#63 UNLV Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

UNLV Rebels
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #63
Conference Rank: #3 Mountain West
For the last two years UNLV has had a lot of talent, but failed to show it on the court. Coach Marvin Menzies comes to Las Vegas after nearly a decade of success at New Mexico State. This team lost a lot of their talent from last year’s disappointing 18-15 campaign, but with Coach Menzies leading the way, UNLV has the potential to surprise a few people. Once again there is talent, but this time maybe the Rebels can start playing like a team. With a tough non-conference schedule, there will certainly be quite a few losses along the way, but by the time Mountain West action rolls around, this should be a team that can compete with anybody.
2015-16 Record: 18-15, 8-10
2015-16 Postseason: none
Coach: Marvin Menzies
Coach Record: 0-0 at UNLV, 198-111 overall
Who’s Out:
With the top seven scorers gone, Coach Menzies is basically working from scratch. Patrick McCaw was the team’s most prolific scorer at 14.7 points per game and he, along with fellow departure Ike Nwamu, was a very dangerous outside shooter. Fellow guard Jerome Seagers could knock down some shots too. The backcourt also lost big wing Jordan Cornish, who averaged 6.2 points per game during his sophomore season. The losses in the frontcourt are not any easier to swallow. Super freshman Stephen Zimmerman is gone after one year. He averaged 10.5 points and led the Rebels with 8.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. Derrick Jones, Jr. had a very good freshman year too, averaging 11.5 points and 4.5 rebounds. He too declared for the NBA Draft after his freshman campaign, but unlike Zimmerman, went undrafted. Ben Carter and Goodluck Okonboh are also moving on, leaving very little experience left on the roster.
Who’s In:
However, Coach Menzies addressed that problem by picking up five players eligible this season with at least some collegiate experience. Christian Jones and Uche Ofoegbu are both graduate transfers and that experience should see them step right into the starting lineup. Jones, a 6-7 forward, started 19 games at St. John’s last season and averaged 8.4 points and 5.2 rebounds. Uche Ofoegbu comes from San Francisco after beginning his collegiate career at SMU. Last season he averaged 9.2 points and connected on 43.5 percent of his three-point attempts. Ofoegbu will be counted on to provide much of the three-point shooting. The junior college transfers are Larry Bush, Jovan Mooring and Kris Clyburn. Mooring is a big-time scorer and was the NJCAA Division II Player of the Year. He is not going to average 26.6 points per game at UNLV, but he can be a major scoring threat whether it is in the starting lineup or as a scorer off of the bench. Clyburn is a very capable scorer on the perimeter as well. He is a consistent outside shooter and with his 6-6 frame, he can shoot over some defenders and attack the basket. There are also six incoming freshmen who will compete for playing time. Jaylan Ballou and Zion Morgan will join the backcourt. Morgan is another big guard who could crack the regular rotation, especially because of his ability to handle the ball. Ben Coupet, Cheickna Dembele, Djordjije Slifivancanin and Troy Baxter join the frontcourt. Dembele, Slifivancanin and Baxter should all see minutes. Slifivancanin has a lot of versatility and international experience and that will be important for such a young team. Baxter was a great late pickup for UNLV and he will be a very good player for the Rebels sooner or later.
Who to Watch:
UNLV returns just three players from last year’s team and one of them, Tyrell Green, played just a grand total of 39 minutes in 2015-2016. The other two should make a big impact though and will need to emerge as leaders. Jalen Poyser figures to step into the starting point guard role. Poyser averaged 5.4 points and 1.1 assists last season, but the sophomore is a very capable scorer and a pretty good passer too. Turnovers could be a problem for this group, so it will be very important that Poyser helps keep the team under control. UNLV fans have been waiting for Dwayne Morgan to break out and this should be the year. The 6-8 junior forward is a very strong rebounder and could emerge as the team’s top shot blocking threat as well. Morgan will be asked to boost his 5.5 point scoring average, but that should not be a problem with more shots to go around.
Final Projection:
This is a talented UNLV team and Coach Menzies did a great job putting together a team that can compete right away. It will take some time, but this is a team that can grind out victories and at least not get blown out. As long as the defensive intensity can remain high, the Rebels will be a very competitive team. Once they find their scorers and everybody settles into their roles, do not be surprised if UNLV finishes towards the top of the conference pecking order.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Jalen Poyser, Sophomore, Guard, 5.4 points per game
Uche Ofoegbu, Senior, Guard, 9.2 points per game (at San Francisco)
Kris Clyburn, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Christian Jones, Senior, Forward, 8.4 points per game (at St. John’s)
Dwayne Morgan, Junior, Forward, 5.5 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 78.2 (52nd in nation, 2nd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 73.5 (222, 9)
Field-Goal Percentage: 44.0 (179, 4)
Field-Goal Defense: 41.4 (68, 3)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.6 (108, 5)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 33.2 (244, 7)
Free-Throw Percentage: 68.1 (244, 10)
Rebound Margin: -0.5 (204, 9)
Assists Per Game: 15.1 (63, 1)
Turnovers Per Game: 14.1 (298, 10)