DAILY DISH: UNLV Upsets No. 1 North Carolina

UNLV took out No. 1 North Carolina on Saturday night in what was inarguably the coolest game of the year thus far. The Runnin’ Rebs stuck with the consensus number one team in the country all game long, matching the Tar Heels blow-for-blow in the first half, then delivering the knockout punch in the second, draining three after three and sending the sellout crowd at the Orleans Arena in Vegas into an all-out frenzy the likes of which UNLV hasn’t seen since the glory days of Jerry Tarkanian. Rebels guard Chace Stanback led the way with 28 points, Mike Moser went for a game-changing 16 points and 18 rebounds, and Oscar Bellfield dropped 16 points and 9 dimes in a thrilling 90-80 win. This was a signature win for new head coach Dave Rice, who has the Rebs at 8-0 and certain to be ranked once the new poll comes out. Just another reason why you’ve gotta love college hoops.

Brice Massamba and UNLV had plenty to scream about after knocking off the No. 1 Tar Heels. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The biggest winner in all of this conference realignment garbage may be West Virginia, which defected to the Big XII after spending sixteen-plus years in the grueling Big East. The Mountaineers will be able to recruit better in football, and although they won’t have the stranglehold on the conference the way they did in the Big East under Rich Rodriguez, will have a chance to step up against better competition. But the move should prove even more successful in basketball, because West Virginia will now face the likes of Iowa State, Texas Tech, and TCU instead of trying to go eye-for-eye with Pittsburgh, UConn, Syracuse, Louisville, and the rest of the Big East bruisers. It’s a good fit competition-wise in both sports, and the lighter schedule may allow for more basketball growth. Head coach Bob Huggins already has things rolling in Morgantown, but he’s going to have the chance to take the Mountaineers to national prominence in a less-cannibalistic conference, much like he did at Cincinnati in the old Conference USA.

The NBA may have actually done itself a favor by locking its players out, wiping away 16 regular season games and pushing opening day back to Christmas. One complaint basketball fans have long had is that the regular season drags on way too long, means very little, and produces about as much drama as a National Geographic documentary about carpenter ants. The lockout-shortened 1999 season was one of the most exciting campaigns in recent memory, mainly because it lasted just 50 games and gave way to exciting playoff races, hope for moribund franchises if they got off to a fast start, and more momentum heading into the playoffs. It may not make sense monetarily, but a shortened season makes for greater interest. Just look at the NFL, which plays just 16 cherished contests and has fans hooked on every single game. A 66-game sprint that begins on Christmas? Sign me up.


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