Mountain West (21-10, 9-7)
NIT Seed: #5
Big Wins: 12/31 at Louisville (56-55), 1/21 at BYU (76-70), 1/24 Utah (75-65)
Bad Losses: 1/10 at TCU (73-80), 1/14 at Colorado State (69-71), 2/18 at Wyoming (68-77)
Coach: Lon Kruger
Wink Adams, Senior, Guard, 14.3 ppg, 2.8 apg, 4.1 rpg
Oscar Bellield, Freshman, Guard, 6.2 ppg, 3.3 apg
Tre’Von Willis, Sophomore, Guard, 11.7 ppg, 3.3 apg, 4.3 rpg
Rene Rougeau, Senior, Guard, 11.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 2.1 bpg
Joe Darger, Senior, Forward, 9.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg
Brice Massamba, Freshman, Center, 2.1 ppg, 1.3 rpg
Mareceo Rutledge, Senior, Guard, 4.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg
Darris Santee, Junior, Forward, 5.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg
Kendall Wallace, Sophomore, Guard, 4.5 ppg, 1.6 rpg
Why They Can Surprise:
UNLV has gone widely unnoticed with their steady offense. Once again the Rebels are a team that will take care of the ball, ranking 25th in the nation with just 11.9 turnovers per contest. They also share the ball quite well and rank in the top 40 in assist-to-turnover ratio. Wink Adams and Tre’Von Willis are the catalysts. While both will have the occasional bout of turnovers, in general the backcourt duo does a great job creating for their teammates and keeping the turnovers to a minimum. Adams and Willis are also the top two scorers on the team.
But do not forget about freshman Oscar Bellfield. He might be the best ball handler on the team. The part-time starter has the best assist-to-turnover ratio on the Rebels. Once he learns how to do a little more scoring Bellfield will be a star in the Mountain West Conference. For now he is another steadying force in the backcourt who will come in very handy when the opposition starts putting pressure on UNLV.
Why They Can Disappoint:
Forward Joe Darger is the best outside shooter of the group, knocking down 2.4 long balls per game. His ability to stretch the defense is very important, but he spends just about all of his time hanging around the perimeter. That leaves Darris Santee as the lone big man in the paint, and late in the year Coach Lon Kruger opted for a smaller, quicker lineup, and the rebounding numbers suffer because of it. The Runnin’ Rebels are consistently outrebounded. At 6-10 and 255 pounds, freshman center Brice Massamba will be the answer, but he is only averaging 9.3 minutes per game. If he can step up his game in March and neutralize the disadvantage on the glass, UNLV can take advantage of their extra possessions due to the lack of turnovers and pull off an upset.
Who To Watch:
Rene Rougeau is one of the best stories in college basketball. The former walk-on who did not even start on his high school team has turned into one of the most versatile and productive players in the Mountain West. The 6-6 wing averaged 11.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, 1.7 assists and 1.5 steals during his senior campaign. And his greatest asset to the Rebels is his defense. Rougeau’s versatility makes him a tough match-up on both ends of the floor and he always makes his teammates better. As long as Rougeau is doing what he always does and Adams, Willis and Darger are hitting their shots, Coach Lon Kruger’s team is very dangerous.
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 69.4 (145th in nation, 5th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 64.0 (81, 3)
Field-Goal Percentage: 42.5 (231, 9)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.2 (117, 6)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.7 (55, 1)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.0 (130, 8)
Free-Throw Percentage: 68.2 (191, 8)
Rebound Margin: -2.8 (274, 9)
Assists Per Game: 14.0 (103, 3)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.9 (25, 2)
Joel’s Bracket Says: Final Four loss to Providence