UNLV’s schedule creates NCAA Tournament hope

Kevin Kruger has not taken an easy path in his first season. With UNLV’s non-conference schedule, the Rebels will only play one team that finished 300th or worse in Ken Pom rankings last season. 

The schedule is highlighted by a tough stretch of games from late November into December. From November 19 through December 4, UNLV will play Michigan, one of Arizona or Wichita State, UCLA, at SMU and at San Francisco.

All five of those opponents finished in the top 100 of Ken Pom, with Michigan and UCLA as likely top 25 teams this season.

But beyond the marquee names, even UNLV’s “cupckaes” aren’t that easy. 

The Rebels will play non-division I Whittier College and Omaha, who was ranked 300th by Ken Pom last season. But that might be the end of the soft part of the schedule. 

Gardner Webb, North Dakota State, Hartford and San Diego all finished as top 200 teams last season. 

UNLV ranked 176th

Taking Ken Pom rankings of last season and applying them to the next is a rough way of evaluating a strength of schedule. But if UNLV does not improve significantly, they will not have many easy wins on the schedule. 

Kruger also took an interesting approach to road games. The Rebels only play two and they are back to back on December 1 and December 4. UNLV will be lightly tested away from Las Vegas before playing nine road games in the Mountain West. 

Overall this schedule gives UNLV a good start for an NCAA Tournament resume. Obviously the Rebels need to actually win games. But the quality opponents exist on the schedule. If UNLV is good this season, they will prove it before Mountain West play starts. 

UNLV’s Full Schedule

November: 10 Gardner Webb 

November: 13 Cal 

November: 5 NDSU 

November: 19 Michigan 

November: 21 Arizona/Wichita State 

November: 24 Whittier College 

November: 27 UCLA 

December: 1 at SMU

December: 4 at USF 

December: 8 Seattle 

December: 11 Hartford 

December: 15 Omaha

December: 22 San Diego

December: 28: OFF

January 1: San Diego State

January 4: at San Jose State

January 8: at Air Force

January 11: New Mexico

January 15: Fresno State

January 18: at San Diego State

January 22: San Jose State

January 25: OFF

January 29: at Colorado State

February 1: Nevada

February 5: at Utah State

February 8: Air Force

February 12: at Boise State

February 15: at Fresno State

February 19: Colorado State

February 22: at Nevada

February 26: Boise State

March 1: Wyoming

March 5: at New Mexico

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