#28 UNLV: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #28
Conference Rank: #3 Mountain West Conference
2009-10: 25-9, 11-5
2009-10 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Lon Kruger (137-62 at UNLV, 455-295 overall)
It was nearly UNLV, not Northern Iowa, who would have taken on Kansas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. While the Panthers ended up being the darlings of the tournament, it just as well could have been the Runnin’ Rebels. This season should be no different as the Rebels are among the favorites in a very, very good Mountain West Conference and will be a very dangerous team from day one.
Key Losses: G Steve Jones, F Darris Santee, F Matt Shaw
Quintrell Thomas did not play too much during his freshman campaign at Kansas, but he is a solid big man who will help replace the interior presence of Darris Santee. Thomas did earn one start as a freshman at KU and ended the season averaging 1.5 points and 2.0 rebounds. With a year on the bench at UNLV, he should be ready to play a big role. Carlos Lopez spent last season on the bench as well as a redshirt freshman. At 6-11, Lopez has great size and spent last year adding bulk to his big frame. The lone incoming freshman is wing Karam Mashour. With some unexpected losses on the perimeter, he could play a bigger role than once thought.
The season ending injury to Kendall Wallace will hurt. Wallace only started nine games last year, but he was a great shooter off of the bench, a role which he would have played again this season. Now there is nobody left to take over that job. However, a starting trio of Oscar Bellfield, Tre’Von Willis and Derrick Jasper is pretty impressive. Bellfield is the only one of those players who is a consistent outside shooting threat, but he also needs to spend time running the point. His ability to attack the basket, hang onto the ball and hit the outside shot makes him a dynamic player, but without more shooters, he may be easier to guard. Jasper is not a shooter, but he did prove to be a very valuable player after gaining eligibility in the middle of last season following a transfer from Kentucky. He is not a great scorer, but his ability to do a little bit of everything makes a great small forward. Anthony Marshall will now likely be the sixth man on this team, but he plays more like Jasper than Bellfield. While that is not a bad thing, it does leave the Rebels without a shooter to provide a spark off the bench.
The good news is the Rebels have a shooter in the frontcourt. Chace Stanback is really a wing, but plays the power forward spot since he is 6-8 and UNLV has more talent on the perimeter than they do in the paint. Stanback only connected on 30.9 percent of his attempts last season, but just the threat of him shooting from the outside makes him extremely difficult to defend. He can simply dribble by most power forwards who defend him out to the arc or shoot over smaller opponents. Stanback is also this team’s best rebounder averaging 5.8 per game on top of his 10.7 points. The problem in the paint may be Brice Massamba. Last year Massamaba and Santee split most of the minutes at the five spot. While Massamba is a decent interior scorer, he is not the best rebounder around. That could turn into a big problem if Thomas and Lopez are not ready to contribute major minutes.
Who to Watch:
Willis has had an interesting and seemingly never ending summer. That is good for most college students, but not so much for those awaiting word on their collegiate eligibility. With Willis back for all but a few games, UNLV has one of the best slashers in the game at their disposal and a team with a leader. Without Willis, an NCAA Tournament bid would be much more difficult. Fortunately for the Rebels, Willis’ situation is behind him and he will continue to be one of the best productive players in the conference.
UNLV has turned into a contender year in and out year once again. And in a conference that will likely get more teams dancing than the Pac-10, the competition is much stiffer than most outsiders want to believe. That is a good thing and a bad thing for the Rebels. There may be little room for error in conference and non-conference play and even three games without Willis could be a big blow.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Oscar Bellfield, Junior, Guard, 9.3 ppg
Tre’Von Willis, Senior, Guard, 17.2 ppg
Derrick Jasper, Senior, Guard, 6.7 ppg
Chace Stanback, Junior, Guard, 10.7 ppg
Brice Massamba, Junior, Center, 4.6 ppg
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