday tournaments incoming seasons, as returns to both the Diamond Head Classic and Maui Invitational should be on the horizon in the next two years.
What remains to be seen is whether UNLV can get all of its 2012-13 non-conference games televised. Details on that front are still being hammered out, as the Mountain West Conference is still somewhat in limbo in terms of television rights following the demise of The Mtn. at the end of May.
As for UNLV’s 16-game Mountain West schedule, it is set to be announced some time in August.