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UNLV vs. Stanford preview: Rebels head to Brooklyn for Coaches vs. Cancer Classic

Everyone in Las Vegas is excited for the potential UNLV-Duke matchup in New York, but the Runnin’ Rebels have to take on Stanford first, a Sweet 16 team from last season.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

After narrowly escaping the opening weekend with two wins by a combined three points, UNLV is 2-0 and heading to Brooklyn for the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. First up for the Rebels is Stanford (2-0) on Friday at 4:00 p.m. PST.

UNLV will face one of the most efficient post scorers in the country, as Stefan Nastic leads Stanford with 20 points per game this season. Through two games Nastic has had 17 post ups and scored 25 points. He’s 10 of 11 from the field when he posts up, per Synergy Sports.

Nastic loves to turn over his left shoulder and shoot right handed hook shots.

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If you allow him to make that turn, Nastic won’t miss very often with that hook shot. And his efficiency this season isn’t just due to a small sample size. Last season Nastic shot 63.4 percent on post ups, second best in NCAA. He was also sixth in the country in points per possession on post ups, scoring 1.1 points per post up.

When he turns over his right shoulder, which would naturally lead to a left-handed hook shot, Nastic is vulnerable to blocked shots. Instead of a hook shot, Nastic shoots like a jump shot. This might give Goodluck Okonoboh a chance to register some OkonoBLOCKS, as Nastic can’t use his body to create space to shoot like he does with his right-handed hook shot.

Stanford also returns its leading scorer from last season, Chasson Randle. The senior guard has 35 points in two games this season, but he’s shot just 37.5 percent from the field. Last year Randle led Stanford with 18.8 points per game. He does damage from three-point range, as the four-year starter has nailed 39.6 percent of his career threes.

He’s not afraid to shoot a three off of a high ball screen, and that is part of the reason he was so efficient on the pick and roll last season; Randle was 16th in the NCAA in pick-and-roll efficiency scoring 1.02 points per possession.

Stanford went 23-13 last season and made a trip to the Sweet 16, losing to Dayton; The Cardinal upset Kansas in the round of 32. And Stanford played three games at the Barlcays Center in Brooklyn going 1-2 with losses to Pitt and Michigan and a win over Houston.

Given UNLV’s struggle to shoot the ball (29 percent from three), Dave Rice expects his team to face a heavy dose of zone defense. So far UNLV faced a Morehead State zone for an entire half, but Sam Houston State did not play zone on any possessions.

The Runnin’ Rebels have used a couple of good zone plays, but Patrick McCaw and Rashad Vaughn knocking down threes would be the best way to bust zones; McCaw is 3 of 8, and Vaughn is 4 of 13 this season from beyond the arc.

Stanford has played zone defense on 14.4 percent of their defensive possessions this season. On the opposite side of the court, UNLV has played a large amount of 1-2-2 zone. But Stanford has yet to face a zone this season.

The Rebels zone defense has given up open shots, but overall it has been effective by limiting opponents to 25.4 percent shooting and .57 points per possession.

Dave Rice said he expects to use the same starters, assuming everyone's effort in practice doesn't fall.

But two starters -- Jelan Kendrick and Chris Wood -- saw a significant decrease in minutes in game two. Kendrick dropped from 22 to 14 minutes and didn’t play at all in the final 10 minutes. UNLV was also -22 with Kendrick on the court against Sam Houston State. Wood still played a significant amount, 22 minutes, but he gave way to the combo of Dwayne Morgan and Goodluck Okonoboh.

Cody Doolin played 39 minutes against Sam Houston State – Dave Rice said he’d like to play Doolin 32-34 minutes – which meant Kendall Smith didn’t get any time as a point guard. Smith hardly played any time as a two guard either, as he logged just three minutes. Jordan Cornish made his debut playing 11 minutes.

The game can be seen on TruTV; the winner will play either Temple or Duke for the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic Championship at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday. The losers will play at 4:00 p.m.

Stanford has opened as a seven-point favorite, according to, and predicts UNLV to lose 68-65, giving the Runnin’ Rebels a 37 percent chance of winning.