While UConn/Syracuse and Duke/North Carolina have been given the ESPN stage on Wednesday night neither one is the biggest game of the night. For that honor, look out west where UNLV hosts New Mexico in a game matching two of the three teams tied for first place in the Mountain West. The Lobos have won seven straight since losing 74-62 to the Runnin' Rebels back on January 9th, and in addition to the revenge angle Steve Alford's team needs the win to avoid losing out on an important tiebreaker. Lon Kruger's team has won five straight, most recently soundly defeating BYU on Saturday with Tre'Von Willis putting together a dominant performance. With Willis and UNM's Darington Hobson on the floor this game promises to be an exciting affair.
The difference-maker in the first meeting wasn't Willis however. Kendall Wallace made six of seven three-pointers in the second half to help the Rebels end New Mexico's 19-game home win streak, and UNLV made eleven of twenty-three from behind the arc. The UNLV defense was also effective, limiting the Lobos to 36% shooting from the field and 4-for-18 from behind the arc. And while the Lobos were a plus-9 in rebounding margin, they also had twelve turnovers to ten assists while UNLV finished with twenty assists and just eight turnovers.
If players such as Roman Martinez and Dairese Gary can get their offense going the Lobos will score points on the top field goal percentage defense in the Mountain West. But the key for New Mexico will be how they defend the Rebels' versatile offensive options. Outside of Willis there are a number of players that can hurt you on any given night, as UNM learned in the first meeting. And with a road record of 6-2 Coach Alford's team has the mettle needed to pick up the win in Las Vegas. As for the rest of Wednesday's schedule the goal is quite simple for Connecticut and North Carolina if they want to find their way to the NCAA Tournament.
They both need wins, especially against top competition. The Huskies have yet to win a true road game and their one neutral win came over LSU. Not going to get it done. And with their lack of depth and inconsistent offense it's going to be tough sledding at the Carrier Dome. At least the Tar Heels get Duke at home; Roy Williams' young team will need to feed off of a crowd that goes wild when the Blue Devils invade Chapel Hill. But can Carolina execute offensively with efficiency? If so they can hang around, but turnovers will be an easy way to get blown out of the Dean Dome.
6:30p BTN Ohio St at Indiana
7p ESPN Connecticut at Syracuse
7p ESPN2 Florida State at Clemson
7p CSS UCF at Memphis
7p ESPN+/MASN UNCW at Towson
8:30p BTN Northwestern at Iowa
9p ESPN (Raycom in ACC markets) Duke at North Carolina *
9p ESPN2 Baylor at Nebraska
9p ESPNU Virginia Tech at N.C. State
10:30 MTN Wyoming at San Diego St
11p ESPN2 Nevada at Idaho
11p CBS C New Mexico at UNLV
7p Charlotte at Dayton
7p Maine at Stony Brook
7p Navy at Lehigh
8p Florida at South Carolina
UNLV over New Mexico: Don't see this turning into the beating that ensued on Saturday afternoon when BYU visited Thomas & Mack but the Rebels will pick up the win. They've been a solid defensive team all year long; the improvement of their offense of late will ultimately be the difference in a close contest.