A few years ago, I would have laughed at the thought of UNLV coming close to beating Utah, let alone demolishing them. Yet here we are, the night of the conference opener and UNLV is by far the better team. They've got an impressive 13-2 record, have a road victory over a top-25 Nevada team and are rolling along. The complete opposite can be said about the Utes, who limp into tonight's game with their worst start in over 30 years. The 5-8 record seems to almost doom them to another losing season and if things don't change fast, a possible coaching change could be in the works (I hope so anyway).
This is an interesting game not because of the nice rivalry Utah and UNLV have built over the years. It's interesting because Lon Kruger had an offer to coach the Utes and decided to take the UNLV job instead. That was three years ago and while Kruger struggled originally (though never as badly as Giacoletti), he's got UNLV playing great basketball and should contend with Air Force for the conference championship. Tonight's game will be one of two programs heading in two different directions and that really pisses me off.
The spread says the Utes are a 15-point underdog, to that I wonder what the hell has happened to Utah basketball? When, in the past 10 years, has the Utes ever been such a large underdog, especially in a conference game? This has got to be the most embarrassing season for Utah in a very long time and I have a feeling it's going to get worse. UNLV on the other hand, well they're proving why Utah wanted Lon Kruger all along. The dude can flat out coach and even though he doesn't fit the image of Vegas, he surely can put together a winner. He won at Illinois and he'll win at UNLV. At Utah, he would have had them playing just like the Rebels are now and sadly we're given this crap product Giacoletti calls basketball.
UNLV is led by senior Wendell White, who averages 14 points per game, while Lon Kruger's son, Kevin, dishes out 4.9 assists and averages 1.5 steals per game. I'm guessing he'll have a field day with Utah's lax defense.
I have a feeling this game will get ugly. Why? Well because the Utes can't defend a 90 year old from an all you can eat buffet. The Rebels average 77 points per game, while the Utes give up 67 points per game. UNLV's three point shooting percentage is only 34%, but against Utah's poor perimeter defense, that should not really be a problem. Field goal shooting is also going to help UNLV roll, as opponents average a shooting percentage of 50% against the Utes.
Utah will get abused like a child in a Chinese labor camp tonight and it's going to be ugly. I don't see any possibility of the Utes winning this game, or even staying within 10 of the Rebels. I'm already cringing at the thought of what UNLV will do to Utah tonight. Hope I'm wrong, but doubt I will be.