UNLV basketball has a rich history, with notable players like Jerry Tarkanian, Larry Johnson, Shawn Marion, and Stacey Augmon. The team has had successful runs, such as four trips to the Final Four and a memorable victory over Duke with a score of 103-73. However, in the past decade, the team has struggled to make it to the NCAA Tournament, experiencing a significant drought. Kevin Kruger, the current coach and former Rebels point guard, is determined to change that. His team opens their season against Southern on Nov. 8, and they are eager to end the drought.
According to Kruger, making it to the tournament is no easy task. He understands the challenges and the level of competition they face. The last time UNLV made it to the NCAA Tournament was in 2013, when they fell to California as a No. 5 seed. The team’s furthest journey in the tournament since their back-to-back Final Four appearances in 1990 and 1991 was the Sweet 16 in 2007. College basketball has undergone significant changes in recent years, with the transfer portal playing a crucial role in roster changes, and name, image, and likeness licensing affecting recruiting and transfers.
Despite these challenges, Kruger remains optimistic and has utilized the transfer portal to build what is considered his strongest team yet. However, he does not feel pressured to end the drought. Stability is essential in building a winning program, and UNLV has had six coaches since its last NCAA appearance. The longest tenure since Tarkanian’s era was from 2004-2011 with Lon Kruger. In contrast, San Diego State, a member of the Mountain West conference like UNLV, has had significant success in recent years, making it to the national championship game under the guidance of Steve Fisher and Brian Dutcher.
UNLV’s athletic director, Erick Harper, understands the importance of making the NCAA Tournament. He believes that success in athletics enhances the university’s overall reputation and can lead to increased admissions and enrollment. Harper has high expectations for Kruger and feels that with a healthy team, they have a great chance of making it to the tournament.
Former UNLV player Wink Adams, a member of the Athletics Hall of Fame, has closely followed the program’s struggles over the past ten years. While he believes in Kruger’s ability to lead the team to the tournament, he is surprised that it has taken this long to return to March Madness. The current player, Jalen Hill, chose to transfer to UNLV to help the team end the drought. He wants to bring a sense of pride back to Las Vegas and believes they have the talent and coaching staff to make a run.
While the goal of making the NCAA Tournament is not constantly talked about, it serves as a constant motivation for the team. Kruger understands the significance of returning the team to its former glory and the impact it would have on the city and fans. He emphasizes the need for hard work and a chip on their shoulder to earn their place in the tournament. Ultimately, Kruger’s main desire is to help UNLV basketball get back to the tournament and end the ten-year drought.
Ending the drought is crucial for UNLV basketball. The team has a strong desire to return to the NCAA Tournament and make a name for themselves on the national scene. With Kruger’s leadership and a talented team, they have the potential to achieve their goal and bring back the excitement and pride that the program once had.
Laura Davis covers the world of basketball with precision. Her articles explore NBA and college basketball, offering game analysis, player profiles, and highlights. Laura’s passion for hoops is evident in her comprehensive basketball coverage.