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

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