Posted on: November 27, 2011 1:21 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 1:47 am

UNLV beats No. 1 UNC; upset of the year to date

By Matt Norlander

With his former coach, Jerry Tarkanian, and the kid he wants to coach, undecided No. 1 2012 prospect Shabazz Muhammad, sitting courtside, first-year UNLV coach Dave Rice led his team to one of the biggest upsets he’ll ever have in his coaching career.

Even if it’s only November, any time you knock off North Carolina and they’ve got a 1 next to their name, it’s a big deal. You know what, the latter need not apply. And Rice may never nip a top-seeded team off again — or he could wind up collecting another half-dozen by the time he retires, decades down the road. The point is, it’s the best possible start to his time in Vegas he could’ve asked for.

And it’s quite a storyline for us, the college basketball-fanatic public, to take in. The Runnin’ Rebels gave the sport its biggest upset of the season so far, decisively taking out the Tar Heels 90-80 Saturday night at the Orleans Arena in the finals of the Las Vegas Invitational. This wasn’t a skin-of-the-teeth W. This was a bombs-away affair that Vegas had in the bag with five minutes to go.

(So much for this prediction, huh?)

“We were definitely confident that we could win the game,” UNLV sophomore forward Mike Moser said by phone late Saturday night as he boarded the team bus on the way back to campus. “We were surprised we controlled the game like we did. Other than that, our mentality is to attack, attack — on defense and offense.”

It’s not like North Carolina to play the way it did Saturday night, with a lack of attack. Was it what UNLV did, or what did UNC not do that surprised him most?

“Nothing, really,” Rice said by phone after the game. “I was just proud of the resolve our players showed. We have become a very good second-half team. One of the strength of our team is our depth. We have unbelievable confidence with the five guys who start and four guys who come off our bench.”

UNC’s probably just as good as we expect them to be. This was a bad night for them. But UNLV? Could be a lot better than we expected — and plenty expected this team to be NCAA tournament-worthy. The victory Chace Stanback, Moser, Oscar Bellfield and others got for their team, their program, their city tonight — it’s season-making. It doesn’t get much more motivating or valuable than to beat the top-ranked team in the country on your soil. (It wasn’t a true home game, but it might as well have been.)

Stanback led the team with 28 points, Moser hit some huge 3s throughout the game, but Rice said Bellfield was the guy in those critical spots who came up large tonight. And his confidence and presence in the timeout huddles was the continual shot of adrenaline that kept the team on a whir.

“Oscar Bellfield is a tremendous leader,” Rice said. “He’s the guy, along with Anthony Marshall that makes us go. To start the game, the 3-point shots Oscar hit made us a confident team.”

Vegas shot 13-of-32 from 3 and 15-of-18 from the foul line to help keep distance from Roy Williams’ team in the second half. Thirteen offensive boards and 22 assists also helped; amazingly, UNC only committed nine turnovers, yet wasn’t even sniffing a comeback in the second half. The 14-0 run that UNLV started the second half with was clearly the key — UNC couldn’t return the shots, both metaphorically and realistically.

“We try to coach, try to play based on what the defense gives us,” Rice said. “North Carolina is such a good defensive team, they really took away our inside game.”

UNC became the second elite team to lose to an unranked opponent in the past 30 hours. UConn fell to Central Florida Saturday.

Moser said he was 100 percent confident his team was winning with a minute to go, when Chace Stanback was on the line. Not a second before that, though.

“The ultimate confidence in that guy at the end of the game,” Moser said of his teammate.

As for those 3 balls that kept getting tossed into the Vegas air, Moser said that wasn’t in the team’s game plan to start.

“Honestly, the 3s really just came naturally,” he said. “They (UNC) were in the paint so much.”

Ben Howland’s month just got worse, too. The UCLA coach, who doesn’t have a win over a D-I team yet, watched as Moser and Stanback, two guys deemed not good enough for the Bruins, just plotted their team to the front page of every major sports website tonight and into Sunday morning.

“I am really, really happy for our staff,” Rice said. “We’ve got really good assistant who left other opportunities to come to this program. We had 11 scholarship players returning, and they all stayed. When so many guys transfer, I’m so happy for them to get this kind of win after committing themselves to this staff and our program.”

Carolina will get its chances (starting Wednesday against an incredibly tough Wisconsin team, then at Kentucky Saturday) to prove itself over and over. UNLV doesn't have to. It has to keep winning, but it doesn't have to do better than it did tonight. Its season was made thanks to an aggressive game plan and a fearless group that took advantage of a top-ranked team that looked uninspired and irresolute throughout the second half.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: October 24, 2011 1:02 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 1:11 pm

Goodman Preseason Tour: Thoughts from UNC

By Jeff Goodman

Now that I've returned home and had an opportunity to catch my breathe from my Preseason Tour, I'll try and run through my thoughts from each practice I attended. I've already done so for Ohio State.

Here are my thoughts and observations from North Carolina - where I was for Midnight Madness:

1) Harrison Barnes will pick up where he left off last season and then some. The Tar Heels sophomore has that swagger back and while he isn't exploding to the basket, he's certainly more assertive. He's also far more comfortable playing with his buddy and roommate, Kendall Marshall.

Season tips Nov. 7
2) Speaking of Marshall, his perimeter shot has improved. That, along with his quickness, were the areas of focus this past offseason. However, Marshall's most important attributes will continue to be making his teammates' lives easier and also leading this team vocally. I wouldn't be surprised if he leads the nation in assists and also averages double-figures this season in scoring.

3) It'll be interesting to see which one of Reggie Bullock or P.J. Hairston emerge. Both are terrific perimeter shooters - arguably among the Top 50 in the nation - but Bullock has the edge - when healthy - because he's further along defensively.

4) James Michael McAdoo may come along slowly since he has been on the mend due to tendinitis for a month or so. The positive is that, barring an injury to one of the frontline guys, McAdoo will be a piece this season. A damn good piece. Then he will turn into a star as a sophomore.

5) Dexter Strickland will be a huge key for this team and its national title hopes. He's a glue guy, but his perimeter shot appears to be more consistent - and his ability to run the team has improved as well. He will likely split his time between both backcourt spots, but the critical component for Strickland will come on the defensive end where he'll need to become a lock-down defender.

6) John Henson's offensive game is a work in progress. He's still raw on that end of the floor, but I still say he's as important on the defensive end as just about anyone in the country due to his length and ability to both block and alter shots.

7) Tyler Zeller is vastly underrated and is also the biggest beneficiary (Barnes is a close second) of Marshall and his floor game. Zeller, one of the best big man "runners" in the country, should be the recipient of a couple fastbreak baskets per game from the pure point guard.

8) Leslie McDonald said he hasn't ruled out playing this season, but it appears far-fetched. He tore his ACL this past summer in a Pro-Am game and said there's a chance he could be back on the court shortly after the New Year. My guess is he winds up redshirting.

9) Spent some time with ex-Tar Heels Tyler Hansbrough and Bobby Frasor. Psycho T is completely healthy after a brutal offseason a year ago in which he wasn't cleared to do anything - and Frasor is trying to break into college coaching.

10) Kendall Marshall and Harrison Barnes need ping pong lessons.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com