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UNLV Men's Basketball: Fact or Fiction

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UNLV is on pace to have its worst season in program history. When record setting losses start to pile up, it's only natural for fans to speculate about the state of their team moving forward. In this edition of Fact or Fiction, InsideTheRebels will address the most frequently asked question that has been on Rebel-Nation's mind. 

Fact or Fiction: Will head coach Marvin Menzies be fired? 

The answer to that is a resounding NO. The real fact here is that everyone who bleeds scarlet and gray is miserable. The Rebels are 10-16 (The most losses in a single season since the 1994-95 campaign) and they sit alone in last place in the Mountain West Conference. What makes that sting all the more is that the MWC is arguably the worst it's been from top to bottom since the league's inception 17 years ago. 

Adding insult to injury and rubbing salt into the proverbial wound is the fact that UNLV had another heralded recruiting class in the fold prior to Dave Rice's firing last January. Many thought that the 2016-17 class was going to be the group that turned it around for the Rebels. Instead, highly touted point guard (The widely regarded missing piece of the Rice era) is starting for the TCU Horned Frogs and followed former UNLV assistant Ryan Miller to Ft Worth. Fisher is performing admirably in the loaded Big 12 conference. He averages 10 ppg and 4 apg and 2 rpg. Watching on as Justin Jackson starts for the Maryland Terrapins and puts up 11 ppg and 6.5 rpg is more than enough to rankle the Rebel faithful further. Not to mention Carlos Johnson and Christian Vital are playing major minutes at Washington and UConn respectively. Johnson averages 5 ppg and 3 rpg, while Vital plays almost 30 minutes per game, putting up almost 9 ppg, 3 apg and rpg. And I won't even get into it about guys who might have been Rebels like Kobi Simmons and Rawle Alkins, both of whom are killing it for Sean Miller At U of A. 

Considering the, "could of, should of, would of's" about this season, let's all remember that Marvin Menzies was hired in April. The reason UNLV is where they're at is because he had to assemble a hodgepodge of players. I've said this before and I will say it again... Under different circumstances, there's only four or five players on the current UNLV roster that would have been asked to suit up at the T&M (And 3 of them were already here under Rice). Everyone else would be at MAC, Horizon League, or other equivalent conferences. That's what happens when you have a matter of weeks to put together 10 scholarship players. 

I mentioned above that the UNLV fanbase is miserable, but trust me when I say none is more dismayed by the win/loss column than Marvin Menzies. Yes, he signed on to be the head man here and took a nice pay bump in the process, but Menzies is a coach that is accustomed to winning. In 7 of his 9 seasons at New Mexico State, he won 20 or more games. In 5 of those seasons he went to the NCAA tournament. Some will argue that he never won a game once there, but he was never higher than a 14 seed. Those that follow college basketball know that teams with those seedings are usually cannon fodder for the juggernauts of the sport. 

This season has been an exception, but Menzies has historically done most of his winning when he gets to conference play. Seven times he has won his league, or the league tournament. His overall winning percentage is 62%, but in league games it's almost 74%. I also think you have to take into account this year's Aggies at NMSU. That team is comprised entirely of Menzies players and they have already won 22 games this year, and had a 20 game winning streak going at one point. 

Needless to say the facilities and exposure at UNLV is just a tad better than what Menzies had in Las Cruces. Plus, he never had the staff at NMSU that he has here in Vegas. Andre LaFleur was instrumental in bringing a National Championship to UConn. Coach Dre was a key recruiter and developer both there and at Providence under Ed Cooley. LaFleur is renowned for his ability to sign and develop eilte point guards like Kemba Walker and Kris Dunn. Rob Jeter and Eric Brown are no slouches either. Jeter won 20 games at Wisconsin-Milwaukee last year as head coach. He beat Wisconsin and Minnesota on the road while he was at it. He also brought stellar floor general Jordan Johnson with him, who was the number two assist man in the nation. To give you a little perspective on Johnson, he went for 22 points and 4 assists against a Bo Ryan team in Madison while shooting 60% from the floor and a perfect 8/8 from the line. Lastly, you have Eric Brown who finds guys like Swaggy P and puts them in The Association. He's a highly respected and valuable west coast recruiter.

As much as some (If not most of you) would like to make a hasty firing of a coach that has been here less than a calendar year, it's just not going to happen. Menzies has had too much success in his career and has compiled too good of a staff to write him off after only one dismal season.  Athletic Director Tina Kunzer-Murphy will be leaving in June and she definitely won't be making any more hires. Her successor might want to make a splash hire for the school's flagship program after they have taken office, but even that hypothetical situation buys Marvin Menzies a 2nd season. 

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