THE CINDERELLA EVERYONE LOVED TO HATE
The 1990 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels
The early ‘90s was a contentious time in college basketball, full of pure amateur competition. The days of the “one and done” player were far ahead, which meant that all the top-level talent was bred in the hotbed of the NCAA. Players like Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and David Robinson had to prove their NBA mettle in the grueling basketball tournament we all know as March Madness. It has always showcased the best of the best, but America has always loved an underdog. Last year, audiences adored Loyola Chicago as they made their way to the Final Four. Cinderella teams fill our hearts with hope and optimism, but not all of them are loveable. Perhaps no small school is more polarizing than the UNLV squad that was put together by the late, great Jerry Tarkanian. The team was nasty, flashy, and, most importantly, downright impossible to beat. “The Runnin’ Rebels” ran the court like no team before. Reports have the 1991 Tarkanian squad referring to the Arkansas
Razorbacks’ “40 minutes of hell” as “40 minutes of vacation” when it beat the then second- ranked team on its home court. The team embodied swagger and wasn’t afraid to create a splash everywhere it went. Most of the noise wasn’t positive, but when you win the national championship the year prior, a little arrogance is necessary to maintain your “bad guy” image. Formally a small state school known to locals as “Tumbleweed Tech,” UNLV wasn’t even a Division I school until 1970.
there would be no greater success than the season that came to pass in 1990.
Most games are back-and-forth, with drama centering around every possession. That was not the case during the 1990 national championship game. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski guided his team to the final through steady stellar performances throughout the tournament, and all was well until the legendary program met UNLV’s rowdies. The opening tipoff was about as close as Duke ever got to controlling any part of that
When Tarkanian took over in ‘73, the school went from an institution most acclaimed for its hospitality program to an NCAA basketball tournament regular. After making their first Final Four appearance in 1977, the team started down a path that would take them to four Elite 8s in five years, and
game. Anderson Hunt, Stacey Augmon, and Larry Johnson ran the Blue Devils off the court, and the Cinderella team everyone came to
hate won 103–73 in the biggest blowout in NCAA
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