Breaking Down the Rebels’ Non-Conference Schedule

The Rebels’ non-conference schedule was announced on Monday, and you know what that means—it’s no longer too early to start breaking down every game and assigning wins and losses months in advance. It really is like Christmas in June!

So we’re going through the entire 13-game slate and predicting every outcome, an exercise that was made especially fun by the outstanding strength of the non-conference schedule. Arizona and Kansas will likely be Top-10 teams when they play UNLV, and the Rebels could also face another national title contender if they get Duke in the final of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Throw in under-the-radar quality opponents such as Portland and Albany, and it’s clear that the young Rebels will be battle-tested before they head into Mountain West play. And that’s before we even know the season’s first two opponents, which are still TBA.

Personally, I’ve got the Rebels going 9-4, but there are so many swing games (and those two unknown opponents) that I wouldn’t argue with anyone who has them between 11-2 and 7-6. Let’s take a closer look:

Rebels Non-Conference Schedule Breakdown

Game: Exhibition
Opponent: Florida National
Date: Nov. 5
Location: Thomas & Mack Center
Breakdown: Frankly, it had to be comforting for UNLV fans to open up this year’s schedule and NOT see Dixie State lined up for this exhibition slot. Based on that alone, I’ve got to think the Rebels will fare better than they have in their last two exhibition openers.
Result: Win
Record: 0-0

Game: 1
Opponent: TBA
Date: Nov. 14
Location: Thomas & Mack Center
Breakdown: With this game being part of the Coaches vs. Cancer lineup, the opponent for the Rebels’ home opener is still unknown. But I think we can give Dave Rice & Co. the benefit of the doubt on this one and put this game in the win column.
Result: Win
Record: 1-0

Game: 2
Opponent: TBA
Date: Nov. 16
Location: Thomas & Mack Center
Breakdown: We don’t know this opponent yet either, but that’s not going to stop me from awarding UNLV another win. Starting the season 2-0 at home before heading east for the tournament portion of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic would be a great start for the young Rebels.
Result: Win
Record: 2-0

Game: 3
Opponent: Stanford
Date: Nov. 21
Location: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Breakdown: While the Rebels watched the NCAA tournament from home last season, Stanford was making a run to the Sweet 16. So looking past the Cardinal to a possible Duke matchup in this tournament would be foolish. But the Rebels have reloaded and should have the offensive talent to score on Stanford’s tough D. Look for UNLV to win this one and advance to play Duke or Temple in New York.
Result: Win
Record: 3-0

Game: 4
Opponent: Duke or Temple
Date: Nov. 22
Location: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Breakdown: I think most people are projecting Duke to be the opponent in the Coaches vs. Cancer final, and if so, I have a hard time seeing UNLV beating the Blue Devils in New York City. Duke’s incoming freshman class is one of the few rated higher than UNLV’s, and they have the weapons to take advantage of the Rebels’ inexperienced interior defense. I think UNLV is dealt its first loss here.
Result: Loss
Record: 3-1

Game: 5
Opponent: Albany
Date: Nov. 29
Location: Thomas & Mack Center
Breakdown: Don’t be shocked when Albany comes into Las Vegas, slows down the tempo and forces the Rebels into a rock fight. This is not going to be an easy win. I think the home-court advantage and UNLV’s improved perimeter shooting will allow the Rebels to pull this one out, but they’re going to have to earn it.
Result: Win
Record: 4-1

Game: 6
Opponent: Arizona State
Date: Dec. 3
Location: Tempe, Ariz.
Breakdown: The Sun Devils came into the Mack last year and carved up the UNLV defense, bombing away from 3-point range and dealing the Rebels a harmful home loss. It was the game that really exposed the Rebels’ inability to defend on the perimeter, which became a season-long weak spot. But with Jahii Carson gone, Arizona State becomes much easier to defend. This is going to be the Rebels’ first chance for a true road win, and I think they cash in.
Result: Win
Record: 5-1

Game: 7
Opponent: St. Katherine
Date: Dec. 5
Location: Orleans Arena
Breakdown: St. Katherine played four Division I opponents last season and lost those four games by an average of 72 points, including a 118-35 dismantling at the hands of San Diego State. UNLV will handle this glorified scrimmage in a similar fashion. The good news for St. Katherine fans is that only about 300 people will be at the Orleans to witness it.
Result: Win
Record: 6-1

Game: 8
Opponent: South Dakota
Date: Dec. 13
Location: Sioux Falls, S.D.
Breakdown: The Rebels added this date so Minnesota native Rashad Vaughn would have an opportunity to play a game in front of his family and hometown supporters, and I think they’ll be happy with the results.
Result: Win
Record: 7-1

Game: 9
Opponent: Portland
Date: Dec. 17
Location: Thomas & Mack Center
Breakdown: Don’t sleep on the Pilots. They beat Gonzaga and BYU last season, and they’ll sport a much more experienced lineup than the Rebels, with players capable of giving UNLV problems on the perimeter and around the basket. Even six months away, this game looks like a land mine. Sandwiched in between the South Dakota road trip and the Utah matchup three days later, an upset home loss would not be a complete surprise. I think the Rebels stumble at some point.
Result: Loss
Record: 7-2

Game: 10
Opponent: Utah
Date: Dec. 20
Location: MGM Grand Garden Arena
Breakdown: Utah was a decent team last season, finishing in the middle of the pack in the Pac-12 and making the NIT, so the Utes should provide a challenge for UNLV. It’s difficult to say how much of a home-court advantage the Rebels will enjoy at the MGM, but I think they’ll be comfortable enough to pull out a tight game.
Result: Win
Record: 8-2

Game: 11
Opponent: Arizona
Date: Dec. 23
Location: Thomas & Mack Center
Breakdown: The Rebels came tantalizingly close to winning at Arizona last season, playing one of their best games and only falling short due to a lack of offense down the stretch. So it’s tempting to say UNLV should have a clear advantage playing at home this time around. But even though the Wildcats lost a lot of talent (Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson have both moved on to the NBA), they’ve reloaded with enough freshman firepower (Stanley Johnson is one standout) to upend UNLV on its home court.
Result: Loss
Record: 8-3

Game: 12
Opponent: Southern Utah
Date: Dec. 27
Location: Thomas & Mack Center
Breakdown: Southern Utah went 2-27 last season, and the Rebels had no problems in a 22-point road win in Cedar City. Consider this game to be a tuneup for the Kansas showdown.
Result: Win
Record: 9-3

Game: 13
Opponent: Kansas
Date: Jan. 4
Location: Lawrence, Kan.
Breakdown: The Jayhawks aren’t unbeatable at home—San Diego State proved that last season by going into Lawrence and holding Kansas to 29.8 percent shooting in a shocking upset. But still, KU had won 68 consecutive non-conference home games up to that point, so I’m not overly optimistic about the Rebels’ chances.
Result: Loss
Record: 9-4

Overall record: 9-4
Bottom line: There are basically two ways to approach a non-conference schedule: You can either load up on home games and cupcakes in order to build confidence, or you can schedule quality opponents while understanding that any early losses will pay off down the road. Dave Rice chose the latter route this season, so Rebels fans should prepare for some setbacks in the season’s opening months. Things aren’t always going to go smoothly, but the hope is that the team will be firing on all cylinders by the time Mountain West play opens in January.

With this schedule, I think going into MWC action with a 9-4 record would put the Rebels in very good position for an NCAA bid. What’s your take? Hit the comment section below with your own prediction and breakdown of the non-conference schedule.

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Recruit Q&A: Elijah Thomas

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  • Runnin Reb

    I will be happy if the young rebels can win 9 out of those 13 games

  • Bill Carey

    I think they beat Portland, but the rest of it I agree with.

  • Frank

    Doesn’t really matter what I think, but I’ll give it anyway. I don’t think UNLV will beat Stanford in NY, and will have a tough time with Temple if they meet but win that matchup. Albany will get crushed and UNLV will get revenge on ASU. Utah is a tossup, I think loss. I think they’ll beat Arizona this season but lose to Kansas. So that leaves it at 10-3, which sounds way too optimistic for me.

    • Michael Fieldman

      well nobody can say u didn’t call the Arizona game.. lol

  • Michael Fieldman

    They will win one of those 3 marquee games. But I do believe they will finish the non-conf with 9-10 wins. I wouldn’t be surprised though if they came out of the non-conf with 8 or 12 wins. 13 wins would make me giddy and maybe have them ranked #1 in the country going into conf play. Anything less than 8 wins would be a major letdown. Anything above 11 wins would be a great success!

Vegas Seven


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