#22 UNLV Men's Basketball 2012-13 Preview

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels

2012-2013 Overall Rank: #22
Conference Rank: #2 Mountain West
UNLV Men's College Basketball 2012-2013 Team Preview
UNLV Team Page


Coach Mike Rice took UNLV to the NCAA Tournament during his first year in charge. The expectations for year two are much higher than just reaching the NCAA Tournament. The Runnin’ Rebels are a bit young, but they do not lack in talent. And this is a program that may stay young for a while. There are three players on the roster that could conceivably head to the NBA early after this season. That is just how talented this team is heading into the 2012-2013 campaign.

2011-12 Record: 26-9, 9-5
2011-12 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Dave Rice
Coach Record: 26-9 at UNLV, 26-9 overall

Who’s Out:
The expectations may be higher than last year, but UNLV does have three starters to replace. Chace Stanback is the most notable loss. The 6-8 wing averaged 12.5 points per game and added 4.4 rebounds. Stanback connected on an amazing 45.5 percent of attempts from beyond the arc and he took a lot of shots from long range. Stanback could simply shoot over most opposing defenders. The Rebels lose more size with the graduation of big man Brice Massamba. Massamba was not a particularly apt rebounder, although he could do a little scoring and ate up plenty of space in the paint with his 6-10, 240 pound frame. Oscar Bellfield often went underappreciated, but he started all 35 games during his senior season and led the team with 5.4 assists per contest. Bellfield could knock down the three-point shot and that is something the new full-time point guard cannot do. Kendall Wallace averaged just 11.3 minutes per game last year, but he was an experienced ball handler.

Who’s In:
But as important as the departed players were to the success of UNLV last year, they will not be missed too much with the great group of newcomers Coach Rice has headed to Las Vegas. It starts with incoming freshman Anthony Bennett. Ranked one of the best players in this recruiting class, the 6-8 power forward will move right into a starting role. Bennett, who turned down an offer from Kentucky, is a great athlete and a very versatile scorer. The McDonald’s All-American can knock down the long ball and bang in the paint. Speaking of McDonald’s All-American’s, Bennett is not the only UNLV newcomer to acquire that honor. Khem Birch, a transfer from Pittsburgh, will be eligible after the fall semester in December. He only played ten games at Pitt as a freshman, averaging 4.4 points and 5.0 rebounds. Even with the small sample size and the fact that he was a freshman, Birch’s stint with the Panthers was widely considered a disappointment. He will not disappoint for long, yet the expectations are just as lofty. Birch, at 6-9 and 220 pounds, will join Bennett in the starting frontcourt once he is eligible. In the meantime, Savon Goodman and Demetris Morant will get an opportunity to earn some minutes as freshmen and make a big enough impact early to stay in the regular rotation once Birch takes the floor. The newcomers on the perimeter are almost on par with Bennett and Birch in the frontcourt. Bryce Dejan-Jones spent one season at USC and the 6-5 wing should be able to build off of his 7.6 points per game average he had two years ago with the Trojans. Katin Reinhardt is a top 50 recruit who can shoot from anywhere on the floor. Add point guard Daquan Cook to the mix and the Runnin’ Rebels have one of the most talented group of newcomers in the nation.

Who to Watch:
But UNLV does not have to rely entirely on the new guys. Mike Moser, the other likely NBA player besides Bennett and Birch, is back for his junior campaign. The 6-8 forward led UNLV with 14.0 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game. With the influx of frontcourt talent, Moser does not need to average a double-double again this year, but that may not stop him anyway. Moser is a dynamic scoring threat who can do it all. He can shoot, he can score inside and he can play stellar defense. Anthony Marshall played off the ball with Bellfield starting at the point, but he did prove to be a very capable passer. In fact, Marshall proved to be more than capable at just about everything. He averaged 12.2 point, 4.5 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.5 steals. Ideally, Marshall could spend his senior season as a secondary ball handler, but that may depend on if Cook is ready to play major minutes as a freshman. If the Rebels need a point guard, Marshall will have to be their guy. Senior Justin Hawkins can run the point too. Off of the bench he provides an offensive spark with his ability to knock down the long ball and he is much like Bellfield in that regard.

Final Projection:
The depth and talent in the frontcourt is extremely impressive. Moser, Bennett and Birch form a trio that any team in the nation would love to have. Add Carlos Lopez-Sosa and Quintrell Thomas to the mix, along with the other freshmen, and Coach Rice will never lack big bodies. The only concerns are youth and the fact that the team will rely on a lot of new faces. The good news is players like Birch and Dejan-Jones were around for most or all of last season and have played with the returnees during that stretch. That just leaves a few freshmen to work into the mix. The general inexperience may come back to haunt UNLV, yet by the time it should matter the most, all of the freshmen and sophomores are practically sophomores and juniors. And when you have so much talent, it really does not matter how inexperienced a team may be. All that matters is that they play well together.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Justin Hawkins, Senior, Guard, 7.9 points per game
Anthony Marshall, Senior, Guard, 12.2 points per game
Mike Moser, Junior, Forward, 14.0 points per game
Anthony Bennett, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Carlos Lopez-Sosa, Junior, Forward, 5.4 points per game

Madness 2013 NBA Draft Rankings:
#84 Mike Moser
#94 Khem Birch

Madness 2012 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#7 Anthony Bennett
#44 Katin Reinhardt
#69 Savon Goodman