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NCAA countdown: No. 37 UNLV
Posted By HOOPSWORLD On September 19, 2013 @ 2:54 pm In NCAA,Wirenews | Comments Disabled
by Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
The first word: Dave Rice never thought he’d walk into a recruit’s house and boast about his program developing the No. 1 NBA draft pick.
That luxury became a reality for the third-year UNLV coach when Anthony Bennett, the Runnin’ Rebels’ leading scorer as a freshman last season, was shockingly selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the top pick in this past summer’s draft.
Bennett earned the affection of the Cavs’ organization and beat out plenty of household college hoops names — Victor Oladipo, Otto Porter, Cody Zeller, Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, Trey Burke, and Shabazz Muhammad — who were projected higher at one point.
The flip side of the coin is that Rice now enters 2013-14 without his best player. Additionally, starters Mike Moser and Katin Reinhardt transferred to Oregon and Southern California. In total, the Rebels lost close to 70% of their scoring from last season.
Yet somehow Rice isn’t sweating the upcoming season. Suffice it to say the Rebels will be reloaded. Connecticut transfer Roscoe Smith, a highly talented 6-8 forward, is eligible after redshirting last season and oftentimes was the best player in practice — remember that includes gyms with a future lottery pick on the floor. Smith leads a talented batch of newcomers who’ll join returning starters Bryce Dejean-Jones and Khem Birch, as UNLV figures to once again be a Mountain West Conference challenger and NCAA tourney team.
Coach’s corner: “51 wins in two years isn’t bad, but I’m at a program that’s used to constantly being nationally relevant and having success in the NCAA tournament. We play in an underrated league, and we want to be in the championship (race) each year. There can’t really be a dropoff. There’s a lot more we can do and I’m excited about our group of guys this year.” — Rice, who replaced Lon Kruger in 2011 and led UNLV to two consecutive NCAA tournaments, both early-round exits.
2012-13 in review: 25-10 overall (10-6, third in Mountain West), lost in second round of NCAA tournament to California.
Path to the Dance: At-large bid.
Conference outlook: Following a season … [For more on College basketball countdown: No. 37 UNLV, click here.]
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