Chilly welcome for Rebels in Chicago

CHICAGO – You might say there was a chill in the air when UNLV's basketball team stepped off its charter flight here on Wednesday night.

Even though the Rebels had endured plenty of snow and single-digit temperatures during trips to Air Force, Wyoming and Colorado State this season, the swirling snow flurries and mid-30 degree temperatures that greeted Lon Kruger's squad here seemed to catch a little off guard.

"It was very cold and windy last night," senior forward Wendell White said. "I wasn't expecting anything like that. Coming from Las Vegas, it was pretty warm (90 degrees). Stepping out of the planer, they told us to be careful because it is pretty windy and you might fall down. That was pretty incredible right there."

White, guard Wink Adams and point guard Kevin Kruger all seemed loose and joked throughout their 15-minute interview session with the national media at the United Center shortly before taking part in a 40-minute practice in front of about 150 fans.

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What kind of tempo will Friday morning's game between UNLV (28-6) and Georgia Tech (20-11) be played at? A very quick one if you believe Yellow Jacket players.

"They're the RUNNIN' Rebels," point guard Javaris Crittenton said. "That speaks for itself."

In fact, Georgia Tech players, who prefer to play an up-tempo style, said they were happy to hear the name UNLV when their draw was announced on Sunday. The Yellow Jackets average 79.1 points per game compared to 75.3 ppg for the Rebels.

"The first thing that we said on selection day when they paired us with UNLV was that we should have fun because it should be a very high-tempo game," Yellow Jacket forward Jeremis Smith said. "That's the kind of pace we like to play at, very high tempo. They play a very aggressive style of defense as well, so we should be going back and forth."

"They have a lot of shooters, a lot of scorers out on the perimeter," added guard Mario West. "We like to get up and down the court. That's out style of play – give and take basketball. We expect a high energy game, a high scoring game."

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The Final Four this year will be held in the Georgia Dome near the Georgia Tech campus. Yellow Jacket head coach Paul Hewitt was asked if he had given much thought to the possibility of playing in a Final Four in his own backyard?

"I haven't discussed it with my team," Hewitt said. "But obviously, even when the year started, when you drive by the Georgia Dome, you can't help but think, ‘What if that is an actually possibility?' (But) now that you're in the tournament, that's the furthest thing from your mind. It's about UNLV and figuring out how to slow down Kevin Kruger, who's had a great year and who's been the difference maker, in my opinion, on that ball club. "

"We're just trying to take it one game at a time," point guard Javaris Crittenton said. "We're taking it in steps. UNLV is a great team and we can't look past them."

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If the Runnin' Rebels get past Georgia Tech, their likely second round opponent would be No. 2 seeded Wisconsin.

One look at the Badgers during their United Center workout displayed evidence that could be a mighty BIG problem for Lon Kruger's squad, whose tallest player is 6-foot-9, 260-pound senior center Joel Anthony.

Wisconsin, meanwhile, looked like a cross between an NBA team and an NFL team. The Badgers have four players 6-10 or better, including three that are 6-foot-11. And all looked a whole lot thicker and stonger than Colorado State's 7-foot duo of Jason Smith and Stuart Creason.

Star forward Brian Butch (6-11, 240), sidelined for three weeks with a dislocated elbow, worked out with the Badgers and possibly could see action this weekend. Badger coach Bo Ryan said as of Thursday that Butch still hadn't been cleared to play.


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