Last Tuesday I attended a college hoops game. It pitted two coaches who together can claim 673 wins, 4 trips to the Final Four, and one national championship. Give up? This Blue Devil infiltrated Rebel nation to watch the UNLV Runnin' Rebels (coached by Lon Kruger) play the San Diego State Aztecs (coached by Steve Fisher).
I resisted the temptation to wear a Duke T-shirt. The hatred here may not be as intense as in Lexington or Chapel Hill, but 1991 doesn't seem that long ago to some.
While Kruger and Fisher had past glory in Florida and Michigan, respectively, they've created a decent rivalry. The Aztecs made the NCAA tournament last year, and the Rebels are getting some votes in the Top 25 poll. A good crowd was on hand for the game.
Okay, there were a lot of empty seats during the pregame, but most fans filed in once the game started. The student section was behind the basket on the left side of Tarkanian Court; the rest of the arena was filled by local fans.
The fans cheer heartily for their team, but they lack craziness. If anything, they're a little passive-aggressive: the main cheer is a slow "Reh-bulls, Reh-bulls" with each syllable drawn out. It sounds like a taunt, specifically "airball."
Then there were fans behind me who kept criticizing Aztec stud Brandon Heath with "N-B-A" and "You the man, Heath!" Did they want him to have a bad game or sign an autograph?
Overall, I liked the experience. I'll try to get tickets to the Air Force game, and possibly the Mountain West Conference tournament.
UNLV won, by the way. Then yesterday they beat New Mexico, so they could crack the rankings soon.
This week's seeds. Out: Clemson, Indiana, and Washington State. In: Virginia Tech, Duke, and Vanderbilt.
San Jose Regional
1. Kansas: Must beat Aggies this Saturday for first place in Big 12.
2. UCLA: Stumbled at Stanford; the start of a losing streak?
3. Nevada: The mid-major no one wants to face.
4. Marquette: Has to avoid unlikely sweep by Providence.
St. Louis Regional
1. Wisconsin: Will they go undefeated in the Big Ten?
2. Memphis: Will they ever lose in Conference USA?
3. Butler: I'm not sure I'd seed them any higher.
4. Duke: Can finally claim they belong in ACC's top tier.
East Rutherford Regional
1. North Carolina: "Scary good" seems to be the consensus.
2. Pittsburgh: Now get a pair of difficult road games (Nova, WV).
3. Oregon: May have to sweep UCLA to stay atop Pac-10.
4. Vanderbilt: Not bad for a team that started 1-3.
San Antonio Regional
1. Florida: Guess who Vanderbilt plays next?
2. Ohio State: Have to win out just to keep up with Badgers.
3. Texas A&M: Can't overlook ISU prior to Kansas showdown.
4. Virginia Tech: Hokies are now 6-1 in ACC play.