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UNLV Runnin' Rebels open season with Morehead State

Dave Rice has talked up Morehead State in the preseason, as any coach would. But Morehead State is no pushover and could win the Ohio Valley Conference. Plus a look at how Rice used his players in the exhibition.

Ethan Miller

Dave Rice has a lot of new pieces to put together if he wants the 2014-15 season puzzle to look like a return to the NCAA Tournament. But Rice may not have enough puzzle pieces; the rotation is only 10 players deep before you get to walk-ons. The Runnin’ Rebels are deep on the wing, but the point guard position and front court are thinned out.

So we’ve seen UNLV play one other opponent – Florida National – and Rice substituted frequently, but here’s how the positional minutes broke down.

exhb minutes

Click here to enlarge the photo.

Point guard was all Doolin and Smith. I’d expect Doolin’s minutes to be around 30 for the season, and for Smith to pick up the other 10. But in case of poor play, foul trouble or injury, McCaw and Kendrick are next in line for point guard duties, but the pecking order is unclear.

The shooting guard and small forward positions are interchangeable. The wing spots will have the most depth and most change throughout the season. I would anticipate Vaughn, Kendrick and McCaw getting most of the minutes early in the season.

Onto the most interesting position, power forward. This is the spot that will be the most telling about Rice’s lineups. Wood got the start, but played just nine minutes there. How ever many minutes Wood logs at power forward is how many minutes UNLV played with a traditional two-big man lineup.

Morgan will end up playing the most minutes at this position, as he’ll be an intermediate between small ball and the big lineup. But any minutes that go to Cornish, Vaughn or Kendrick will mean UNLV has gone small.

Center is going to be like the point guard spot in that there are two main guys, Okonoboh and Wood. Morgan’s center minutes came at the end of the game with the two walk-ons. Any center minutes to Morgan mean that Okonoboh or Wood is in foul trouble.

What you need to know about Morehead State

  • The Eagles were 20-14 last season and 10-6 in the Ohio Valley Conference. In terms of minutes, they return six of their top nine players from last season.
  • The top returner is Angelo Warner, who averaged 17.6 points per game. Last season Morehead State outscored opponents 18.6 points per 100 possessions with Warner on the court. The 6-foot-2 guard shot 32.6 percent from three, while attempting 5.1 per game.
  • As a team Morehead State shot just 29.6 percent from beyond the arc, 336th best in the country.
  • They turned it over a lot last year, as the Eagles were one of the 50 worst teams in turnover percentage. 18.3 percent of Morehead State’s possessions were turnovers in 2013-14.
  • Former Lon Kruger recruit at UNLV, Karam Mashour may be Morehead State’s best inside presence this season. Mashour played in two seasons at UNLV, Kruger’s last and Rice’s first. He saw action in 25 games for the Runnin’ Rebels, scoring 46 points in 131 minutes. Last season he played 2 games for Morehead State before needing season-ending surgery. Mashour had 19 rebounds in Morehead State’s exhibition win over St. Catherine.
  • Morehead State has two transfers from LSU eligible this season. Corban Collins played in 27 games for LSU two seasons ago; he played 19 minutes in Morehead State’s exhibition. Jalen Courtney played three seasons at LSU; although he averaged less than two points and only 7.2 minutes in his time as a Tiger.
  • Last season Morehead State came to Las Vegas and played at The Orleans Arena as a part of the Las Vegas Classic. The Eagles beat Chattanooga, and then lost to Gardner Webb.
  • Two notable non-conference games from last season: Morehead State beat Nevada 63-58 in Reno and lost at UCLA 81-70.

Kenpom.com gives UNLV an 82 percent chance at starting off the season 1-0, with a prediction of UNLV beating Morehead State 79-69. The opening point spread had UNLV as a seven-point favorite.

The game is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. The Lady Rebels start their season with a 4:00 p.m. game vs Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. You can watch both games online through the Mountain West Network.