Welcome to The Sports Bank’s fourth annual college basketball season preview series where we break 111 teams in the 111 days leading up to the opening tip-off of the 2013-2014 season. We will rank the 84 power conference teams (including the new Big East and American Athletic Conferences) and top 27 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order. We’ll break down rosters, transfers, incoming freshmen, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.
The UNLV Rebels lose six of their top eight scorers from last year so it will be a bit of a rebuilding year in Sin City.
Last Season: 3rd, 10-6 in MWC, 25-10 overall
Predicted MWC Finish: 4th
Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Khem Birch (Jr)/Carlos Lopez-Sosa (Sr)/Christian Wood (Fr)
F: Roscoe Smith (Sr)/Demetris Morant (Fr)/Jamal Aytes (Fr)
SF: Savon Goodman (So)/Jelan Kendrick (Jr)
SG: Bryce Dejean-Jones (Jr)/Kevin Olekaibe (Sr)
PG: DeVille Smith (Jr)/Daquan Cook (So)/Kendall Smith (Fr)
Gone: PF-Anthony Bennett, PG-Anthony Marshall, G-Justin Hawkins, F/C-Quintrell Thomas, SG-Katin Reinhardt (transfer-USC), F-Mike Moser (transfer-Washington)
The early exit of Anthony Bennett to the NBA and transfers of Katin Reinhardt and Mike Moser leave UNLV in a transition year. Bryce Dejean-Jones is the team’s top returning scorer. He is an extremely athletic wing but a high volume shooter who must not be as trigger happy this season even though he should be the Rebels’ go-to offensive option.
The highly talented and much traveled Jalen Kendrick adds scoring punch on the wing. UNLV is his fourth college in as many years, having made pit stops at Memphis, Ole Miss, and most recently at Indian Hills Junior College. Kendrick is a former McDonald’s All-American so the ability is certainly there; the question is whether or not he has matured enough to be a reliable contributor. Kendrick and athletic small forward Savon Goodman figure to compete for a starting spot along BD-J.
Point guard is easily the biggest question mark for head coach Dave Rice. Daquan Cook played sparingly a year ago as a freshman and JUCO transfer DeVille Smith might have the leg up in the position battle. Smith spent his freshman season at Mississippi State before spending a year at Southwest Mississippi CC so he brings more experience to the floor. Freshman Kendall Smith will also try to work himself into the mix.
The Rebs are still awaiting word on the eligibility of Fresno State transfer Kevin Olekaibe. He has reportedly applied for an NCAA waiver to play right away rather than having to sit out a year. If Olekaibe is able to suit up this season, he would add needed depth experience at the two guard.
There are four new faces in the frontcourt as well but Khem Birch will anchor the interior. The former Pitt transfer is a long, shot blocking presence who continues to develop his all-around offensive game. UConn transfer Roscoe Smith provides athleticism after sitting out last season and fits the UNLV up-tempo style of play.
There will be competition off the bench as redshirt freshman Demetris Morant and true freshmen Christian Wood and Jamal Aytes try to outplay veteran Carlos Lopez-Sosa for minutes off the bench. Lopez-Sosa brings needed size to the middle while Aytes is an undersized power forward. Wood and Morant are the long, athletic power forward that is standard for UNLV.
With eight guys on the roster who didn’t play a single minute in a UNLV uniform last season, chemistry will be a concern. Rice will look to push the ball at every opportunity but until a point emerges from the group, even that is a concern. As a result, I’m putting the UNLV Rebels a notch below New Mexico, Boise State, and San Diego State in the Mountain West and think they are destined for the NCAA Tournament bubble.
Player to Watch: Khem Birch
Birch only played about 22 minutes per game last year but averaged solid numbers at 7.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks. With Bennett and Moser gone, he will certainly see an increase in minutes and touches which could put him near a double-double a night and above three blocks per game.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/19 vs. Arizona State
11/26 vs. Illinois
12/7 at Arizona
12/23 vs. Mississippi State/South Florida (Las Vegas Invitational)
OTHER 111 IN 111’S:
#56 Saint Mary’s
#60 Florida Gulf Coast
#64 Florida State
#66 N.C. State
#67 Kansas State
#70 Miami FL
#72 Texas A&M
#73 Long Beach State
#76 Indiana State
#77 Georgia Tech
#84 Washington State
#86 Oregon State
#87 Louisiana Tech
#89 Wake Forest
#90 Central Florida
#95 Seton Hall
#97 George Mason
#99 Penn State
#101 West Virginia
#102 South Florida
#103 Mississippi State
#105 South Carolina
#106 Texas Tech
#108 Virginia Tech
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu to Milwaukee. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet , AND the second most accurate 2013 NBA Mock Draft. (Yup, nearly 3peat champ… #humblebrag.)
You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.Powered by Sidelines Follow paulmbanks