(6) UNLV vs. (11) Colorado: South Region
UNLV 26-8, 9-5 MWC (At large)
Colorado 23-11, 11-7 Pac-12 (Pac-12 Conference Tourney Champions)
Time: 9:57 p.m. Thursday
Location: The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M.
Winner will face: (3) Baylor or (14) South Dakota State, Saturday
Rankings: UNLV (No. 23 AP; No. 25 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Line: UNLV -4½ (O/U 134)
Players to Watch
UNLV: F Mike Moser, 6-8 So. (14.1 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 2.3 apg); G Anthony Marshall, 6-3 Jr. (12.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.6 apg); G Oscar Bellfield, 6-2 Sr. (9.8 ppg, 5.3 apg, 1.1 spg). Bellfield became the Mountain West Conference’s all-time leader in assists during the MWC Tournament. He has 574 for his career.
Colorado: F Andre Roberson, 6-7 So. (11.6 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 50.9% FG); G Carlon Brown, 6-5 Sr. (12.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.9 apg); F Austin Dufault, 6-9 Sr. (10.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 48.6% FG). Brown struggled down the stretch run of the regular season, but he came on with 63 points, 19 rebounds and nine steals during Colorado’s 4-game Pac-12 Tournament championship run.
Why Each Team is Dangerous
UNLV: The Runnin’ Rebels are at their best when they’re running. Bellfield and Marshall have both proven they can run the break, and Moser and Chace Stanback both run the floor deftly. UNLV shoots 46.2 percent from the field, and led by Stanback, who led the MWC in 3-point shooting, the Rebels shot 37 percent from deep. The UNLV defense has held opponents to 40.9 percent from the floor and created 15.2 turnovers per game. Their 8.4 steals per contest is 18th in the country.
Colorado: The Buffaloes won four games in four days to capture the Pac-12 Tournament title and the league’s automatic bid. Brown and Roberson are a nice, talented 1-2 punch. Colorado won the title with strong defense, including 33 steals in the 4-game stretch. The Buffs held their four tournament opponent to 35.9 percent from the field and just 18-of-73 from the 3-point line.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
UNLV: Despite Moser and Stanback on the glass, the Rebels allowed over 11 offensive rebounds per game. They only out-rebounded their opponents by 1.5 boards per contest in conference play. In their last outing, they were out-rebounded 38-24 by New Mexico in the Mountain West semis. After a fast start, UNLV lost five of its last 10 games and seems a bit hobbled heading into the NCAA.
Colorado: The 2012 Buffs are less talented than last year’s group that failed to make the tournament. Colorado lost 75 percent of its scoring last year, which says a lot about this year’s team, but it also means they’re not deep with talent and experience. UNLV has been successful at pushing pace this year. In order for the Buffaloes to have a chance, they’ll have to keep the pace as slow as possible.
The Bottom Line: I don’t like the way the Rebels are playing, but they are so much more talented than Colorado (sans Brown and Roberson). I’m taking the Rebels to win, but one win will be the end of the road for either winner.
The Pick: UNLV 68, Colorado 65
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 198-148-6 (Through Sunday, March 11)