Top 68 Team Previews: #32 UNLV Runnin' Rebels
Chace Stanback hopes to lead the Runnin' Rebels to a Mountain West title. (Icon SMI)
By Mark Cunningham
Sunday, September 18, 2011
UNLV Runnin' Rebels
Last Season: 24-9 (11-5)
Key Losses: Tre'Von Willis, Derrick Jasper
Head Coach: Dave Rice
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Anthony Marshall 6-3 Jr.
SG: Oscar Bellfield 6-2 Sr.
SF: Mike Moser 6-8 So.
PF: Chace Stanback 6-8 Sr.
C: Carlos Lopez 6-11 So.
Key Reserves: Quintrell Thomas 6-8 Jr. PF, Justin Hawkins 6-3 Jr. SG, Brice Massamba 6-10 Sr. C, Reggie Smith 6-0 So. PG, Kendall Wallace 6-4 Sr. SG
Expectations are high in Las Vegas as the Runnin' Rebels prepare for life after Lon Kruger. After seven seasons in Paradise, Kruger bolted for Oklahoma to replace Jeff Capel. Popular consensus seemed to be that former Rebel Reggie Theus would be tabbed as Kruger's successor. A former Rebel was chosen, but it was Dave Rice who is now running the show just off the Strip. Prior to recruiting Jimmer Fredette at BYU, Rice was an assistant at UNLV from the time he graduated until 2004.
Rice lured Stacey Augmon, third on UNLV's all-time scoring list, to be his assistant. Both were members of Jerry Tarkanian's 1990 National Championship team and hope to restore an up-tempo offense at the Thomas & Mack Center.
A veteran-laden squad returns four starters from the 8th-seeded NCAA tournament team which never truly competed against Illinois in the Round of 64 last March. Second-Team All-Mountain West shooting guard Tre'Von Willis departs, but a formidable backcourt duo of Anthony Marshall and Oscar Bellfield remains. The tandem combined to average almost 21 points and seven assists per game last year. Bellfield, a Third-Team All-MWC award recipient, is one of the best 3-point specialists in the conference and will find himself playing off the ball this season after serving three years as the starting point guard.
"I still want to distribute the ball," Bellifeld said. "But I'll do whatever it takes for us to win and for our team to have that chemistry."
Rice's uptempo offensive philosophy ideally fits Marshall's game, but the 6-foot-3 junior will have to impress before the fall semester is over and competition looms.
Marquette-transfer and sophomore point guard Reggie Smith won't be eligible to play until December, but he's already impressed watching his future running mates, recently tweeting: “This is a special team…..feeling really good about this.” Reggie, if you're reading, your teammates are just as impressed with your skill set. If having three quality point guards is the worst problem Rice encounters, it will be a fun few months in Paradise this season.
Carlos Lopez looks to provide the luxury of a true center for the aforementioned guards. UCLA-transfer Mike Moser and Third-Team All-MWC senior Chace Stanback round out the frontcourt. The starting five certainly provides some more height than the group that bowed out of the NCAAs against the Fighting Illini. One of Rice's initial decisions of his head coaching career will be how to discipline Stanback, who was arrested for driving under the influence in May.
One notable absence from Rice's rotation will be freshmen – or even one freshman. Shooting guard Dantley Walker was the solo commit from the class of 2011 but will embark on a two-year Mormon mission before dressing in scarlet and grey. The Nevada-native has drawn comparisons to Jimmer and is a name to keep in mind down the road.
The 2011-12 campaign figures to be an interesting one for Mountain West basketball. The nine-team conference is smaller for this season only. An eight-team league will be without BYU and Utah, who have departed to the WCC and Pac-12, respectively. However, Boise State is in, with Fresno State and Nevada slated for a 2012-13 arrival.
The Rebels are loaded and anything less than a Mountain West title would have to be considered an underachievement. Last year, the Rebs went 3-1 against high majors. A non-conference schedule of USC, North Carolina/South Carolina, Wichita State, Wisconsin, Illinois and California awaits Rice and Co. this time around. A few impressive victories could have the Rebels runnin' to a Top 25 poll nearest you.