Sunday, January 6, 2013

Thanks for the good times

Friends, I've decided to end writing this fan based blog. The reason is not because my love of the Rebels has been diminished in any way, rather its only grown. The reason primarily is that I just don't have the time it takes to provide the insights that make as good as it needs to be. 

The reason I originally started this website was to provide a positive news source for Runnin' Rebels fans. At the time, the only sources were the Review Journal, and Las Vegas Sun - for newspapers, and then I had problems with all of these sources not being exactly what I wanted to read. So, I decided to start this fan based blog, and saw that many other prominent college programs had lots of blogs, and UNLV had very few. 

Since this blog was created, several things have happened that has improved the amount of information out there for Rebels fans. 1) The LV Sun has gotten a lot better; 2) Ed Graney of the RJ has stopped always crapping all over the team, and now I sometimes agree with what he says (sometimes), 3) RunRebs has become a premier place for Rebels info, 4) Twitter has brought the fans a lot closer to their favorite athletes and programs. Therefore, while I still believe RebelReign does provide a little something extra - that niche has been nicely filled by RunRebs.

The main point is that I've met a lot of great people and will possibly look to restart this website again in the future, time permitting. We're now at the most exciting part of the season (conference schedule) and Rebels fans deserve to have timely news sources - and I am confident that they now sufficiently exist in RebelReign's absence. 

Thanks for everything!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sticky Tar Heels - Observations from the loss

The basic plot of this game was whether the re-emergence of UNLV's place in college basketball could out muscle a under-performing UNC, who get a shot at revenge this time in their home arena. The end result was a 79-73 loss.

The oddsmakers kept it real, while UNLV is a fantastic basketball team most nights, and arguably loaded with as much talent as any team out west, the Runnin' Rebels were 4 point underdogs to the Tar Heels. Why? Home court advantage, they are UNC, and they were motivated. The Rebs lost the game by slightly more than the spread, but nonetheless it was a close game in the second half. Even though UNLV was the #20 team and UNC was unranked, this was in no way an "upset" as some media outlets have called it.

The statistics show that several players played well - starters, and the bench did not add enough to boost the Rebels to victory. Katin Reinhardt was particularly impressive with his 3 point shooting, as was Anthony Marshall. The ESPN commentators lauded Marshall considerably for his dominance over whatever guard matched up against him. Its tough to figure the Rebels losing a game where we had four players with double digit scoring, but Marshall, Reinhardt, Bennett, and Bryce Dejean-Jones all had production. They accounted for 59 of the Rebels 73 points (almost 81% of scoring). Anthony Bennett was not his normal self in the first half, and finished the game without hitting a signature three pointer. While the four that did score shared the load, very little else was contributed from the others whereas UNC didn't have that problem.

The other reason that the Rebels lost a game with four guys scoring in double digits, was a lack of effective defense. The Rebels played a passive lackadaisical defense in the first half, and when they did actually try UNC still managed to make their shoots look too easy. The Tar Heels shot 53% in the first half, compared to the Rebels 38%. Even with defensive adjustments in the second half, the Rebels were only able to drop the Tar Heels to 47.8% in the second half. Besides their free throw shooting, UNC just had a really good shooting night - whether or not the UNLV defense bothered them.

Telling stats in this one besides overall shooting, was the Rebels dominated rebounding (38-33) but turned the ball over far more than the Heels (17-12). While both teams shot poorly from the free throw line, UNC got themselves in the double bonus very early and had a lot more opportunities (at home) to make some. In all, they were 20 of 33, whereas the Rebels were 11 of 21. That's a nine point difference, enough to have swung the game into a Rebels victory.

Home advantage - The common notion is that playing in your home court gives you a ten point advantage, due to familiarity  lack of having to travel, and fan support. Putting that notion to work, that would explain our victory over then #1 UNC last year (by 10) and our loss this year. Clearly, had UNC played us at the Mack or even the Orleans this year, we likely would have won this game. On the subject of fan support, UNLV did have a robust fan contingent travel to Chapel Hill and watch the game - that speaks well of UNLV fans and how much they support the team. Bravo!

Splitting the series - While it still stings to lose a game when you've only had one previous loss, its is not a bad loss, its an explainable loss, and regard the 'legacy' that Anthony Marshall alluded to when referencing potentially beating UNC today - this still is a good legacy. The Rebs played UNC close today, and were not "dominated" in any way by them. Fact of the matter is nobody  has beaten UNC at home this year, and their overall home winning percentage is almost 90% over the last five years - and that's playing in the normally tough ACC. Beating UNC last year at a 'neutral' venue, and playing them close at home this year is an admirable accomplishment and is definitely improvement.

Mike Moser - It was nice to see Mike Moser back on the court, surprising since Coach Rice said it was unlikely and would be a game time decision, and Mike himself said  there was 'no way' that he would play in this game. But, having seen Mike in there you have to wonder whether it was the right decision. First, I don't believe Mike cost the Rebels the game. Had he not played we may have seen more of Savon Goodman, Quintrell Thomas, and Carlos Lopez-Sosa, but none of those guys had much going for them, so it was a wash. But, Mike was either not fully recovered, or likely a bit rusty. In just 12 minutes of playing time he picked up 5 fouls, and only contributed 3 points. That kind of fouling would make even Carlos Lopez-Sosa blush. Nobody is going to argue that having Mike Moser on your team is a bad thing, but it appears (hindsight 20-20) that it might have been better for Mike to bring him back against our next two cream-puff opponents (Chicago State and CSU Bakersfield).

Conclusion - In all likelihood just one of the players the Rebels normally count on to do big things (Justin Hawkins, Khem Birch, Quintrell Thomas, or Mike Moser) being productive would have won the game, or at least have made it a nail biter. The saying that you learn more from your mistakes then victories rings true, and the Rebels will benefit from this loss. I would say Katin Reinhardt should have confidence from his shooting, Bennett can be emboldened by his dunks on UNC, Marshall out played the Tar Heel guards, and Bryce Dejean-Jones made some difficult shots. Everyone else knows they can and have done better. The Rebels may fall a few spots in the rankings, or may fall out completely - not their fault. It all depends on who's popular among the voting group, and whether there are 25 better teams out there then the Rebels. Clearly, New Mexico has claim to one of  those spots, but it will take more from Texas and UCLA to lay claim to one given their records so far this year. UNC may have gotten back into the high 20's with this win, who knows.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Post-Holiday Points: UNLV takes Runnin' to Chapel Hill

Versus Canisius: The Runnin' Rebels were the Defendin'  Rebels beating a much improved Canisius team 89-74. If the road game against UTEP was Khem Birch's debut, this would have been his highlight reel introduction. 6 blocks, are you kidding? Of course, anyone would have guess that was possible given the comments Quintrell Thomas had made about respecting Birch's swatting abilities, combined with the many plays where he all but had a block but someone else fouled the player just before the block. Major credit as usual goes to Anthony Bennnett, who when on the court had the Rebels comfortably ahead, and seemingly not-so-much when off the court. Justin Hawkins had 3 blocks himself, among providing valuable point production. Further worth noting, is Katin Reinhardt made his living this game not at the three point line, but by driving to the hoop - something he hasn't done a ton of since high school. It was efficient and well played basketball, and came at a much higher percentage than the three attempts. Katin realizes that his 3 ball just isn't falling at the click he wants, so he's decided to change his game a bit - bravo!

Trending Rankings: The trending stories are that the MWC, who has often had 3 teams in the rankings (UNLV, New Mexico, and SDSU in ever changing order) now only has two. New Mexico dropped a home game to a South Dakota State team who had just driven 1100 miles in a bus to get to Albuquerque because their flight got canceled. This forced a lot of voters to rethink the power of New Mexico, and pushed them out of the top-25 completely. UNLV now ranks 20/17 in the polls. Foe SDSU is likely to push even higher as suffered another loss but took it to the wire against #3 Arizona (67-68) in the Hawaii classic.

Something to prove: Although basketball games shouldn't be thought of psychologically  unless its to one teams advantage, people with too much time on their hands (like me) start to think about things. UNC has a lot of advantages coming into this Saturday's game, even though they are not a ranked team anymore. #1 Revenge - any team who was bested last season in the fashion the Rebels did would want Revenge #2 Nothing to lose - with no ranking to lose, UNC can play loose, where as UNLV would likely move down in the rankings  if we lost to UNC, even though nobody has beaten them at home all season. #3

Injuries: With Mike Moser doing better, but still a few weeks away from playing, other notable injuries occurred during the Canisius game that could have some impact on the UNC game. Savon Goodman suffered a quad injury during the game that limited his playing time to 3 minutes. Anthony Marshall was limping considerably in the second half of the game. And perhaps more seriously  Bryce Dejean-Jones took a hard fall on an offensive foul that left him dazed with a cut on the side of his head. With the holiday layoff being just the right kind of healing the Rebels need facing their toughest foe yet, all hope is that everyone rests and heals up so we aren't beaten by lack of depth.

Depth: With the emergence of Khem Birch, there is a lot of depth issue the Rebels can play with. Right now I'd have to say (with Moser Injured) this is the best team they can put on the court:

Center: Khem Birch
Forward: Bryce Dejean-Jones
Forward: Anthony Bennett
Guard: Anthony Marshall
Guard: Justin Hawkins

Next in line at each major position:
Center: Quintrell Thomas
Forward: Savon Goodman
Guard: Katin Reinhardt

With Moser back - things get pretty interesting. Likely the best thing to do regardless of position is to attempt to play our best players no more than 25 minutes a game, and have more-than-capable backups play the remaining 15. This will keep legs fresh and defense intense throughout the rest of non-conference, and then the difficult conference schedule.

Happy Holidays! Looking for a little holiday magic for an inspired late-December game in North Carolina! Go Runnin' Rebels!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Summarizing the week, and reflecting

The holidays have slowed my ability to write about and document the Runnin’ Rebels – but it also lends some greater perspective when summing up UNLV’s performance over the span of a week.

Since our last update, the Rebels have faced three foes, LaVerne, UTEP, and Northern Iowa.

What was encouraging about LaVerne, was Katin Reinhardt finding his range from outside the arc (4 for 6)– something he’s attempted to do quite frequently, and unfortunately nearly as frequently missed at. Another positive is that DaQuan Cook, who had planned to burn his redshirt and get some playing time, did that in this game. He played rather well, remember – he’s a pass first pure point guard, but he can score as well. Disappointing – Carlos Lopez-Sosa, who had a significant height advantage against LaVerne’s entire roster, managed limited offense and still was in foul trouble (4 fouls in 21 minutes). I love his skill set, size and attitude, but he really needs to figure out this foul trouble issue. I’m hopeful that Lopez-Sosa will enjoy the senior bump that other Rebel big men had (Brice Massamba, Quintrell Thomas) next season, and be able to play his game without fouling.

UTEP was a tough game. The Rebels strung together two average halves of basketball, playing great defense for the first half and not so much in the second. Although the Rebels scored exactly 31 points in both halves of play, the scoring came in bunches, and then trailed off late in the game for the Rebels. This allowed a UTEP team, who found some rhythm to score 38 points in the second half and put themselves in a position to steal the game on a last second three attempt by Konner Tucker.  The reason UNLV didn’t have a stellar outing perhaps revolved around UTEPS ability to contain Anthony Bennett, or perhaps AB just having an off night on his own (maybe a little of both). They say a win is a win, and that is surely undeniable, so we’ll take it and hopefully learn from it. Further proof that UTEP is a good team, is that several nights later (while we were playing UNI) UTEP took Oregon to triple overtime, and ended up beating them. Remember, Oregon is the lone opponent who beat us this year, and unfortunately snapped a 20 game home win streak. Another note was the first appearance of Khem Birch, although he didn’t get a whole lot going this game his potential to be great was definitely visible, and would show itself the following game at home.

Back at the Thomas and Mack, the Rebels faced the University of Northern Iowa on Wednesday the 19th of Dec. We were familiar with this team from a tragic loss in the NCAA tournament a few years back. Although Northern Iowa was supposed to be a very good team, we treated them like LaVerne in the first half and destroyed them. Anthony Bennett shook off his previous funk from UTEP, and Khem Birch arrived at just the right time to challenge foes in  the paint, as well as having some good post-up moves to the basket. In the UTEP game, Coach Rice played Bennett and Birch separately – not this time. They played brilliantly together, and in the absence of Mike Moser Birch got plenty of minutes to acclimate himself to the court, and the crowd. While he officially only had 1 block, there were many a play that a foul was called where Khem clearly would have executed tremendous blocks. In addition to the block, he notched nearly a double double, and had 2 steals. 

Bennett was enjoying himself considerably out there, he was dunking, shooting the three, and even pretending to be a nimble guard. The only thing left would be for him to jump into the crowd, grab a box of popcorn, and applaud his own performance. UNI got a little close with about 7-8 minutes left, but then the Rebels put them back within a safe distance, and finished out the game strong. Anthony Marshall shot 50% from three point land (3 of 6) and was a steady leader. Noticed that Anthony’s hand was wrapped, asked him about it today and he said it was fine – so that’s good. Given the dominance of the Rebels in this game, would have liked to see DaQuan Cook play a little more, he only was in the game for 4 minutes.

Summary, and reflection:
Beating people by jaw dropping margins – One distinction between the teams that are ranked 1-10 and us in the back of the rankings, is the margin by which they beat other teams. If you look at the current #1 Duke, they’ve beaten the teams that have no chance at making the tournament by a margin of 20-50 points. Better teams, closer obviously. Same thing with #2 Michigan, and so on and so on… Nonetheless, we’ve beaten bad teams by close margins. The only blowout I can see in our schedule was against D-III LaVerne, which in all candor should be expected. Part of the problem is not being able to string two really productive halves of basketball together on the defensive and offensive end. I think that the people who contribute to the AP and Coaches’ polls look at the blowouts and see that this is a team that dominates and demoralizes an opponent rather than merely being satisfied with just beating them. Time will tell if the Rebels get the respect they deserve, if there aren’t teams ahead of us who put a whoopin’ on weak teams but have lost more difficult games than we have.

Another thing that can help our ranking, is only losing to ranked teams. Unfortunately, our lone loss was to Oregon. They looked like they could crack the top-25 before UTEP beat them. Nonetheless, they will likely make the tournament and may even get past the first round based upon the talent they have. They should also be squarely in the mix to compete with Arizona for the Pac-12 title. Oregon was one of the better teams we faced in the non-conference schedule, but they unfortunately were not a ranked team. Obviously, had we beaten Oregon and then lost to Cincinnati, we would be sitting 3-4 spots better.

Media attention / perception – The Rebels are being buoyed and held back by reality and perception.
#1 Reality – Anthony Bennett is a lottery pick., which finally got their act together, now has Bennett projected the #8th pick to Phoenix. With many national media leaders, ESPN, CNNSI, etc proclaiming Anthony Bennett freshman of the year, and the same group putting him in the conversation for player of the year regardless of class – that brings a lot of attention to the Rebels. Unfortunately, that attention somehow has not translated into an increase in the rankings, whereas last year we were arguably ‘over-ranked’ when we hit #11 after beating #1UNC.

#2 Perception – Because a lot of casual national observers are only peripherially familiar with UNLV from last year, that group only knows about Mike Moser. Given that Mike Moser’s elbow dislocation was gruesome enough  to make the national news, many are under the impression that we are substantially hampered without Mike. This may be driving the diminished rankings as well.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

UNLV pushes past CAL W76-75

It was a wild game up in Berkley, the fans were into it, and the commentators were into it – if you were watching I’m sure you were into it as well. The game was a tight one, with UNLV controlling the lead for a good majority of the game, then losing that lead in the final minutes and regaining the lead, and win by Quintrell Thomas capitalizing on an airball by Anthony Marshall.

The California Golden Bears were not the chumps we dominated last year at the Thomas and Mack. They were a competitive team who played neck and neck with the Rebels until we finished them off. The Runnin’ Rebels played very good defense against them, and freshman Anthony Bennett showed off on a regular basis during the game, dunking and showing a nice midrange game. The bulk of the scoring was taken up in this game by several players, Anthony Bennett (25 pts, 13 rebs), Bryce Dejean-Jones (22pts) and Anthony Marshall (13 pts, 4 assts, 2 stls).

Obviously, fortunate and unfortunate things happened to two players other than these stat grabbers. Mike Moser, five minutes into the game, dived for a loose ball and a Cal player landed right on his right arm, bending his elbow in a very unnatural way. Medical examination has concluded that the elbow was not fractured, but dislocated. Mike was in a tremendous amount of pain proximate to the time of injury. Preliminary indications are that he may be out 3-6 weeks, hopefully its shorter than longer, and hopefully his hip flexor issue is worked out by then as well. In the fortunate category, Quintrell Thomas was in the game largely due to Mike Mosers’ being on the bench, and perhaps also because Bryce Dejean-Jones fouled out. Quintrell made the game winning shot on a putback. Great moment for Quintrell and the Rebels to win that way on the road.

One thing that was obvious to the eye, was that the Rebels, as a team, seemed to want this victory much more than Cal did. They maybe had 1-2 players of a similar mindset willing to win by any means necessary. That doesn’t translate into the stats, but its as plain as day. Nice win against one of the better teams in the Pac-12. Certainly doesn’t make up for the home loss against Oregon, but Oregon is now on the verge of being in the top-25 (first team out). Today’s rankings have UNLV #20/17 (AP/Coaches), unfortunately see-sawed with MWC foes New Mexico (17/20) and behind San Diego State (18/15)

The next contest will be against D-III Laverne back in town, but in the Orleans. It should be a nice break and should get some of the bench players more minutes. Then, all indications are that Khem Birch will join the team for the road game at UTEP (Dec 17), with his first home game at the Mack on December 19th (Northern Iowa).  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Positives and negatives: UNLV fights for road win at Portland, W68-60

Starting out with what worked and won the game for the Rebels
Anthony Bennett, the future NBA lottery pick and UNLV’s fantastic freshman, was the rock in this game. Not only did he score the ball with authority, he was consistent in a game where consistency was lacking. His 18 points, 7 of which came as the first points in the game, kept the Rebels competitive in the absence of Mike Moser or any other scoring presence. He would have been more potent had he not been in early foul trouble in the first half, but nonetheless – he was brilliant. Making full use of his appearance on ESPNU, he began the game with an authoritative dunk, and ended it with another – posterizing the Pilot’s defender.

Justin Hawkins few in like the J-Hawk that he is, and saved this one. Playing behind from the jump, he turned the tide mid-way through the second half by putting up a barrage of three point baskets. In addition, he had some fantastic steals.

Quintrell Thomas is becoming a more reliable offensive weapon. He had 9 points and 7 rebounds (6 offensive) in 28 minutes of play.

Anthony Marshall filled out the stat sheet as well, and was the Rebels second leading scorer with 16 points. He was more reliable as well, only one turnover for the point guard and 4 assists.

The Ref’s had a large hand in the victory, citing the Pilots for many fouls and putting them in the bonus 5-6 minutes into the second half. The Rebels fine free throw shooting, although less precise than in the Thomas and Mack, was sufficient to carry the day.

Now for the bulletin board material (motivation to get better)

28-22 at the half? – And we weren't even the “28”. The Rebels anemic first half shooting came because they abandoned what worked so well in the first half of the Hawaii game – inside/outside basketball. There was plenty of runnin’ in this game, but it mostly came up short on the issue of points production. In the end, it’s a lot of energy expended, and inefficient basketball. Granted, teams will have poor shooting days, and hopefully (as was the case last night) those woes will disappear at some point during the game, but the Rebels have the talent advantage, and need to have the confidence to take and make shots that will then make more risky shots go in (if they need to be taken at all). The old phrase, work smarter, not harder, comes to mind.

Other players largely absent in the production department – besides Anthony Bennett, Justin Hawkins (second half), Anthony Marshall, and Quintrell Thomas there was very little production. If players continue to lack the ability to put points on the board, it makes it harder on the reliable scorers such as Anthony Bennett and Anthony Marshall. Teams may double those players when the get the ball, forcing the Rebels to come up with offense elsewhere. The Hawaii game featured a lot of nice backdoor cuts and layups/dunks with Savon Goodman – why not do that. Katin Reinhardt was breaking ankles out there with sick cross-overs, why not dribble penetrate to the basket, take a shot or kick to a forward for a finish? Reinhardt has proven himself a very effective catch and shoot three-point artist, why doesn't someone get him going by doing that? Any Bryce Dejean-Jones --- can someone tell me when they reclassified him as a small forward? Before the season started he was a shooting guard, now he’s rotating with the bigs, does this make any sense?

Why isn’t Lopez-Sosa playing inside? Too often Carlos Lopez-Sosa was playing on the perimeter  offensively throwing screens beyond the three point line, and defensively not near the basket. Last night, because he wasn’t matched up often enough, two of the Pilot’s taller players, Thomas Van Der Mars (6’11”) and Riley Barker (6’10”) scored with little difficulty over Quintrell Thomas (6’8”) and Anthony Bennett (6’9”). The two were a combined 8-12 from the field. Carlos Lopez-Sosa only had 1 foul in 21 minutes – which means he wasn’t working hard enough on defense. So to recap, we didn’t necessarily have a roster mismatch situation, but we created one by not having Carlos Lopez-Sosa defend those guys by the basket. I love CLS as a player, but I am not thrilled whatsoever with his shrinking role and confidence playing the 4/5.

We got outrebounded by Portland?! For a team that was top ten rebounding team, we certainly didn’t show it last night. Portland had 43 rebs, UNLV, 39. Again, perhaps having CLS inside would give us more rebounds. Portland is a scappy team, but seriously…. They average 33 rebounds a game (240th in the nation). Talent should be tempered with fundamentals, and if the fundamentals are equal, then talent should win the day.

How injured was Mike Moser? A lot was made that this game would be a homecoming for Portland native Mike Moser. The former Oregon’s Mr. Basketball was kept out of the game as a collaborative decision between coaching and medical staff. The contingent he promised of supporters showed up, and audible “Rebels” chants were heard when the Rebels finally did good things. BUT, if he was so injured that he couldn't play even a few minutes – why was he was jumping around on the sideline in street clothes? Seeing a supposedly injured player doing that leads me to two conclusions 1) not really that injured, 2) should use his head and not jump around to prevent further injury. That’s all I’m saying.

Will need to fine tune the machine to have a chance against Cal – California is supposed to have a good team this year; this likely will not be the demolition we watched at the Thomas and Mack last year. They've only lost one game to Wisconsin, and shoot and rebound the ball at a high percentage (top 50 in both categories). Provided Mike Moser is a go (maybe this is why they held him out, so he can be more healthy for this game), we will still have difficulties with them because they are a solid team and we’re playing on their court. The Rebels need to go back to what worked against Hawaii in the first half – it wasn't luck that had us playing like that, it was smart basketball and working to our strengths.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Perspective before the road trip

Hawaii v. UNLV

The Runnin' Rebels were what a pre-Khem Birch Rebels team should look like in the first half against Hawaii. Turnovers were forced, shots were blocked, defense was effective, and the Rebels worked the ball from the post to the three. It was fun basketball to watch, and I imagine the best basketball they have had the chance to play this season. Unfortunately, it could not be sustained for longer than a half.

Sitting comfortably on 49-27 half time lead the Rebels got lazy, selfish, and complacent about finishing off the Rainbow Warriors. Its understandable that a team could get that way -- this is a classic tortoise and the hare situation. Here's how things look not that bad, and then bad.

College Basketball

The Rainbow Warriors scored 8 more points than the Rebels in the second half, which it was critical the lead was 22 when the half started. If Coach Rice can get the guys to play with a reset button mentality - the score is mentally 0 to 0 after the half, then perhaps he can get a more focused effort out of them. This could apply in both really bad shooting nights in the first half, to really great ones as we saw on Saturday.

Injured Moser?

Late in Saturday's game Mike Moser re injured a groin injury that has been nagging him throughout the preseason. He is said to be a game time decision in Portland, a game in his home state. In general, the front line is playing well enough right now to not have a problem dispatching Portland, but this would be another disappointing chain of scheduling luck (previously, Canadian players couldn't participate in the Canada trip, and then the clearance came too late to prepare).

I am a huge fan of Coach Rice's recruiting tool of being able to say "If you join the Rebels, we'll schedule a road game in your hometown sometime during your career". And, I'm sure everyone hopes Mike Moser gets to play in front of all of the Mike Moser fans in Oregon who come see the Rebels. Good luck to Mike!

Tough Mountain

Thus far, the Mountain West has been a very strong conference in college basketball - maybe one of the strongest. This isn't going to be UNLV, SDSU, and  the rest of the teams. NO - There will likely be 4 tournament teams this year, and a strong argument for 5 if things continue the way they do.

Overall, the conference is 51-11 (W-L) and right now UNLV (24/20), SDSU( 23/21), and New Mexico (25/23) are ranked. Wyoming just beat our former tournament opponent, Colorado (19/19), by a score of 76-69 to stay an undefeated 8-0. Colorado State is undefeated as well at 6-0, but has yet to play a legit opponent. They'll get the chance next against Colorado - who will be angry from the Wyoming game.

So, while earlier events didn't lead me to want to revise predictions at all -- the toughness of the MWC may. Hopefully playing MWC foes helps the polls this time, not just the RPI. The only team in the MWC who doesn't have a winning record right now is Fresno State (3-3).

Thursday, November 29, 2012

UNLV vs. UC Irvine - Disappearing Apturds

Highlights courtesy of

Article by Jason Taylor

Let’s be frank - The Oregon game at the Thomas and Mack was packed solid by the Rebellion, and seemingly everybody else in town, but the game flat stunk.

For the minute, however, this fact is turning out to be a good thing, let’s hope.

Before we get to the “good thing”, let’s review.  To give perspective, we can move one game forward from the O game to the Iowa State game, and simply give measure to the crowd.  It was baffling to see that, suddenly, after one measly loss, fans disappeared.  It was a 5:00pm game on a Saturday night… Perfect!  Students can pick up their free tickets, pack the “Rebellion” sections, and still have plenty of time to hit the bars afterward.

Wrong.  I, mean - maybe they hit the bars… I dunno.  However, one thing is for sure - they didn’t fill the Rebellion sections up, or any other sections for that matter.  The T & M itself felt like a deflated whoopee cushion.  Ya… That bad. 

Before getting red-faced over fair weather fans, let’s examine why, possibly there was such a radical shift in fan energy over the course of one day, and one game.  While the reasons may be many, much of loss of enthusiasm could be described by APTRDS [Common name: Apturds] - Associative Post Traumatic Rebel Disappointment Syndrome.

While Apturds is still under investigation by the Board of Psychiatric Disorder Analysts as to whether it should be included in their official “Mental Disorder Guide”, some Rebel fans are, indeed, afflicted.

Sliver of Evidence:

Two years ago, the Rebels were off to a great start.  Hopes of healthy athletes, like Oscar Bellfield, Chace Stanback, Derrick Jasper, and Trevon Willis might deliver a long desired conference championship.  Then, came SDSU.  The Rebels went to Viejas Arena, jacked up 18 3’s, and made one - The Rebels lost by 6 points.  In the next meeting with SDSU, Rebel fans packed the Mack where the Rebels cranked out 15 more 3pt attempts and made 2, and lost again by 6 points.  Hopes of a conference championship were thereby extinguished.

The seeds of Apturds had been planted. 

Then, lessons learned… Right?  Play hard-nosed, inside-out basketball, and stop with the “jacking” fixation. So, when matched up against SDSU for the third time that season in the MWC Tournament UNLV found solid presence with Willis manning the “elbow”, and Massamba crashing to the basket.  Rebels banged and clawed their way back into a game where they were about 10 points down.  With 3 minutes left, fans then watched in awe as Stanback, Willis, and who knows who else began firing away from 3.  DJ Gay ended the game with a runner in the lane, walking away with a deserved, yet assuredly Rebel-fan-traumatic SDSU win. 

The seeds had produced a complete garden full of evidence indicating the exact nature of how to lose games, and symptoms of Apturds began:  Fans went home, never to return - until fairer weather.  Some became severely depressed; others became angry, referring to their superior foe as, “STDSU”.

With a background understanding, then, it’s easy to see how the Oregon game re-ignited the syndrome.  The Rebels attempted 30 - Yes, count them - 30 3-pointers.  Incredibly, Super-Duper-Surprisingly, the Rebels lost.

But wait… There’s more to the story.  The Rebels threw the ball away a lot (17 turnovers), which is a fairly new thing.  And then, on top of being too lazy to attack the basket, some seemed as though they thought contact with the ball caused the disappearance of all teammates.  The height of frustration was achieved when Katin Reinhardt was running wide-open, hands up on the weak side for an easy layup, but instead of receiving an easy pass, Bryce Dejean-Jones went for the glory, crashed into strong-side traffic, committing a charge.   The next basket was an Oregon 3 pointer.

The good news is, that was way, way back, in the distant past - two games ago.  The Rebels took a kick in the pants, now realize they are human, and are thankfully taking study.  The Oregon loss added merit to the Rebels’ season, hopefully.

In come the Anteaters of UC Irvine.  Now, Anteaters may not seem so intimidating, but they easily knocked a decent Nevada Wolfpack over by 14 points, took the pre-season #11 UCLA Bruins into overtime, only to lose by a single point, and then gave SMU a run for their money losing by only 5 points. 

The Anteaters seemed to have done their homework.  Oregon did a terrific job of running a stretched zone defense that provided a full court press, and they turned the Rebels over several times in a row.  Further, they dropped quickly, preventing expected fast break attempts from the Rebels.  Their zone defense caused the Rebels to settle: hence the 30 3-point attempts.  When the Rebels chose to attack, it was often with individual - rather that team - effort.  Oregon took several charges, albeit with the aid of some favorable calls, and prevented the Rebels from getting into a good flow.

Any good coach would look at what works, study film, and attempt to replicate.  So, the Anteaters attempted.  Little did they know that they would not be playing the team that played Oregon last week.  The Rebels that stepped on the floor Wednesday night were completely different.  As they threw the full-court zone press, the Rebels were patient, simply waiting for the double team to come, and threw the ball back and forth, crossing half court with ease.  Then, as they ran their zone defense, the Rebels had several lines of attack.  A favorite strategy was using Carlos Lopez-Sosa as a mid to high post receiver, who drew defenders, and then he quickly found the low post, making some great passes.  CLoSo ended up with 4 very nice assists, usually to other “bigs” - gotta’ love good interior passing!

Another strategy of attack gives segue to an overall key performance by Anthony Marshall.  While I may show bias to my pre-season predictions of AM assist “greatness”, his effort was undeniable, and admirable, ending with an “under-rated” 9 assists - I’ll explain in a moment.  Getting back to the idea of zone breaking, however, AM was especially solid and steady as a baseline receiver and distributor.  His threat to drive must be honored, and his strength is difficult to overcome, so he is able to hold ground until plays develop, and he is beginning to hit runners and shooters at their most deadly points - quietly critical.

The reason AM’s 9 assists are “under-rated”, is because he hit numerous players that had wide-open jumpers, but missed, and he fed several players in positions where the Anteaters had no other option but to foul, or give up the basket.  I saw an easy 14 assist game from our so called “non-point guard”.

AM has more work to do.  He hasn’t mastered the Kendall Marshall knack of hitting runners up ahead, and he’s still getting comfortable with timing, making the offense seem a bit stuttered at times, but the learning curve is present.  He’s a smart player who cares most about the team.  With AM, the chances are that the Rebels will get comfortable and hit their flow - and they will be seriously dangerous.

Anthony Bennett is proving more “beastly” than expected, adding another 19 points and 7 rebounds.  Importantly, many of his rebounds are coming at the offensive end where it used to seem like a miss for the Rebels was a turnover.  Not any more.  Quintrell, Moser, and Goodman add to the effect.  The Rebels have a legit chance of adding several put-backs per game - finally!  In fact, the Rebels had multiple offensive rebounds off of missed FREE THROWS against UCI.  Such a breath of fresh T&M air!

Moser’s motor is running.   Katin Reinhardt is proving a tremendous value.  Justin is even better, adding a confident offensive threat good for 8 to 10 points per game, and Savon Goodman is beginning to get more comfortable, keeping away from those baseline turnovers.  He had the back-slapping, “no you di’int” fast break dunk of the game, and 7 rebounds.

All in all, the UCI game was a great “practice” against a good team.  The impetuses of Apturds have disappeared, and Fans (you know who you are), the fair weather seems to be returning… You may re-take your seats.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Tournament aftermath: Fine tune the machine

In the games this past weekend, we saw examples of the Runnin' Rebels not working to their potential because of turnovers, excessive three point attempts (against Oregon), inability to break the full court trap (against Oregon) but most consistently throughout the four games thus far and one exhibition game - lack of an offense and defense on the interior.

The unfortunate aftermath of not beating Oregon, and then not hammering Iowa State is that UNLV will likely fall to the bottom of the Top 25, if not out entirely. Not sugarcoating anything, we deserve as much because we are not playing Runnin' Rebels basketball - not consistently anyhow.

In the 83-79 defeat against Oregon, the Rebels were behind the ball a good portion of the game, having just tied it with about a minute to go. Taking nothing away from Oregon, who is a very good basketball team - they shot better, rebounded the ball well, and turned the ball over less. The Rebels took 30 attempts at the three, and only hit 8 (26%), whereas Oregon attempted only 19 and hit only 3 (15%). The difference maker is that Oregon decided not to shoot their way out of their slump from three, and went inside and hit 9 more 2 pointers than the Rebels (18 points there). The Rebels did maintain their remarkable free throw shooting 92%. 18 turnovers really accentuated the problems, and led to the loss.

In the 82-70 win over Iowa State, the Rebels executed basically the same as they did against Oregon, minus the excessive 3 point attempts. In only 10 attempts, the rebels made 4 (40%). Turnovers remained high (but the least of any regular season game thus far) at 16.

In both games, the opponent regularly sliced through the Rebels interior defense and scored without problem. The Rebels though rarely had the opportunity to do the same, either drawing the foul or being denied entirely. In the Iowa State game, a ray of hope shined as a few times a dump off play under the basket was ran successfully, one of those times to Savon Goodman.

Although the past few seasons had the Rebels getting nearing 10 games into the season and staying perfect, the verdict on those teams is that we peaked early, and burned down the stretch. While it would be nice to have the opposite effect and really gel and turn it on come tournament time, it just doesn't feel right with the hype surrounding the team. The futher we get into March, the more people will forget about setbacks like the Oregon game. Or, we can learn a valuable lesson from this weekend.

Interior offense - With the front court that the Rebels have, as well as the ultra talented athletic guards, there is no reason why the Rebels shouldn't slice to the basket a good 30 times a game, as opposed to jacking the deep three 30 times a game. Players like Anthony Bennett will be expected to have a post game at the next level, so why not build that into the repitoire now? Not shouldering any of this on Anthony (because he's been amazing) but something needs to be worked out.

Interior defense - protecting the paint, boxing out, delivering a hard foul inside when needed - that's a cure. Provided the offense we're running is adequate to beat every opponent till we get to UNC, a major focus needs to be held on denying easy baskets. Granted, nobody wants the Rebels to have tired legs when the end of the season comes, but a little basic interior defense shouldn't burn much energy, and would have had us playing Cincinnati.

Still support - the fan turnout for the Oregon game was fantastic, the Iowa St game, likely half that. Most identifiable, the student section was very much empty - and their tickets are FREE! Still support, there is only so much basketball in a season, come to a home game if you can, even if we occasionally lose a game!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ugly victory: UNLV beats Jacksonville State 77-58

Things started ugly from the jump, with PawnStar's Chumlee announcing "Lights Please"

The key trends to take away from this game were slow-ball may be a strategy against us, Moser is back, balanced output, turnovers hurt, but rebounding doesn't, free throws down.

Slow ball - Its very simple, if your competitor likes to run, make them slower and maybe they'll falter. Falter the Rebels did not, but sputter - they did. In what's very likely to become a trend this season is teams utilizing several easily available tools to keep the game at a snails pace. Step 1 - use a lot of timeouts. Use a timeout to prevent a run, use one to waste time, and use one to lengthen the game. It seemed as though there was as much time wasted in timeout situations as there was game play. It took the crowd out of the action, and it likely added to the Rebels turnovers and miscues on the court. Step 2 - foul often. While avoiding the dreaded double bonus, the Gamecocks fouled the Rebels any chance they could, especially within the paint. This limited the Rebels to only 1 dunk (to be fair, I left with about 3 minutes to go so there may have been more dunks.) and very little post play that wasn't met with a hard foul. This made the Rebels earn it from the line, as well as a jump shooting team. In the end, it didn't hamper victory, but it made for a dull event that likely wasn't much more fun to play than it was to watch. Because the "slowball" strategy did effectively strip the Rebels of momentum, and kept the overall point total down, it is likely to be utilized by various coaches this season. The untended consequences are that the opposing team likely will not make much headway either in the slowball offensive mindset, unless of course their name is Wisconsin - whom we don't play this season (thank god).

Moser is back - Mike Moser, long lost during the end road last season and MIA in Canada is back with a vengeance, showing he can still ball and why in all likelihood he'll be in the NBA next year. Moser's offensive success started early, as he scored the first five points for the Rebels and didn't look back. As primary rebounder, he has shared those duties with Anthony Bennett - but still posted a double-double (19 pts, 10 rebs). Last seasons team was intriguing because anyone could heat up at any time, making the Rebels very dangerous and preventing double-team schemes. This year's team is definitely the same way, which is a great advantage to have. Welcome back Mike Moser - show us some new tricks you learned at the Lebron camp!

Balanced output - if you take a look at the chart below, you'll see that there is fairly even output, distribution between the players who saw action. Again, a great thing to have so many people contributing and not having to rely on 1-2 key guys every game. This chart validates the depth of the Runnin' Rebels.

Turnovers hurt - 19 turnovers certainly doesn't help. Frankly, this contest may have been a lot closer if the Jacksonville State Gamecocks had capitalized on the times the Rebels gave away the ball. Example: Lets say the Rebels turn the ball over approximately 20 times, like last night. Its not out of the question for a team to shoot 50% from the field if they are doing well. Lets say that on 10 of the turnovers the opponent scored 6 field goals, 2 three point field goals, and went to the free throw line a total of 4 times, making three attempts. That equals (6x2=12 + 2x3=6 + 3x1=3 == 21 points). I don't have the points off of turnovers stat for last night's game, but this kind of sloppiness can lead to close games that shouldn't be close.

 Rebounding doesn't hurt - Besides shooting the ball at a higher percentage than the Gamecocks, the Rebels largely won because they owned rebounding, offensively and defensively. The Rebels out-rebounded offensively 15 to 9, and defensively 26 to 15. In total, 41 to 24. Yes, we have the better athletes, but our players have a knack for being in the right place at the right time, which makes a world of difference. This is an improvement from earlier games, where the Rebels jacked up shots and had nobody there in case we missed. Great job on the rebounding!

What happened to FT%? - In the exhibition and the first game against NAU, the Rebels made full use of their time at the free throw line. Against NAU, the Rebels shot a respectable 81% from the line, whereas against Jacksonville State they shot just 72% from the line. Anthony Bennett had lost a little magic, as he was golden on the easy buckets in the first game, not so much in the second. Hopefully Coach Rice impresses how important it is to make your free throw shots, and how it wins close games for you. I was really proud of the Rebels (although didn't mention it last time). PLEASE WORK ON FT SHOOTING!

Overall - Who can hate a win? I can't. It wasn't enjoyable basketball, but we won and they didn't. We're still ranked 18th and undefeated, we handed Jacksonville State their first loss. Life goes on, hopefully it will be more entertaining against Oregon and whomever we play Saturday.


BTW, check out this Jacksonville State stupidity!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Runnin' Rebels Promo: Brotherhood

If you've been to a game - you have seen this new beautifully produced promotional spot for Runnin' Rebels Basketball. 
If you haven't, watch it - its the best Rebels video I've ever seen. You'll likely watch it over and over, I know I did. 

Jacksonville State is Saturday, go Rebels!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Beating NAU - Observations, video, and charts

(Charts and video follows story)
It was an electric atmosphere at the Thomas and Mack on Monday, November 12. 18,100 Runnin' Rebels fans showed up for what would be the highest attended home opener in UNLV history. Unlike the exhibition, the now 18/18th (both polls) ranked Runnin' Rebels dominated the way they were expected to dominate.

The keys to demoralizing NAU and creating garbage time early, was getting an early lead, and then pulling away quickly when finally challenged. The Rebels took advantage of height and athletic ability advantages, and pounded the ball inside early and often. That combined with taking less than half of the three point attempts as compared to the exhibition game - and the Rebels found their brand of basketball.

Anthony Bennett was phenomenal  He scored 22 points in only 20 minutes of play, along with hauling in 7 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 block. He could not have had a better NCAA debut. Freshman wise, Savon Goodman and Katin Reinhardt did not get to shine as they had in Canada, or the exhibition game (Reinhardt). Reinhardt led all players in minutes on the court, with 33. He scored 14, and did a host of other good things on the court. While he shot way too many very deep 3's, the most unappreciated stat I can find on him is with 33 minutes on the court, he only turned the ball over once! There was a broken play situation that especially impressed me, where he was able to rehabilitate a dead ball on the floor and then push it down the floor - the guy has skills, undoubtedly. Savon was efficient in scoring, having posted 11 points and 5 rebounds in only 16 minutes on the floor.

The need for speed - I realize that the team has often practices with an ideal of using a 10 second shot clock to condition themselves to move the ball upcourt and find a shot quickly. What I didn't expect, was how many times in real-game situations the team would move and shoot the ball with 30 seconds left on the 35 second shot clock. Obviously, the quicker you shoot the more potential possessions your team builds into the game, and we'll likely lead  the NCAA in possessions when playing this speed. But, the overall message (I thought) was to take the best shot you can, even if it comes quickly. This just seems a little too quickly, especially when some of those shots were deep threes, on a team we had a definite size advantage against, when we're up by over 20 points. I think the key to Runnin' the ball is to not allow the other team to line up their zone defense by pusing tempo, and hopefully create matchup problems as well. This will hopefully develop a lot better. I remember thinking last night - this is working fine against NAU, but if a legit team was here we'd likely be down 15.

Bryce Dejean-Jones is healing. Compared to the exhibition game, he is a heck of a lot more comfortable with his non-shooting hand. In the previous game, it was apparent from the get-go that he was in pain. In the NAU game he was making three point shots, and looked much improved. The hand is clearly still effecting him, as is the rust that came from not practicing for some time. This reared its head in the turnovers category (led UNLV players with 6). Minus that and the hand issue, I have great confidence from seeing a 70% Bryce Dejean-Jones play the way he did, and glad we got him - we'll need him.

Student section didn't get the memo - While I didn't attend nearly enough games last season, this season I've noticed something that may be new - and I don't care for it. When the opponent's team is announced, the student section faces away and chants "Rebels". I find this behavior disrespectful, when the point of a lot of fan behavior that pushes the boundaries is to be distracting, amusing, or gut reaction expressive. The student section had this coordinated during the exhibiton, but then during the NAU game only the band got the memo. Hopefully, this is a trend that will die out - because it's stupid. Stick with fatheads and mozilla - that's where the Rebellion shines.

Hamilton brothers in attendance - highly ranked Isaac Hamilton (2013) and brother Daniel Hamilton (2014) took in the game as a end to a recruting visit to UNLV, but to also watch a cousin play on the NAU squad. Although bittersweet for supporting the cousin on NAU, surely the performance by UNLV was a positive and may reap dividends down the road -- after all, what recruit wouldn't be excited about a place where a highly ranked freshman (Bennett) can go off like this in his freshman debut?

Interesting lineups - Coach Rice has mixed things up a bit, playing a two forward three guard lineup, and in the same game playing two would-be centers at the same time. What's evident is that the Runnin' Rebels are extremely deep from 1-9, but then Coach Rice has the limitation of two redshirt scholarship players (Morant and Cook) and the unavailability till late December of Khem Birch. Minutes are being spread pretty evenly, and he's trying to rely on people, and rest others more. Hopefully this builds the team concept, as well as keeps players motivated to play. Obviously, the Rebels would be hurting quite a bit with a key injury, regardless of depth - so lets hope that doesn't occur.

Here's some video(courtesy of and graphics (courtesy of statsheet) on the game:

Friday, November 9, 2012

A few words on the Dixie St game

By now, you've heard that the game was much closer than it should have been - too close for comfort. And from the standpoint that we are the 18/19th ranked team in the nation (preseason polls) and they are a division II foe who should have no realistic shot of ever beating the Rebels - yes, a close game should be considered a disappointment. But something else is true of basketball - if any one or two of another team's players gets the hot hand from 3 point range, regardless of caliber of team - that game isn't going to be a blowout. Let's talk about some pros and cons

Pros - This overtime game gave quite a few new players a taste of how the T&M faithful rally the troops when the chips are down. Bryce Dejean Jones, Anthony Bennett, Katin Reinhardt, Savon Goodman, and Daquan Cook all stepped on the court last night any played their first semi-real game for the Rebels. From a purely, was I entertained standpoint - I was thoroughly entertained. Watching a blowout is boring, people leave really early because it becomes garbage time. This game had everything, dunks, steals, big leads (nearly 20), last minute heroics, good free throw shooting that mattered, overtime, a comeback or two, and a nearly full court heave that almost went in and would have won the game. How often can a basketball fan say he gets to see all of that in one game? Almost Never.

 Besides the entertainment aspect, being placed in these situations so early in the season should be an excellent bit of experience for the players who took part. Because the game was so difficult against an inferior opponent, it gives the Rebels plenty of film to study, and ideas to get better on the defense and offensive end. The Dixie State Red Storm didn't lie down for this one, they came back after halftime wanting to beat the Rebels, and it was the Rebels that had to work to beat them - not Dixie St failing to execute and beating themselves. That has to count for something. Plus Dixie St is not some cream puff team. From what I watched, they were fundamentally sound, had great 3 point shooting, were athletic, had good defense, and played hard against the Rebels for what  turned out to be 45 minutes of basketball.

Cons - Our Rebels, given the talent and hype should have steamrolled this team, perhaps the way Kentucky steamrolled Transylvania (by nearly 50 points). The biggest concerns I had were three.
1) No defense - While there were flashes of greatness, such as steals and blocks - the way that Dixie came back was the Rebels not properly defending the man with the hot hand, as well as lack of effective interior defense. I recall at one point early in the game Coach Rice ran a lineup that didn't include either Sosa-Lopez or Thomas. The problem is when we had taller, more capable players in the game they did not deny the way they should have. Who should accept responsibility here? Obviously everyone, but the Rebels need to stop letting an opposing player with the hot hand continue to jack up points. Solution to that problem - make him Justin Hawkins' assignment if the size matches up. There is no reason in my mind to employ the old strategy used against Kobe and Jordan that "he'll get his points, its our job to make sure the rest of the team doesn't" meaning the Rebels can't be beat by one player. Also, in large part we didn't see "Runnin'" last night because of the lack of defense. It was a slower game because opportunities weren't created by defensive stops.

2) Jacking too many 3's - I believe the Rebels are cursed to overly think about three point shooting because of our NCAA record. Combine that with the enticing reason a lot of players come to UNLV - Coach Rice gives you the freedom to do the things you want to do on the court. Last night, this translated to three point shooting that was 32 to attempts, 6 makes - awful. Sure, if we make 6 more of the takes, its an 18 point blowout. But we didn't, and its likely because they are not high percentage shots. Three pointers should be the bread and butter of a team that lacks the athletic ability and size to beat the opponents in the post. UNLV is front court talent heavy - we should bully our way in there all day. If  there had only been 15 attempts last night - that would have been much more acceptable.

3) Rebounding - A small part of the Rebels Runnin' strategy is being able to shoot early in the shot clock. This is fine if  the shot is there, but the other part of the equation is having 1-2 players under the opponent's basket ready to rebound your potential miss, and to clean up the garbage. Several times last night we had nobody under the basket, and it led to unchallenged defensive rebounds. There is no reason why UNLV should not be #10 in the nation in rebounding given our elite front court.

There were also plenty of turnovers, but I'll chalk that up to the newness of the season and the makeup of our team. That number should go down the more comfortable our players get playing together.

Observation: In the minutes Bryce Dejean-Jones was in the game, he was wincing considerably when it came to the left hand. I think he's at least 3 weeks away from being 100%, and hope he doesn't feel compelled to come and play and not let it fully heal; best of luck on recovery Bryce.

Conclusion - we're still 0-0, and what the pollsters conclude about it is out of our hands. Monday will be a sell out against another crap opponent, hopefully the Rebels will be the team they're capable of, not the team they've settled on being against Dixie St. You always learn more from you're mistakes than victories - I feel they will have much more of a leg up from this exhibition, than if it had been a 30 point blowout. Go get em Monday!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The annual prediction questions: Swami Reign

In what has become an annual tradition, myself and Jason Taylor kick around a couple of intriguing questions before the season starts. A fun way to anticipate the future, and to try and keep score later. Remember to go out and support the Runnin' Rebels this Wednesday for the exhibition game!!

Marshall will fill the major role at the point guard position.  How many minutes per game will he play?  Who will get the 2nd most minutes at point?  How will his season be viewed when it's over?  Does he have a shot at the NBA?

RR: I see Marshall running the point 26-32 minutes a game. For comparisons sake, in 2010-11 Oscar Bellfield played 33mpg, and 32mpg last year. Marshall played 32 mpg last season as a shooting / scoring point guard. The reason I believe it could dip as low as 26 (or lower) is because Coach Rice knows he ran his guys into the ground last season and will try to keep fresh legs, especially at the ultra important PG position. Plus, several blowouts could give more minutes to any of our other talented guards and keep is overall average lower. 

Anthony Marshall projects to be a PG at the next level, so he will be naturally measured against all other PGs that are draft eligible. He definitely could be NBA bound if he shows versatility, durability, and the X-factor - make others better. He has a much better shot if UNLV can go deep into the tournament, and his name gets thrown around a lot (hopefully because he's doing good things). Realistically, I could see Marshall taken in the second round. 

JasonDave Rice leans on leaders... I believe AM, therefore, will be UNLV's "anchor" player this year.  I see him playing 34 minutes per game for the first 10 games.  As the season progresses and teammates "catch up", I believe those minutes will reduce during non-competitive games, giving others a chance to begin building.  When all is said and done, I see him averaging about 32-33 minutes per game.  

Surprisingly to me, it looks like DeQuan Cook will get the second most minutes at point.  I figured he may redshirt, but now I'm not guessing that will happen.  He's already put a reported 14lbs on and is showing well.  The two others that may see minutes at the point, especially if we see injury to AM or DQ, are Katin Reinhardt and Justin Hawkins.  I would imagine Rice will trust JH more, solely due to experience.  KR will, however, be an important and exciting element to the team.

I predict Marshall will be 1st Team All Conference, he'll be a Top 3-4 scorer on the team, lead the MWC in assists, be 2nd in team steals, he'll be named as an All Conference defender, and yes... I believe the words "NBA" and "Anthony Marshall" will be a topic this season.  He has a shot, especially if he can show improvement on his jumper and a controlled pace at the point... albeit the odds may be slim.

Will there be any style-of-play differences between this year and last?

RR: With an extremely talented front court, the Rebels should be a shot blocking menace with enough physical guys to control the paint. Not taking anything away from Brice, Carlos, and Quintrell, but they didn't block out enough last year (I realize Carlos was injured and out a lot of the season). Interior defense with quick outlet passes should be a UNLV signature. Defense significantly lapsed during the season, and it seems much of the defensive discpline that Lon Kruger had instilled fell by the wayside. I can envision the Coaching staff being much more hard on the team for not defending like they are capable. Also, Bennett is such a threat any team who adds a guy like that is going to have a totally different feel - this should be exciting to watch. 

Jason:  The key indicators here are the "bigs".  At BYU, Coach Rice often pulled the "5" outside for open jumpers.  This was not the case at UNLV last year.  I've heard/seen some indications that he may be returning to the BYU style:  1) Birch came to hone his skills away from the basket, making him more marketable for the NBA - yet, it looks like he'll be slotted into the "5" at UNLV.  2)  Quintrell has had some practice minutes at the "4", giving him some experience away from the basket, even though he'll likely be filling most minutes at the "5", by my estimation.  3)  Carlos has been reported as shooting several 3's, and outside shots in practice games.  

I believe all of this points to a style that will look more like a two-power-forward scheme, rather the typical "4" and "5" arrangement we ran last year.

The rest of the game will remain much the same.  High intensity man-to-man defense, and pushing the ball using the 1-5 to bring it up.  Considering the talent of the players, and the added "length" and athleticism, I expect even more Runnin', Flyin' and Dunkin'.  

Who will the top scorers be this season?  Rebounders?  Shot blockers?  3 point shooters?  Assisters?  Thieves?

RR: Backwards to forwards, Thieves - should still be Hawkins provided he's given enough minutes. 3 point shooters, Reinhardt and Bennett may be in close competition for that stat, Shot blockers, between Birch and Goodman. Rebounders, between Moser and Goodman. 

Jason:  Last year, this one was much easier for me... I predicted Moser would lead in scoring and rebounding.  This year, I believe the leading scorer could be any one of 4 guys... Marshall, Dejean-Jones, Bennett, or Moser.  If I had to select one, I would say Bennett simply due to the fact that his size will help him create consistency at the basket (and he's a decent free throw shooter), where I find it slightly more likely each of the other guys will be a bit more inconsistent game to game, especially Dejean-Jones.

Rebounders - Bennett and Moser are my favorites to grab the most overall for the season, however, when Birch comes in, I believe he'll dominate the stat.  Marshall will grab a bunch, and Savon Goodman will make a rebounding impact in the minutes he's afforded.  Overall, this is a MUCH improved rebounding team.  I believe we'll lead the MWC by a decent margin.

Blockers - Khem Birch... No question.  I predict that Birch will lead the MWC in blocks per game, and lead in the OVERALL number of blocks on the season.  That's right.  He's going to miss the first half of the season, and I'm still sayin' he'll block more shots than anybody all year in the conference.  The guy has Joel Anthony's timing, but I think he can jump another 4-6 inches higher!  This guy will change games on this notion alone.  

3 Point Shooting - This one may surprise you a bit... I think J-Hawk is going to give a run at the Shooting Percentage title for the team this year.  Katin Reinhardt will be the most exciting shooter, but Justin will be more stable and reliable than in years past.  He's playing very confidently, and has added strength and control.  Others that could do well are Bennett, Moser, and BD-J.  Even Goodman has shown flashes in practice.  Carlos is hitting some as well, but he won't lead the stat.  Moser could definitely make the Highest Number of 3's though, just figuring the number of minutes he'll play, his propensity to shoot the 3, and the fact that he's moving from power to small forward this year.  

Assists - Anthony Marshall, IN BOLD.  As stated... I believe he'll lead the MWC, and I would go so far as to say that he will break a few assist records this year - maybe even the all time MWC single season record.  Crazy?  Maybe... but I was a little crazy when I picked Mike Moser as the MWC Newcomer of the Year when he previously averaged less than one point per game at UCLA.   Again, I think he's being underestimated and I'm stickin' with it... AM will break some assist records this year, will Lead the MWC in assists, and will be in the top 25 nationally.

Steals - Marshall, Moser and J-Hawk are all strong in this area.  However, due to the number of minutes, the fact that Moser will be up top more often on defense (guarding opposing small forwards vs. power forwards) where he get's most of his steals, I have to go with Moser.

What will the team's free throw percentage be this season?  Three point percentage?  Overall shooting percentage?

RR: Free throw percentage should get higher. I think I did an analysis last season that when Coach Rice arrived at BYU, FT percentage slowly increased over his tenure. FT percentage as a team last year was 67.6% - room for improvement. A safe bet will be 72%. Three point - I think the team won't be as reliant on it, so the percentage should increase. 38%, but attempts down. Overall field goal percentage, could be right around 50% with the inside play we should see. This could be very exciting basketball - I can't wait!

JasonOur free throw percentage was affected most by "who" took our free throws.  Our best FT shooters were Wallace, Stanback, and Bellfield.  The problem is that they were rarely fouled - they had a combined 109 attempts.  Marshall had 163 attempts alone.   Then, Massamba, Lopez and Thomas combined for 246 attempts, making only 59% of those.  So, our worst shooters took the lion's share of the shots... we ended up @ 67.6% from the line.  Not Good.

Unfortunately, this will likely change little for 2013.  Carlos and Quintrell will get fouled a lot, and then Birch.  None are good FT shooters on the average.  Then, expect AM and BD-J to get to the line a lot.  Marshall shot 71% last year, and Bryce shot 64% at USC.  Bennett will get to the line as well, and I believe he's good for mid 70's on a percentage basis, and Moser will get some shots, who was a 78% shooter last year.  Reinhardt may help, but he isn't going to be shooting a ton of free throws.  This all leads to me believe that if we improve from last year, we'll be lucky to crack 70%  My guess... 69%.

3 pointers.  Last year, we were at 36.4%.  I'm a little worried about Moser, Jones, and Marshall dragging the average down, but I am hoping Bennett, J-Hawk, and Reinhardt will pull numbers up.  Losing Chase hurts big time.  The biggest help may come as we should be able to better spread the floor and get more open shots.  Prediction 36%.

Field Goal percentage.  I see this team finishing better at the rim, and doing so more often.  Last year we finished at 45.7%.  This year, I predict 49.5%.

Which categories will UNLV lead in this year in the MWC?  

RR: The Runnin' Rebels should lead all categories except points allowed - that should belong to Air Force because of their plodding pace. Check that, we'll likely not lead FT % (air force again may take it). 


Lead:  Games won.  Rebounds.  Margin of win.  Assists to made baskets ratio.  Assists.  Highest average score.  Blocks.  Steals.  

Won't win:  Free throw and 3 point percentages, and Opponents' Scoring.  

Toss up:  Field Goal Percentage

When Birch becomes eligible, who will sit the most (Q, CLo, or Birch)?

RR: I think its really going to be a matchup decision. I want so badly for Carlos to be the guy he shows flashes he can be. He's got tricks, gimmicks, and suprizingly range. But I also want the same for Quintrell. Hopefully they all get decent minutes and its just a matchup decision. 

Jason: Frankly, I don't know, other than I'm sure it won't be Birch... his defense is way too good, and his offense isn't bad either.  

Q has lost weight and added strength.  He's motivated, and will be able to defend better.  Carlos is shooting well, even from the outside, and has better offensive skills than Q.  I believe they'll get playing time according to match-ups, so my prediction is that neither will be "out" for the rest of the season as Birch comes on.  

Who will be the biggest new surprise?

RR: Just because he hasn't had the hype of our other highly ranked or anticipated players, the biggest surprise will be Savon Goodman. This guy will end up being Mike Moser 2.0. 

Jason: Savon Goodman, hands down.  He was the afterthought as he came aboard.  People were paying attention to Bennett, Birch, and Reinhardt signings, but I'm tellin' ya now, we're going to love Savon Goodman.  This guy is a workhorse: he's strong, he doesn't give attitude, and he never stops.  I was a bit disappointed that J.J. O'Brien didn't come to UNLV, but Goodman is an even better choice.  Rebounds, hustle, dunks, and a soft touch at the rim... he fills a huge thirst for the UNLV faithful.  

Which Rebels from the current roster will make it to the NBA?  When?

RR: Of the Rebels who could potentially make it to the NBA someday, right now I'd put that list at Anthony Bennett, Mike Moser, Anthony Marshall, Katin Reinhardt, Khem Birch, Carlos Lopez-Sosa, and possibly Bryce Dejean Jones. That's clearly overly optimistic, as we aren't Kansas, Kentucky, or UNC. The only guaranteed league player is Anthony Bennett, and he'll be there next year unless he enjoys playing for UNLV more than making millions of dollars. 

Jason: This is an unbelievable question.  "None", is the usual answer.  It was amazing Joel Anthony went when he only played 18 minutes per game... fortunately, he found the perfect home in Miami.  

Bennett has a very high chance, and likely within the next 2 years.  Birch and Moser both have good shots at it, again, within the next 2 years.  I believe Marshall has a shot, but I'd put him in an "outside chance" category right now, but if he develops a consistent jumper this year, I'd give him better than a 50% shot.  He'll get exposure and people will be talking about him.  Katin Reinhardt has a chance too, but I think it's too early to make a guess on him.  This may sound like a stretch, but Goodman could end up cashing in down the road too.  

How many wins will UNLV rack up this year?

RR: I'm still content with my earlier prediction of 26-5 Link before the MWC tourament. 

Jason: This may be hopeful, but if I have to guess...  33.    

What will the average 2012-13 attendance be at the T&M?  Not including the MWC Tournament, how many sell outs will the T&M have?

RR: Attendance averaged 14025 at home last year. Season ticket sales are way up, and there is some decent home games to attend. I say average will be 16,200 which is impressive given capacity is around 18,500. There were only 3-4 sell outs last year (I think), lets call it 7-8 this year.

Jason: Last year, our schedule and dates just didn't favor a large jump.  We moved from 13,200 to 14,000.  This year, the jump will come.  First, there's the recruiting attention we've received nationally.  Then, over 10,000 season tickets have been sold.  Now, we are pre-season ranked for the first time since... who knows.  Also, the Rebellion is building, and we'll see it at new levels. 

Looking at the schedule...  Last year, our first home game on a Saturday didn't come until Jan 21st.   This year, we'll have 3 Saturday home games by Dec 1st, and 7 by Jan 12th.  Further, we'll have Oregon on a Friday night at 6, vs. last year when we played a big game against Cal at 2pm on a Friday, and we'll play Northern Iowa, who beat us on a last second shot in the tournament 2 years ago. and then went on to beat Kansas.  We'll want revenge.  2 more Saturday games will be against New Mexico and SDSU... Sell Outs.

Best guess for Average T&M attendance:  16,100.  It's going to be the hottest ticket in town.  

Sell out predictions:  Opener with NAU.  Oregon.  Cincinnati.  N Iowa.  Reno.  New Mexico.  SDSU.    Total:  7