Oregon Ducks (28-7) vs. UNLV Runnin' Rebels (30-6)
When: 9:40 p.m. ET
Where: St. Louis
1. Everybody Hates Ernie. Sort of. After the past two seasons, everyone and their mom wanted Ernie Kent fired for having his second consecutive underwhelming season. Sure, his team made the Elite Eight in 2002 (some say in spite of him), and after the Lukes (Ridnour and Jackson) left, Kent's teams struggled for a couple years (albeit with a national top 10 recruiting class), but even throughout this year's run (winning the Pac-10 Tournament, ending the season #10 in the AP Poll, current Sweet 16 team), some fans still have had enough of him and want fresh blood (read: Mark Few, Mike Montgomery) coaching near the shores of the mighty Willamette. On top of the pressure of coaching for a school that has suddenly decided that it's supposed to be a basketball powerhouse, Kent tore his left rotator cuff before the season after taking a spill on his bike. After wearing a sling for the first few games, Kent got run over by an Arizona player later in the season (during a game), re-injuring the shoulder. Then, factor in the fact that his three-sport (basketball, football, track) son and Jordan was unable to play this season while recovering from torn toe ligaments sustained during the Las Vegas Bowl while wearing one of those ridiculous fade paint helmets, and you have kind of a fucked up year for ol' Ernie.
2. You Bastard. Pat Kilkenny was recently named the new athletic director of Oregon, despite having no NCAA athletic department experience and being a gigantic billionaire booster. The apparent consensus is that he was brought in to get a new basketball arena built, in part because former AD Bill Moos and Nike founder and huge Oregon booster, Phil Knight, weren't the best of pals. The possible site is the former Williams Bread factory (good riddance), right next to a group of the dorms on campus. One would think that the smell of fresh bread would be something to look forward to, but trust me, being greeted by sourdough every morning gets tedious and old quickly. Beyond that, though, Kilkenny has done some good. He took care of first and second round tournament tickets for the students who waited in line overnight and provided a luxury bus to Spokane, possibly the first time a luxury bus has ever been told to go to Spokane.
3. More Fun Duck Facts. Reserve guards Chamberlain Oguchi and Churchill Odia have both played for the Nigerian national team in international tournaments...PG Aaron Brooks and his lady friend had a daughter in the offseason and was close to transferring to a DII school in his hometown of Seattle...SG Bryce Taylor went to the same high school as the Gyllenhalls, Tori Spelling, and Murphy Brown herself, Candice Bergen...Alaskan third string center Ray Schafer had a short-lived beard this season that looked about as good he plays ...Tajuan Porter is still short, in case you haven't heard...The aforementioned Oguchi went to George W. Bush High School, which all things considered, is probably the easiest high school in America. — Dan Rubenstein
1. What's next, cable access? After spending most of the decade as part of ESPN's Big Monday package, the Mountain West brain trust decided to leave ESPN for a TV deal with College Sports TV (CSTV). Over the course of the season, UNLV appeared on ESPN2 once (because Bobby Knight was approaching Dean Smith), and the rest of the season was spent on a combination of CSTV ,The Mtn. (a Nevada/Utah CSTV affiliate) and Versus (formerly OLN). Honestly, it would only be appropriate for tonight's game should be broadcast on The Food Network or The Discovery Channel.
2. Top 5 NCAA coach all time? Lon Kruger joined a rather illustrious group of coaches when UNLV won the MWC conference tournament; he became the fifth coach to take four different programs to the NCAA tournament. The win over Wisconsin moved him into even further select company, joining Gene Bartow, Rick Pitino, Bill Self and Eddie Sutton in taking three teams to the Sweet 16. (All four went onto the Elite 8 with all their teams.)
3. 30+ wins then and now. The Rebels have reached 30 wins for the first time since finishing 34-1 in 1990-1991. This year's Rebels have one first-team, one second-team and one third-team all conference player, with no national honors. The 1991 team saw Greg Anthony, Stacey Augmon, Anderson Hunt and Larry Johnson make the first team and George Ackles make the second team all conference. Additionally, that squad had two first team All-Americans and three honorable mentions. — David Fucillo