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March Madness - Here We Come

posted 24 Feb 2013, 13:50 by Mpelembe   [ updated 24 Feb 2013, 13:52 ]

With "March Madness" beginning to bud, that means that the
conferences are winding up their seasons, and the tournaments
are at the door. Tournaments are always interesting. Most often
the number one teams emerge with the championship, but the "what
if" is fun to watch.

Take for example the largely unsung Mountain West Conference.
BYU is in the driver's seat with a record of 23-6 overall and
12-2 in conference. They are also ranked at 24 in the nation by

If they win their last two games (Wyoming at home, and TCU in
Ft. Worth) the conference title is theirs. But, even if they do
that, (and they should) the conference tournament still looms,
and it looms in Las Vegas.

"So what", you say?

Well, Las Vegas is home to the Runnin' Rebels of UNLV. UNLV
happens to be in the number two spot in the Mountain West
Conference standings with a 22-6 overall record, and 11-3 in the

Last January, when the BYU Cougars waltzed into town, the
Rebels sent them home with a 29 point drubbing that had the
Cougars seriously questioning their team chemistry. Then why
aren't the Rebels in first place you ask? The answer is simple
if you follow the sometimes ( no most times) wacky Mountain

In February the UNLV Rebels played the away side of this "home
and home" set and ran into problems in the Marriott Center. That
night, BYU returned the favor by beating UNLV by 26 points.

What happened?

According to Dick Harmon of the Salt Lake Deseret News,

The Cougars are playing their best defense of the season right
now during a stretch in which they've won 11 of their last 12
games. The lone slipup was at San Diego State, where they failed
to slow down a career performance by Lorrenzo Wade.

Even at New Mexico, a hot J.R. Giddens scored 30 points but had
to shoot the ball 26 times. After Steve Alford played him 44
minutes to keep the Lobos in that game, he faded when it
counted, including three doughnuts from the line on a 3-point

On Saturday, adjustments to BYU's help-side defense practically
brought the Falcons' offense to a state of rest.

Ben Murdock, who started Saturday despite playing on a sore
ankle, claims this week comes down to not fading or playing in
spurts, getting off and then back on track.

"We need to play the full 40 minutes of a game and not have
these ups and downs. If we do that, we'll be all right if we
execute," said Murdock.

It also helps that the Cougars might be playing with as much
confidence as they've had all season.

The turning point may have been the embarrassing humiliation
UNLV handed the Cougars in the Thomas & Mack Center back in
January. Since that game, Rose said he's seen his team work hard
individually and collectively, relying on one another instead of
going off on their own.

As is often said, That's why they play the game" Even if you
are only a fan of the "major conferences", this matchup in Las
Vegas should worth watching.

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