UNLV is a program where reality does not meet expectations. Despite having the resources to be a consistent power in the Mountain West, UNLV has not performed.
The Rebels do not contended for the Mountain West regular season or tournament title. The last time UNLV finished within three games of the regular season champion was 2012-13. The last time UNLV made the tournament semifinals was 2014.
It has been eight seasons since UNLV qualified for the NCAA Tournament.
Despite a near decade of incompetence, the expectations for UNLV remain high. This program should be contending for conference titles. This program should be making the NCAA Tournament.
New head coach Kevin Kruger was on ESPN Las Vegas last week and was asked about the high expectations.
“I think we have to embrace it,” Kruger said. “Just the number of emails from season ticket holders and supporters shows the love and the support and the desire to get back to the NCAA Tournament. Some of those emails have very detailed plans for how we can get there. And those are appreciated because it does show what this city and what this town, how much they love the Runnin’ Rebels. We expect that of ourselves too. At the end of the day, it’ll be clear in how we go about things and how we play that as much as they care, the players, the staff an everybody at UNLV cares just as much about getting back to the NCAA Tournament, being competitive and competing for conference championships.”
UNLV should be embracing the expectations. There should be no fear in saying the Runnin’ Rebels should be a Mountain West champion and NCAA Tournament team.
Sure, it sets up for failure, but that failure has existed for a long time anyway.
The reality for UNLV is that they won’t (and shouldn’t) be a conference contender every season. They won’t be in the NCAA Tournament every season, or even most seasons.
UNLV is in a mid-major conference and no Mountain West team can expect a regular run to the tournament.
But looking at UNLV over the course of 10 years, this program should have success. In a decade it is fair to expect UNLV to go to three NCAA Tournaments. It is also fair to expect UNLV to have three bad teams with no chance at playing deep in March.
The other four years are toss up years where UNLV should be on the NCAA Tournament Bubble. Even if they don’t get in, they are still a quality team.
Next season’s expectations will be dependent on the roster Kevin Kruger is able to put together. But for the next decade, you should keep your expectations high for this program.