When UNLV heads to San Jose to take on the Spartans the possibility of a team finishing the game with four players is higher than usual.
San Jose State is mired in a 2-27 season and staring a winless conference season in the face. The Spartans’ problems run deep – they aren’t eligible for the Mountain West Tournament next week – and they have just eight bodies.
But UNLV isn’t much better in the available players category. With Pat McCaw sustaining a concussion in Wednesday loss to San Diego State, UNLV is down to eight healthy players (six on scholarship).
The two walk-ons for UNLV, Barry Cheaney and Charles Rushman, both saw some action against San Jose State when UNLV dispatched of the Spartans 74-40 in January. Expect both to play, especially Cheaney, who has scored 13 points on 5 of 10 shooting this season.
A win, which KenPom.com gives a 94 percent chance of happening, would give UNLV the seven seed in next week’s Mountain West Tournament. New Mexico could still snag the seven seed with a win over Wyoming and a UNLV loss. The tiebreaker would end up comparing UNLV and New Mexico’s record against Colorado State. UNLV went 0-1; New Mexico was 1-1.
But UNLV will in all likelihood be the seven seed and play 11 seed Nevada. If the Wolf Pack knock off San Diego State in Viejas Arena, Air Force would fall to the 11 seed. UNLV was 1-1 against both Nevada and Air Force this year.
On the court for UNLV, the Rebels will be experimenting out of desperation. With Pat McCaw unable to play, the only scholarship player off the bench is Dwayne Morgan. The freshman has finally shown signs of life over the past three games, as he’s scored 34 points. He’s been the back up big men all season, but Dave Rice may need to slide Morgan to the perimeter.
Aside from Morgan’s 20 of 80 shooting on two-point jumpers (per Hoop Math), he should be able to provide quality time on the wing if needed. He’s shown he can be a slasher at times, and he should be able to defend on the outside.
His major problem has been foul trouble; Morgan averages 6.3 fouls per 40 minutes, the highest rate in the Mountain West. That could prove costly, as Goodluck Okonoboh, Chris Wood and Jordan Cornish all have high foul rates as well.
Those four players have fouled out a combined five times this season and have finished games with four fouls 17 times. UNLV could be relying on the walk-ons for significant minutes if foul trouble persists, or worse another injury strikes UNLV.
It wouldn’t be the first time a college team has finished a game with less than five players, as Southern Miss lost in overtime to Florida International in overtime with four guys on the floor.
The game will tip at 7:00 p.m. PST from The Event Center in San Jose State. Spartan seniors Jaleel Williams and Devante Wilson will be honored on senior night. KenPom.com gives UNLV a 72-56 win.