UNLV Runnin’ Rebels
Overall Rank: #28
Conference Rank: #1 MWC
2007-08: 27-8, 12-4, 2nd
2007-08 postseason: NCAA
The Mountain West Conference had a good 2007-2008 campaign and should again in 2008-2009. And once again UNLV will be towards the top. The Runnin’ Rebels return three starters from the team that fell in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to the eventual national champions. Coach Lon Kruger has done a great job building the program up over the last few years. If that trend continues, UNLV will be tough to stop.
But they will have to do it without Curtis Terry and Corey Bailey. Terry did a little bit of everything and averaged 11.1 points, 4.8 assists and 3.3 rebounds during his senior season. His overall numbers might be replaceable, but it will take three people to do it. Bailey, a forward, rarely put up huge numbers, but he was a steady force under the basket. Troy Cage and Marcus Lawrence have also wrapped up their collegiate careers at UNLV.
The Rebels need to find some depth in the frontcourt, and preferably a starter as well. Beas Hamga should fit into that starter role. The 7-0 center could have been a major contributor last year, but he redshirted. With that year in the program, Hamga will be prepared. He has some work to do on the offensive end, but on the other side of the court he is dominating. The lack of experience might slow Hamga for a little while, but the Cameroonian will come around sooner rather than later. Junior college transfer Darris Santee and incoming freshman Brice Massamba hope to provide some much needed depth in the paint. On the wing the newcomers are DeShawn Mitchell and Tre’Von Willis. Willis appeared in 17 games and averaged 2.6 points with Memphis two years ago. Point guard Oscar Bellfield is a nice pickup for the Rebels. With the absence of Lawrence, Bellfield could see some quality playing time as the backup point guard.
Who to Watch:
Bellfield will learn the ropes from Wink Adams. The 6-0 senior has always been a solid scoring point guard, but last year he really turned into more than just a scorer. Adams dished out 3.1 assists per game and kept the turnovers to a minimum. But it is still his scoring that makes him a great player. Adams averaged 16.9 points per game as a junior last year and he can score in just about every way imaginable. With Joe Darger on the wing, the Rebels have their other versatile scoring threat. Darger was a consistent double-digit scorer a year ago and the 6-7 senior is a solid outside shooter and a more than capable rebounder. There was a time not long ago when former walk-on Rene Rougeau was nothing but a defensive specialist. In 2007-2008, the 6-6 guard started scoring as well and ended the year averaging 9.0 points per game. He is not the shooter that a team would normally like at the two guard spot, but Adams and Darger give the team enough three-point shooting. Mareceo Rutledge and Kendall Wallace did not see too much playing time their first seasons in Las Vegas, but at least both are now experienced options who can give the starters a break.
The backcourt has plenty of talent and experience, but the same cannot be said about the frontcourt. The loss of Matt Shaw, who will red-shirt this season after tearing a ligament over the summer, is a major blow. With Rougeau being 6-6 and Darger 6-7, those two will slide up to the three and four spots, with Willis sliding into the starting lineup. While that lineup is solid, UNLV will run into problems when facing bigger opponents, or if Hamga gets into foul trouble.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Wink Adams, Senior, Guard, 16.9 points per game
Tre'Von Willis, Sophomore, Guard, DNP last season (transfer)
Rene Rougeau, Senior, Guard, 9.0 points per game
Joe Darger, Senior, Forward, 11.3 points per game
Beas Hamga, Freshman, Center, DNP last season