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UNLV vs. Cal Poly game preview: Experience vs. newcomers, who wins?

The Runnin' Rebels start their season tonight at the Thomas and Mack against an experienced Mustangs squad. Which team will run with the victory as experience meets a team of many new comers?

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The UNLV Runnin' Rebels kick off their season tonight at the Thomas and Mack Center.  A highly anticipated season for the Rebels with some promising new comers and freshmen, the Rebels should confront a good first outing test in the Cal Poly Mustangs.  Here's some things to look for  between these two squads tonight:

The Mustangs went 13-16 last season and ended on a 5 game losing streak.  But, an advantage Cal Poly men might have is their overall experience.  The Mustangs have several returners and upperclassmen who have the advantage of playing together for quite some time.  In fact, all the top scorers from last season return for the 2015 campaign.  Most interestingly will be the impact of senior forward for the Mustangs, Joel Awich.

On the other side, UNLV went 18-15 last season, in a disappointing year when many Rebel fans thought their NBA prospects might give them an edge in the Mountain West.  Different from the Mustangs, UNLV has plenty of newcomers (both transfers and freshmen).  For the Rebels, their most intriguing player is undoubtedly Stephen Zimmerman who could become the x-factor as both a rim protector and skilled big man against scorers like Awich.

What to look for:  Dave Rice has consistently told Vegas that he wants the Rebels to run - like the good ole' days - but each season the Rebel coach failed to deliver entirely on this exciting promise.  This year, he has a team who is highly motivated and athletic.  They are future focused rather than hang their hats on UNLV's "glory days."  This might be the best advantage that UNLV has.

Tonight's match-up will eventually come down to an experienced group in the Mustangs vs. a group who is just learning to mix it up together in the Rebs.  But, considering the Rebels get the Stangs' on their own home court - and Rice's teams have historically been minimally effective on the road - UNLV has an advantage here.

UNLV pulls out a victory 79-70.  Rebels start the season 1-0.