Air Force has endured an, at times, maddeningly inconsistent men's basketball season.

But it's been nothing compared to Saturday's opponent.

UNLV has been good enough to win at New Mexico, yet bad enough to lose to UC Santa Barbara. Good enough to sweep surging Fresno State, bad enough to lose a home exhibition to Dixie State and the home conference opener to Air Force.

This is nothing new for the Rebels under coach Dave Rice. In three games between Air Force and UNLV last season, one went to overtime, one saw the Falcons win by 15 and another saw the Rebels win by 16.

The only consistent trend has been UNLV's steady decline in games played at Air Force over the past four seasons. The first three years each brought Rebels' victories, but with winning margins that shrank from 30 to 12 to 2. Last year Air Force pounded an exhausted-looking Rebels squad 71-56.

"We have something to prove, that we can go up there and play hard," Rice said.

The Rebels (18-10, 9-6 Mountain West) have far more on the line in terms of conference tournament seeding, as they are in third place in the Mountain West but just one game up on the three teams tied for fourth - Boise State, Nevada and Wyoming. The top five finishers receive a bye in the tournament's first round on UNLV's floor.

As for Air Force (11-15, 5-10), a finish between eighth and 10th place is all but certain. The Falcons' concern doesn't seem to be jostling for position so much as putting an end to an offensive nosedive that has raged on for more than a month. The last time Air Force scored more than 60 points was Jan. 18.

The good thing for both of these teams where these disturbing trends are concerned is that there's a good chance they'll take a turn at any moment.

After all, consistency has not been the strong suit for either program.