#41 UNLV Men's Basketball 2014-2015 Preview

UNLV Rebels

2014-2015 Overall Rank: #41
Conference Rank:  #2 Mountain West

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UNLV is climbing up the national rankings as a force in college basketball.  Last season the Rebels finished tied for third in the Mountain West.  After a slow start, UNLV started taking care of business leading up to conference play.  They were a little inconsistent in league play, but they won 10 of 18 games, including a strong win against New Mexico that solidified them as competitors.  While they did not best San Diego State, the class of the conference, they can clearly vie for a title.  Especially after the recruiting class head coach Dave Rice brought in.

2013-2014 record:  20-13, 10-8 Mountain West Conference
2013-2014 postseason:  None
Coach:  Dave Rice
Coach Record:  71-32 (29-19 conference)

Who’s Out:
The tough losses for the Rebels this season will be the departure of Khem Birch and Roscoe Smith, who declared for the NBA draft after last season.  They were key cogs in the team’s success last season.  Both averaged double-doubles and were first and third in minutes played, respectively.  Birch was a physical, athletic player that could attack the glass.  Smith, the team’s leading rebounder, shot well over 50% from the field.  Leading scorer Bryce Dejean-Jones departs as well.  Perhaps worse, Daquan Cook, a talented guard on the current roster, is out with an ACL tear.  That will be a big blow for a player who was certainly going to have an increased role.

Who’s In:
Unquestionably, Rice and his staff has brought in one of the most talented recruiting classes in the country.  Generally regarded as a top-12 class, the Rebels have a five-man group that will instantly replenish the roster holes.  The experience from the departed players will be difficult to replace, but the talent level in this class is phenomenal.  There are two 5-star recruits, guard Rashad Vaughn and small forward Dwayne Morgan.  Add in center Goodluck Okonoboh and the Rebels are set up for a strong season.  Patrick McCaw and Jordan Cornish are two shooting guards that round out a stellar class. Senior point guard Cody Doolin, a transfer from San Francisco, will add veteran leadership to a young team.

Who to Watch:
Rashad Vaughn is a star in the making.  He will likely start right away and make an impact.  Vaughn is a top-5 shooting guard that played his high school ball at Findlay Prep, right in UNLV’s backyard.  He is an athletic 6-5 slasher that can make things happen with the ball in his hands.  He has a chance to be the team’s leading scorer and is a safe bet for conference rookie of the year.  Jelan Kendrick, a reliable reserve last season, will also be leaned on for on-the-court leadership.  Look for his averages to increase this year as well.

Final Projection:
It’s not exactly the glory years of UNLV basketball under Jerry Tarkanian, but Dave Rice must feel pretty good about the trajectory of his program at this point.  With three 20-win seasons under his belt, his next goal has to be winning the Mountain West.  It is going to be very difficult to outplay reigning conference king San Diego State for an entire season.  But if anyone can do it, UNLV is in just as good of a position as New Mexico to challenge the Aztecs.  Vaughn should make a difference right away with the rest of the freshmen class adding a ton of valuable minutes.  They missed the NCAA tournament last season.  That appears to be a hiccup in what looks like a very strong regime under Rice.

Projected Postseason Tournament:  NCAA Tournament

Projected Starting Five:
Cody Doolin, Senior, Guard, DNP last season
Jelan Kendrick, Senior, Guard, 6.3 points per game
Dwayne Morgan, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Christian Wood, Sophomore, Forward, 4.5 points per game
Goodluck Okonoboh, Freshman, Center , DNP last season

By the numbers:
Scoring Offense: 71.4 (160th in nation, 6th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 65.6 (64, 3)
Field-Goal Percentage: 43.8 (195, 5)
Field-Goal Defense: 40.3 (33, 3)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.9 (198, 7)  
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 32.9 (224, 10)
Free-Throw Percentage: 65.4 (309, 11)
Rebound Margin: 3.4 (65, 6)
Assists Per Game: 13.2 (121, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.1 (62, 9)

Madness 2015 NBA Draft Rankings:
#24 Rashad Vaughn

Madness 2014 Men’s Basketball Recruiting:
#13 Rashad Vaughn
#23 Dwayne Morgan
#28 Goodluck Okonoboh


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