NCAA rematch: No. 5 seeded Rebels face Cal

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.

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.

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