UNLV is returning to the national spotlight under the tutelage of 2nd year head coach Dave Rice. Rice led the Runnin' Rebels to a 26-9 overall record with often influxes in the top 25 and wins over then No. 19 Illinois and then No. 1 UNC in the championship game of the Las Vegas Invitational. Not only has Rice proved to be a success on the court, but also as a recruiter as he nabbed the #7 ranked freshmen, according to ESPN 100, PF Anthony Bennett and PITT transfer former 12th ranked freshmen Khem Birch. UNLV starts the season out in the pre season AP poll at No. 18, the Rebels highest since the 1990-91 season, and is led by returning double-double machine SF Mike Moser and SG Anthony Marshall
Coach: Dave Rice (2nd year)
Key Returnees: SF Mike Moser: 14 PPG-10.5 RPG
SG Anthony Marshall: 12.2 PPG-5.1 RPG-4.5 APG
PG Justin Hawkins: 7.9 PPG-2.9 RPG
Key Losses: G-F Chace Stanback: 12.5 PPG-4.4 RPG
PG Oscar Bellfield: 9.8 PPG-2.3 RPG
Projected Starting 5:
SF Mike Moser
SG Anthony Marshall
PG Justin Hawkins
PF Anthony Bennett
PF Khem Birch
Team Overview: SF Mike Moser leads a threatening frontcourt along with key additions freshmen PF Anthony Bennett and transfer PF Khem Birch. Lack of depth may be the only Achilles heel on this Rebels team as G-F Chace Stanback and PG Oscar Bellfield are both gone and F Carlos Lopez-Sosa (5.4 PPG-2.7 RPG) along with highly touted freshmen SG Katin Reinhardt represent the depth on the Runnin' Rebels team. Other than an acute sign of lack of depth, this Rebels team should be dominate nationally and should dominate their non-conference and conference slates.
Key Opponents: @ Oregon, @ California, @ North Carolina
Oregon: The Ducks are very similar to Nevada in that they were both NCAA Tournament hopefuls before ending their seasons in their respective conference tournaments and losing in the NIT. SF E.J. Singler (13.6 PPG-5.6 RPG) represents the Ducks top-returning scorer while C Tony Woods (6.8 PPG-1.5 BPG) is the only other top 5 scorer that returns for the Ducks. Contrary to how the team may appear to be competitive wise, many have the Ducks in their respective bracketologies, or at least a strong bubble team so the The Runnin' Rebels should be expecting a good, competitive game against the Ducks.
California: While it remains unclear whether this Cal team will be NCAA Tournament caliber, Head Coach Mike Montgomery knows the game of basketball well and will prepare his team to give UNLV a "bear" of a game, no pun intended. The Golden Bears return leading scorer SG Allen Crabbe (15.2 PPG-5.7 RPG) along with PG Justin Cobbs (12.6-5 APG) and PF David Kravish (6.9 PPG-5.2 RPG). The rebounding presence is apparent on this team, especially with PF Richard Solomon (5.6 PPG-5.9 RPG), but it may not be enough to conquer the UNLV Runnin' Rebels, despite home court advantage for the Golden Bears.
North Carolina: The UNC Tar Heels could be regarded as one of the greatest-if not the greatest basketball powerhouse in basketball (that is if your not from Los Angeles, Lawrence KS, Lexington KY, Louisville KY, or Durham NC). Regardless Head Coach Roy Williams always has his Tar Heels playing at a high level and should see no different of productivity of his team this year from lasts. SG Reggie Bullock (8.8 PPG-5.1 RPG) leads the Tar Heels along with PG Dexter Strickland (7.5 PPG-2.1 APG), PF James Michael-McAdoo (6.1 PPG-3.9 RPG), and SG P.J. Hairston (5.7 PPG-2.2 RPG). While these numbers may not seem impressive at first, Strickland, Michael-McAdoo and Hairston all produced fairly high number for receiving less than 25 minutes per game. The threatening backcourt gains EPSNU 100 freshmen PG Marcus Paige and is joined by freshmen PF Brice Johnson. Talent lies on this Tar Heels team, but so does youth, though UNC should be prepared enough to take on UNLV in Chapel Hill and probably notch in a win for the Tar Heels.
The Rest: VS NAU, VS Jacksonville State, VS Oregon, (VS Iowa State or Cincinnati), VS UC Irvine, VS Hawaii, @ Portland, VS Las Verne, @ UTEP, VS Northern Iowa, VS Canisius, VS Chicago State, VS Cal State Bakersfield.
Non-Conference Schedule Prediction: 14-1 (Loss @ North Carolina)
UNLV's strength of schedule should better prepare them for a tough conference schedule and probable NCAA Tournament bid, with other teams such as Northern Iowa and Cincinnati or Iowa State should help bulk up the RPI of the UNLV Runnin' Rebels schedule. UNC may be too much for the Rebels, with it being a revenge game for the Tar Heels and being in North Carolina, but a 14-1 schedule should keep the Tar Heels national relevant and wading through the top 25.