Before anyone dismisses America's favorite "Yeah, but..." team—the desperados of the desert, the No. 1-at-the-whipping-post if no longer No. 1-in-the-polls Runnin' Rebels of Nevada-Las Vegas—let it be known that:
1) The power forward is a quiet, organ-playing son of a Baptist minister back in Library, Pa.
2) The sixth man and defensive stopper is a studious, social-consciousness buff who already has enough credits to graduate and thought it would be a good idea for the team to wear warmup shirts saying STOP DRUGS.
3) The senior co-captain and shooting guard is a Webster-faced Las Vegas local whose mom picks him up after road trips the way other moms meet their sons at real airports without slot machines in real college towns.
Before last weekend The Runnin' Rebels were 15-0. Yeah, but...they lost to Oklahoma Saturday, 89-88. And anyway, look at the puffballs they've played. Well, UNLV has beaten Arizona, Oklahoma (yep, 90-81 in the preseason NIT), Temple, Western Kentucky, Memphis State, Louisiana Tech and Navy. Those teams are a combined 88-27. After the Rebs' 104-79 demolition of his Middies, David Robinson said the Rebels "made us look stupid." Vegas making Midshipmen look stupid?
Yeah, but...they have no name players.
Armon Gilliam, the son of a preacher man, combines possibly the hardest muscles with the softest touch in all the land. Point guard Mark Wade leads the nation in assists (11.3 per game). Freddie (Webster) Banks and Gerald Paddio shoot the lights out. Names? Jarvis Squire Basnight, the Rebs' center who answers to the nickname B-Ster, talks the lights out. Say, B-Ster, are those family names?
"Which one? Basnight?"
Yeah, but...Wade can't shoot a lick, and Paddio can't pass, dribble or defend.
None of it seems to matter. Giving up a man or even a man-and-a-half on defense to many teams, the Rebs were, through last weekend, leading the country in scoring with 96.1 points a game and were second in three-pointers, averaging eight per game.