2013-14 College Basketball Season Preview: UNLV

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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UNLV Rebels (Last Year: 25-10, 10-6 in MWC)

2013-14 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 (Soph) or Jelan Kendrick (Jr)

SG: Bryce Dejean-Jones (Jr)/Kevin Olekaibe (Sr)

PG: DeVille Smith (Jr)/Daquan Cook (Soph)/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)

2013-14 Outlook:
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; he made pit stops at Memphis, Ole Miss and, most recently, 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 Dejean-Jones.

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 Community College, so he brings more experience to the floor. Freshman Kendall Smith will also try to work himself into the mix.

The Rebels 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 can play right away, he adds 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 Pittsburgh transfer is a long, shot-blocking presence who continues to develop his all-around offensive game. Connecticut 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 forwards that are 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 the team is destined for the NCAA Tournament bubble.

Player to Watch: Khem Birch, F/C
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)

  • Predicted MWC Finish: 4th

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