Nevada owns UNLV. The Rebels have lost eight straight games in this rivalry, the longest stretch for UNLV.
And if it wasn’t for Jovan Mooring pouring in 31 points back in 2017, UNLV would be staring at 11 straight losses to their in-state rivals.
It is an unacceptable streak for a program that is in an unacceptable down turn. UNLV hasn’t sniffed the NCAA Tournament since 2013. They have no NIT appearances and don’t even get the courtesy of being included on any bracketologists’ bubble.
The lack of success has turned matchups with Nevada into a measuring stick game. And UNLV falls short time after time.
There is no doubt Nevada has the better program right now. The last four seasons Nevada has finished ranked higher in Ken Pom. The last five seasons Nevada has finished higher than UNLV in the Mountain West standings.
But UNLV should still be able to pick up a win over Nevada.
Marvin Menzies went 1-6 in the rivalry and lost by 36 one time. T.J. Otzelberger is 0-4 with a 29-point loss. During UNLV’s eight-game losing streak, the Rebels have lost by an average of 13.8 points. Only two of the losses have been by single digits.
“In a rivalry game, each team is going to be a little more chippy, a little more physical,” Otzelberger said. “There’s going to be some times where you feel like you got held or fouled. You gotta play through those things and play through adversity. And we didn’t do a great job of playing through adversity.”
The Otzelberger era is facing adversity now. A season and a half after Marvin Menzies was fired for not moving the program forward enough in three years, UNLV seems to be just as far away from success.
While optimism about the 2022 NCAA Tournament is easy to stir up, it will still be Otzelberger and a large portion of the current roster that have to turn the program around.
UNLV should be playing for Mountain West titles. UNLV should be playing for NCAA Tournament seeding. This is a program that can achieve high-level success as a mid major.
But UNLV has to start with beating Nevada.