Runnin' hot

New head coach Dave Rice proved his leadership early in his tenure with his handling of Chace Stanback's arrest. AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

THERE'S NO OVERSTATING THE STAKES of hiring a new coach. When programs get it wrong, it can make a rebuilding year seem like a lost cause. When schools get it right, though, they often get something better than wins. They get the promise of redemption.

Take UNLV. Former coach Lon Kruger, who quit to take the Oklahoma job, left new head man Dave Rice a pretty strong hand: a roster that had graduated only two starters and, even better, a lineup tailor-made for his up-tempo offense. But nobody could have predicted these early returns. The Rebels went on an eight-game streak -- including a late-November upset of then-No. 1 UNC -- before their first loss. "We have four experienced seniors, and I know our whole team is committed to trying to make their last year really special," says Rice, who left BYU for Las Vegas.