Sunday, June 12, 2011

Strength of schedule

Strength of schedule?
Many have figured out the layout of the 2011-2012 non-conference schedule, and we already know we’re playing a smaller field in the MWC this year, obviously one game home and one away, so the immediate impression is that this is a weak schedule, weaker that the schedules UNLV had lined up the past few years.
Why is it weak?

If you look at the schedule (feel free to click on the 2011-12 schedule tab to see the full nonconference schedule). We aren't playing a lot of great teams next year, only four made the tournament and SDSU isn't going to be good next year. To assess the future difficulty in playing an opponent, there are three main factors. 1) Quality of team; 2) Location of game; 3) Date in schedule playing them. There are other factors that could be considered, such as win streak, matchups, etc, but its far too early to look to those factors. We’ll look at those three factors for now when assessing this schedule.

Lets group the non-conference games into categories:

North Carolina

Without question, when people think of UNC they think basketball, they think national championships, and they think Michael Jordan. UNC is a perennial powerhouse that easily scoops up McDonalds All-Americans on a regular basis. Wisconsin is more known for football, but have been a steady tournament making team for a good while and any win against Wisconsin is considered a great boost to the tournament resume.

UNC has not released its schedule yet, but by the same time last year they had five  games under their belt – enough time to make adjustments about what works and what doesn’t, additionally enough time to scout the Runnin’ Rebels to study matchups, defense, and offensive strategy. What makes both of these matchups that much harder is that we face Wisconsin on their home court, and UNC at the Orleans.  The UNC game at the Orleans (provided we get them in the draw), has historically not been a good venue for the Rebels. UNLV was demolished two seasons ago by Kansas State there, and nearly gave away a victory last season against Boise State. UNLV’s fans have not attended Orleans’ games as well as they perhaps should – insulted that the games aren’t included in their season ticket packages or, in this case, they’ll be forced to pony up for an expensive package to watch the Rebels. UNC has a good traveling crowd, and expect them to take full advantage of a trip to Vegas. To top things off, TV coverage of games at the Orleans has been spotty, let’s hope a ultra-premium opponent like UNC will fix that wagon. It will be difficult to beat the Tar Heels unless they play terrible and we play outstanding basketball.

For whatever reason, we’ve had Wisconsin’s number for awhile and have regularly beat them in tough games, our guys should use that confidence to our advantage but not let it go to our heads. A win against Wisconsin on their floor would do wonders come tournament time. We face Wisconsin on 12/10, plenty of time for their team to find a rhythm and study the new-look Rebels, so they are definitely not to be taken lightly.

University of Nevada Reno
University of Southern California
University of California Santa Barbara
University of California
Wichita State
University of New Mexico
Colorado State

For a team who is seeking to be better than the annual tournament appearance and maintain a top-25 ranking, these marquee games become games where we must win 3/4ths of them to be taken seriously. UNR hasn’t been good in a few years, but all indications is they are rebuilding and will be a good team soon, if not this coming season. It’s still our in-state rival, but it’s a home game this year so that’s a plus.

USC is always a big name, but has been underachieving for awhile. Don’t count on our pick up of Bryce Jones (who won’t be eligible this year) to put a thorn in their side, but hopefully he can let our coaching staff know about their weaknesses.

UCSB has caused headaches for Lon Kruger’s Rebels  for awhile, let’s hope a regime change will rectify our spotty record against the Gauchos.

Illinois should be a game that every player who was a member of last year’s squad should circle. They flat-out embarrassed the Rebels in the tournament in a game most picked the Rebels to win. Revenge should be a primary motivator, but they also could be slightly easier to take on, losing McCamey and Davis to graduation.

Cal has been mediocre as of recent, but they are still a big name – that’s why it’s a marquee game.

Wichita State is probably a team most don't know much about, but they just finished this past season going 29-8 and won the N.I.T. beating Alabama 66-57. They will be a difficult foe who we have to face on the road if they maintain or build on their success of this past season.

The Lobos are only getting better, and they will be a tough team this season. They are the odds-on favorite to challenge UNLV for the MWC title this year. We have to play them once in The Pit, so that’s never fun. Likely we’ll spit the series.

The Rams keep getting better under Tim Miles, and they likely will be slightly better next season than they were this season. Keep in mind, they did embarrass us at the T&M, so we’ll have to make sure and dominate them home and away this year.  

Grand Canyon
Morgan State
Cal Poly
University of Louisiana-Monroe
University of Central Arkansas
Cal State Bakersfield
San Diego State
Air Force
Boise State

Not much needs to be said about the filler teams - they are filler teams. SDSU will not have the name recognition because the vast majority of the team that carried them to the sweet 16 last year is gone. Steve Fisher is still a great coach, but the Rebels should easily destroy them, especially with the knowledge of Justin Hutson on our sidelines. UNLV must win every game we have against these bottom dwellers for us to have a legitimate shot at an at large bid. Failure is not an option.

What about the TBAs?
There are two games yet to be scheduled, December 7 and January 7. It would take a miracle to schedule another ultra-marquee or marquee opponent for either of those spots, those types of teams likely already have their schedules filled out and don’t want to bother with a potentially dangerous UNLV, especially not on our home court. Expect two filler teams, don’t be surprised if we have to fill it with a D-II opponent, which is unusual but not unheard of. Best outcome would be filling one of  the games with BYU – they still have name recognition but will be vastly inferior with losing Jimmer, but from the way the coach has talked we aren’t going to play BYU next season.


  1. Hey,
    Thanks for the site, I look forward to reading it on Sundays as there isn't much going on now with UNLV hoops. A couple of observations:

    K-State (not Louisville) beat up on us 2 years ago at the Orleans (ugly)

    Wichita State has been a tournament team of late and will be a very tough road game in a hostile environment

  2. Thanks for the note on Kansas State -- my mistake, hsa been fixed. I'll move Wichita state into the Marquee collumn as soon as a do a bit more research on them, thanks again!

  3. I think SDSU will still be pretty good, but just not great.

  4. SDSU will not be the same but they are no filler team. If you under estimate them they can beat you.