UNLV's season has been up and down. The Runnin' Rebels started 9-0 and had a Top 25 Ranking before dropping one on the road to Louisville. The Rebels kept their ranking and were expected to be ranked when they faced Kansas State, but they dropped their next game at home against UC-Santa Barbara. A number of things could have contributed to this, a hangover from the Louisville game, looking ahead to K-State, an off shooting night (29% from the field and 6-29 from behind the arc), but a loss is a loss and the Rebels rightfully lost their ranking on Monday.
In a way Kansas State has had the same kind of season, although their losses were to higher ranked opponents and their pre-season ranking was much higher than UNLV's. Kansas State knocked off then #24 Virginia Tech and #12 Gonzaga before getting demolished by #1 Duke. Kansas State then kept their Top 10 ranking and won five straight games against a very easy schedule. Then K-State ran into Florida, who held the Wildcats to just 44 points in a horrible shooting game for the Wildcats.
That brings us to tonight, where two struggling pre-season favorites are matching up, both looking for a decent push in their RPI rating.
UNLV's offense struggled against UC-Santa Barbara mainly due to a zone that kept the ball outside the three point line and didn't allow for many drive-and-kick situations. UNLV's offense is predicated upon using screens, isolations and quick passing in order to open up a lane for the man with the ball. Without the ability to drive the ball and kick it out for an open three, UNLV missed baskets and weren't able to set up into their full-court press that creates 5+ turnovers a game.
After watching some highlights from Florida's win over K-State, I noticed that Florida ran a lot of cuts and backdoor passes. If UNLV wants to have success on the offensive side of the ball tonight, they are going to have to make shots early. Make the shots early, set up the full-court press, get points off of turnovers and use the lead to your advantage throughout the rest of the game. Other than that, they also need to keep moving at all times and cut to the basket. It worked for Florida, it can work for UNLV.
K-State's offense is a lot of off-ball screens that get players open, forcing help defense which starts a chain reaction which normally ends with a Kansas State basket. When Kansas State fell to Duke, their offense seemed inept, unable to get open shots. This was mainly due to Duke switching on screens and not letting Kansas State get any open passes to start the chain reaction.
Other than that Duke also was able to play help defense almost to perfection. Whenever someone would go to help another player who Jacob Pullen just drove by, another teammate would do what is called "Helping the helper." This means that he took the helper's man when the helper went to help. Duke was able to stop the drive and kick that also started a chain reaction. The key to UNLV stopping Kansas State is going to be playing great help defense and switching on every screen. Those two things combined basically cripples K-State's offense and leads to fast breaks for UNLV which means more points.
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