Chicago is UNLV's kind of town

Turns out that UNLV wasn't playing for a No. 4 seed in Saturday's Mountain West Conference championship game with No. 23 BYU after all. Or a No. 5 seed. Or a No. 6 seed. Nope, turns out Lon Kruger's squad, which had a glossy No. 10 RPI and won 13 of its last 14 games, was simply battling the Cougars for a No. 7 seed.

To say more than a few jaws dropped at Cox Pavilion on Sunday afternoon when UNLV's named popped up as a No. 7 seed in Chicago against ACC power Georgia Tech would be an understatement.

So much for all those bracketologists that have had UNLV as a No. 4 seed in Spokane playing a team like Ivy League champ Penn or Albany. Instead, the Runnin' Rebels on Friday will face a Georgia Tech squad that defeated a No. 1 seed, ACC Tourney champ North Carolina, earlier this year and has two of the premier freshmen in the nation in point guard Javaris Crittenton, considered a potential NBA lottery pick if/when he decides to turn pro, and 6-8 forward Thaddeus Young, who like Crittenton was a McDonald's All-American a year ago.

And should the Rebels manage to get past the Yellow Jackets, they'd likely play No. 2 seed Wisconsin, which will likely turn the United Center into Madison South.

"We're not disappointed," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. "We're surprised at the seed. We're not going to approach it any differently than if we were a (No. 4) or a (No. 3) or anything else. We're playing in the NCAA Tournament and it's a great time. … There's nothing here to be upset about. Gee, we're going to line up and play a game. A lot of people have bigger problems than that."

Just ask Air Force coach Jeff Bzdelik. Or Syracuse's Jim Boeheim. Or Drexel's Bruiser Flint. All were on the bubble and passed over.

"Like all of our fans I was hopeful (of a higher seed)," Kruger admitted. "But I didn't do any research. As a fan I liked their schedule, liked their road success, liked their last 10 (games) … like the things that you think are important. But again, I didn't do any breakdown of anyone elses' schedule or last 10 or anything else. The committee, like I've said many times, no one researches it like they research it. I'm sure they put us where they needed us to be."

So what did the players think?

"Happy, of course excited, but a little shocked that we got a No. 7 seed and we are going to Chicago," junior guard Curtis Terry said when asked his reaction to the NCAA bracket. "There's not much that we can do about it. We did all that we can do. We just have to go out there and prove ourselves again."

"I'm just happy to be on a team that got invited to the tournament," guard Wink Adams said. "This is my first time going to the NCAA Tournament. … I didn't really care what seed or who we play. I'm just ready to play."

"We don't really view this as disrespect or anything like that," added point guard Kevin Kruger, the MVP of the Mountain West Conference Tournament. "We feel that we're better than that. We were picked to finish sixth in the conference. So playing with something to prove really isn't nothing new for this group."

"I've seen them on TV a couple of times," Terry said. "I know that they are athletic and like to run the floor a lot. I know they have a great guard in Javaris Crittenton and a couple of big guys who really do a lot down low for them. They're a tough team. It's going to be a good game."


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