The UNLV basketball team will hold a first-look event at the Downtown Events Center on Oct. 22, the university announced via press release.
“Runnin’ Rebel Madness” will take place from 7-9 p.m. at the outdoor venue on the corner of Carson and 3rd and will be free of charge. Players will be introduced with video presentations, a dunk contest will be held, and fans will have the opportunity to take photos and get autographs from the players. The court from the Thomas & Mack Center will be moved downtown to accommodate the event.
In recent years, the Rebels have used the Scarlet & Gray Showcase, held at the Mack, as a first-look event, but Runnin’ Rebel Madness appears to have many of the same features. Though there will be a separate intrasquad scrimmage open to the fans at the Mack on Oct. 15, this downtown date seems like it will take over as UNLV’s preseason main event.
The Rebels will open the season just a few weeks later with a home game against Cal Poly on Nov. 13.
Some quick thoughts on the announcement:
You should love the move downtown for a few reasons, the first of which is energy. The Mack may be a good basketball venue, but it does not provide the right kind of environment for a first-look event. The 18,000-seat arena looked cavernous and empty during the Scarlet & Gray events, and that translated into a low-energy affair. By adding the bustle and buzz of a DTLV location, with music and lights and all the presentation the Fremont area can offer, the same 1,000 fans that seemed quiet and subdued at the Mack can be frenzied and emotive in the new setting. Expect the energy level to increase exponentially.
Not that Dave Rice and his staff need any recruiting advice, but these Midnight Madness-type events are judged partially by which recruits are attending and how good a show the program puts on. The downtown location is much more attractive in that regard, as it will feel more like a special event and less like a normal practice at the Mack that just happens to be open to spectators. Recruits can take a front row seat at the Events Center and experience a little Las Vegas razzle dazzle firsthand.
Return of the Dunk
The Rebels haven’t held a dunk contest during the Scarlet & Gray Showcase since 2012—aka the Anthony Bennett year—so it’s noteworthy that the team will stage a slam competition at Runnin’ Rebel Madness. The roster couldn’t be more tailor-made for a jam bracket, with aerial artists such as Derrick Jones, Ike Nwamu, Stephen Zimmerman and Jalen Poyser all capable of bringing down the house. With the downtown setting providing a glitzy backdrop, the Rebels’ dunk demo should be a showstopper.