INDIANAPOLIS -- The Nevada-Las Vegas basketball team won't be playing for its second straight national championship tonight at the Hoosier Dome. The Runnin' Rebels have long since left town.
But as much as this year National Collegiate Athletic Association Final Four will be remembered as the one that Duke or Kansas won, it also will be talked of in terms of UNLV's 79-77 semifinal loss to the Blue Devils on Saturday night.
The defeat -- which ended a perfect season (34-0 coming in) and a 45-game winning streak -- prevented the Runnin' Rebels from becoming the first team to repeat since UCLA in 1973 and the first unbeaten champion since Indiana in 1976.
The Duke-UNLV game still was the main topic of conversation here yesterday as the Blue Devils prepared to play Kansas tonight for the championship.
"You look at what happened to Vegas: Stacey [Augmon] and Larry [Johnson] having off-nights, Greg Anthony getting into foul trouble and fouling out, and they still had a chance to win the game," said Seton Hall coach P.J. Carlesimo, whose team lost to UNLV in the West Regional final. "Duke played a great game to beat them."
The Blue Devils were not as nearly perfect as Villanova in 1985, when the Wildcats beat Georgetown for the title. Nor did the Rebels collapse, as happened to Houston against North Carolina State two years before in Albuquerque, N.M.
But Anthony's disqualification with a little less than four minutes left was the major factor for the Runnin' Rebels' losing a 76-71 lead, and for the chaotic final possession that ended with Johnson passing up an open three-pointer and Anderson Hunt missing a 24-foot shot with a second left.
"We just got beat," said UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian. "We came to the big game and didn't do the job. Duke did a great job. We had our chances at the end. But without Greg, it was difficult for us to do the things we normally do."
Said Hunt: "We didn't play smart, and they did. They're a great defensive team and they deserve a lot of credit."
While there might be talk of a Duke dynasty if the Blue Devils finally win tonight -- they have everybody but Greg Koubek returning, and another great recruiting class coming in -- the UNLV reign apparently has come to an end.
The team will be on probation and ineligible for postseason competition next year at least, and possibly longer if the NCAA can make any of the current charges stick. Associates close to Tarkanian said that he is likely to leave the school, possibly in return for a lighter NCAA sentence.
* NCAA officials were quiet yesterday whether to take any action against North Carolina assistant Bill Guthridge, whose shouting at referee Pete Pavia in the runway after Saturday's loss to Kansas provoked a incident that involved several Tar Heels players and two off-duty Indianapolis policemen assigned to escort the officials.
According to eyewitnesses, Guthridge yelled at Pavia, "You blew it . . .You blew it," for the referee's ejection of North Carolina coach Dean Smith with 35 seconds left in a 79-73 loss to the Jayhawks. When Guthridge got close to Pavia, the policemen slammed the veteran assistant coach against the wall, and the players came to Guthridge's defense.
No charges were filed, according to a police spokesman.
Guthridge, who returned with the team to Chapel Hill, could not be reached for comment.
The defeat prevented Smith from passing John Wooden for most NCAA tournament victories. Both have 47.
* The Blue Devils might want to consider putting a dome on Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke was 5-0 in domed stadiums this season going into tonight's game.
* Rodney Monroe of Hagerstown beat out North Carolina State teammate Chris Corchiani to win the three-point shooting contest last night at Market Square Arena. In another battle of college teammates, Carlos Funchess of Northeast Louisiana won the slam-dunk competition over Anthony Jones.