Sunday, October 30, 2011

Preview of exhibition game Washburn v. UNLV


Despite all of the hype surrounding the let’s run, 11.11.11 campaign, you can actually catch some UNLV basketball prior to that, starting November 1, 2011. The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels will host NCAA Div II Washburn in an exhibition matchup – meaning it will not reflect positively (or negatively) on our win-loss record.

The Runnin’ Rebels normally fluctuate between 1-2 exhibition games to start a season, and this year unfortunately its only one. The reason I say ‘unfortunately’ is because having installed a completely new coaching staff and offensive strategy, anyone in those circumstances could use as many tune-ups as they can get before the regular season.

If you believe you’ve heard of Washburn before, its because they are a familiar and regular exhibition opponent for UNLV, at least during Lon Kruger’s tenure. The Rebels have played them the last six seasons, five times as an exhibition, once as a regular season game. Although the Rebels have normally destroyed the Ichabods, the 2009-10 meeting gave a scare, as Washburn was up by 1 point late in the game, but the game ultimately was won by the Rebels 62-52. Speaking of Coach Krugers fixation on Washburn, the Ichabods aren’t finished with their exhibition schedule after meeting the Rebels this year, they’ll travel on to play Oklahoma (they are only team to face both UNLV and Oklahoma this schedule barring NCAA tournament matchups).

As with all divison II opponents, UNLV is expected to win by an impressive margin, as well as test some of the new look offense. But who are the Washburn Ichabods this year and is there anything to look forward to?

Not a ton of size – the Ichabods do not have anyone taller than 6’9”, and even that player is listed as a forward. So, you have a team with no natural center. What this means is that our big guys (Massamba and Lopez, as well as the undersized Thomas) should have their way at the basket both with rebounding and scoring.

Inexperience – the Ichabods only return 3 players from the team we faced last year, including only one starter. Not familiar whether that’s normal turnover at a D-II institution, but if it were D-I it’d be a disaster, or Utah!

Even at their media day, the Ichabods admitted they’ll have just a few weeks to have all of their new players mesh before taking on UNLV, and then Oklahoma. So, this is truly a David vs. Goliath situation.

What more can be said? Nobody has seen this Washburn team play, and expectations are low. Because of the pool of talent, UNLV likely challenged itself more in the Scarlet and Gray scrimmage, and against its own practice team.

Downsides and pitfalls to watch out for

Playing an opponent under these circumstances, here is something UNLV has to be careful of, and one they cannot avoid

1.       Run UNLV’s game plan – although this is clearly an overmatched opponent, UNLV must follow the game plan, run our offense and defense, and not let up on the gas pedal no matter what athlete is inserted into the game. The Rebels had a tendency to play down to the competition last season, I say show no mercy, win by as many as possible and show people UNLV still plays tough defense and limit their baskets, especially inside.

2.       A 10 day layoff – After this ‘tune-up’, the Rebels first official game will be ten days later. It will feel almost like a bye-week in football.  That’s a heck of a break between games, and probably isn’t a particularly great way to prepare for the season. The Rebels are going to have to find a way to stay sharp and challenge themselves when the next crack at competition comes more than a week later.
    Update: The Las Vegas Sun has reported that UNLV will host a closed scrimmage against Loyola Marymount in-between games. Not a bad compromise, but the fans miss out :(

Even though it isn't ideal circumstances, it's still UNLV basketball. Go to the game, and consider it an appetizer!

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