For the second time in less than a week, Matt Youmans of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and who covers UNLV men’s basketball answered five questions I had for him on Thursday’s game with Wyoming in the quarterfinals of the MW Tournament.
What was your take of last Saturday’s UNLV-Wyoming game and what surprised you the most about the outcome of the game? The Cowboys played well, the Rebels shot well as expected, and the officiating was awful. Two soccer flops by UNLV players drew key fouls on Leonard Washington and JayDee Luster. Sometimes officials act as if they get paid by the whistle. The game was choppy and ugly because of too many unnecessary foul calls. That did not surprise me, because I get used to seeing poor officiating, and the final score didn’t surprise me. But in reality it was closer than an 11-point game.
A lot is being made, as is the case every year, with the Mountain West Tournament being held in the home arena of UNLV. What’s your opinion on that and what, if anything should be done about it in the future? It’s obvious Las Vegas is the right city for this event. That’s why two other conferences (West Coast and Western Athletic) moved tournaments here and a third (Pac-12) is about to relocate. It’s also why several holiday tourneys are in Vegas. It’s about money and TV, not about fairness to student-athletes, and the NCAA leads the way with that. The MW Tournament was a disaster in Denver. Maybe it could be moved to Albuquerque, but what’s the point? Albuquerque resembles the surface of the moon and nobody would be excited to vacation there. It would be better to play this at the MGM Grand Garden, though don’t count on that happening, either. Also, what some people need to remember is it’s not automatic that UNLV wins it all because of home-court advantage. The Rebels have not won this since 2008. Sure it’s unfair, but aside from the MGM there are no better options.
What did Wyoming do well in last Saturday’s game with UNLV that may have surprised you? Nothing really surprised me because I know the Cowboys are good. Francisco Cruz hit all four of his 3-pointers, and Washington and Adam Waddell were tough inside in spurts. Foul trouble really killed the Cowboys, but there’s not much they could do about some of those terrible whistles.
Does Wyoming have a shot to win Thursday? Believe it or not, I really do think the underdog has a shot Thursday night. The Rebels are not playing especially well at either end of the floor and their rebounding is soft aside from Mike Moser. But they are 16-0 at the Thomas & Mack. I won’t be surprised if UNLV loses this week, but in this game I’ll say the Rebels grind out a seven-point win.
Who gets to the championship game and who ultimately wins? Everyone seems to be saying there will be upsets in this tournament, and I agree. But I have no strong opinion. I’ll go with UNLV beating Colorado State in the final because the Rebels will be favored in every possible match up and the Rams nearly pulled off a sweep of San Diego State.