Projecting Your College Team - UNLV Runnin' Rebels
As most of you know, UNLV competes in the Mountain West Conference. Last year was the best year in conference history as a record five teams made the NCAA Tournament. Yet, only two teams won a game (Colorado State and San Diego State), and no teams made the Sweet Sixteen.
UNLV was a preseason sleeper pick for the Final Four by some analysts due to the overall talent level on the roster. An article appeared on ESPN saying that UNLV would have the best frontcourt in college basketball with Mike Moser, Anthony Bennett, and Khem Birch. If that wasn't enough, Quintrell Thomas and Carlos Lopez-Sosa could start on a lot of teams. Their backcourt was pretty formidable with Anthony Marshall, Katin Reinhardt, Bryce Dejean-Jones, and Justin Hawkins. As you all know, things didn't work out last year, and UNLV lost in the first round of the tournament to California. The talent never gelled, and there were big chemistry problems on the team.
Enough of last year. Lets get to this year. The Rebels lose three seniors in Justin Hawkins, Anthony Marshall, and Quintrell Thomas. They lose freshmen Anthony Bennett to the NBA Draft and Katin Reinhardt to a transfer to USC. Mike Moser, a junior, transferred to Oregon to increase his chances of playing in the NBA. The Rebels bring in Dantley Walker, a 2011 signee from Panaca, Nevada who is returning from a two year mission. He played weak competition, but he had a historic high school career in the state of Nevada. They also bring in Christian Wood and Kendall Smith, two ESPN 100 recruits in the class of 2013. Wood is a big with excellent range and length. He has to get stronger. Smith is a good scorer and passer. He needs to better shot. Roscoe Smith becomes eligible after transferring from UCONN. He'll bring defense and leadership, something the Rebels lacked at the four spot last season between Bennett and Moser. Transfers Jelan Kendrick and DeVille Smith will likely be in the starting lineup. I think Smith is under the radar since he played JUCO last year. Kendrick appears to have gotten his head on straight which should give the competition problems.
Key returnees are Khem Birch, Bryce Dejean-Jones, Savon Goodman, and Carlos Lopez-Sosa. Birch was the Defensive Player of the Year in the Mountain West last season. He changes the way offenses operate as well as how the Rebels defense operates. Dejean-Jones is a scorer who took less bad shots as the season went along. I think his efficiency is going to go through the roof next year. He's also a very good defender. He's also moving to the shooting guard position with the transfer of Katin Reinhardt. Goodman was hardly used last year, but he'll have a much bigger role this year. His energy level is contagious. He also brings much needed toughness to the floor. Lopez-Sosa is a good big to have off the bench. His has good post moves, and he's an excellent passer out of the post.
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG - DeVille Smith - JR
SG - Bryce Dejean-Jones - JR
SF - Jelan Kendrick - JR
PF - Roscoe Smith - JR
C - Khem Birch - JR
SF - Savon Goodman - SO
PF/C - Carlos-Lopez-Sosa - SR
PG/SG - Kendall Smith - FR
PF - Christian Wood - FR
C - Demetris Morant - FR
PG - Daquan Cook - SO
PG/SG - Dantley Walker - FR
The 2013-14 Rebel team is one built to play uptempo basketball. They will push the ball off missed baskets. They will also utilize a full court press after made baskets, free throws, and dead balls.
Projected Finish: 25-6, 1st in the Mountain West, and a 3-5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. UNLV has cleaned house this offseason. Dave Rice's mantra is "believe or leave." He didn't guarantee Mike Moser or Katin Reinhardt anything except for the opportunity to compete for minutes, and they left as a result. I believe that this year's team will actually play as a team and for one another. Last year's team didn't do that. I believe that Dave Rice finally shows what he can do as a head coach now that he can run exactly what he wants to. I think the Rebels will win at least one game in the NCAA Tournament, possibly two.