So much for the NCAA Selection Committee’s rule of trying to avoid regular-season rematches in the NCAA Tournament.
UNLV (25-9) drew a better-than-expected No. 5 seed for the East Regional and will get to open NCAA play on Thursday at HP Pavilion in San Jose. Tip-off has been set for 4:27 p.m. PT and the game will be televised by TruTV.
That’s the good news. The bad news is the Rebels will face California (20-11), a team UNLV already defeated (barely) on Dec. 9 in Berkeley, 76-75, when forward Quintrell Thomas grabbed an airball and scored with 1.2 seconds remaining.
The Bears (20-11), who were upset by Utah, 78-69, in overtime in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament on Thursday at the MGM Grand Arena, do doubt will have a homecourt advantage thanks to the close proximity to Berkeley.
Hear UNLV coach Dave Rice’s reaction to the draw in the video below.
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Cal also features one of the nation’s premier backcourts led by 6-7 junior guard Allen Crabbe, the Pac-12’s Player of the Year who is averaging 18.7 points, and 6-3 junior Justin Cobbs, a transfer from Minnesota who was a second team all-Pac 12 selection after averaging 15.5 points and 4.8 assists per contest. The duo combined for 47 points in the tournament loss to Utah.
The winner of the UNLV-Cal game will play the winner of the contest between No. 4 seeded Syracuse (26-9) and No. 13 Montana (25-6) on Saturday.
If UNLV should advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2007, the likely opponent would be No. 1 seed Indiana (27-6) on March 28 at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
Four other Mountain West teams were also selected. New Mexico, the regular-season and Mountain West tournament champ, earned a No. 3 seed in the West Region and will face Ivy League champ Harvard in Salt Lake City on Thursday. Colorado State is the No. 8 seed in the Midwest Region and will play Missouri on Thursday in Lexington, Ky. San Diego State garnered a seventh seed in the South and will face Lon Kruger’s Oklahoma Sooners on Friday in Austin, Texas, while Boise State landed a 13th seed and meets La Salle in Dayton on Wednesday at 6:10 p.m. in a play-in game with the winner facing West Region No. 4 seed Kansas State on Friday in Kansas City.