Better do more sprints at the end of practice. The Rebels will test your stamina.

UNLV is playing a similar style of ball that these guys used to play in the early '90s.

Lon Kruger did a good job of getting UNLV back to semi-relevance during his tenure. Now it is Dave Rice’s time. And he is turning back the clock as he intends to make every game into a sprint when you play the Rebels.

Fast thoughts from DJ

During the UNLV – San Diego State game, NBC sports who was broadcasting the game showed a list of notable alumni that came out of Nevada …

Larry Johnson, Greg Anthony, Stacey Augmon, Reggie Theus and Marcus Banks.

Apparently Stacy Augmon dunks on the recruiting trail if certain players question his playing history. Most kids don’t know his place in hoops history b/c of their age so he throws it down to prove that he had and STILL has the hops. That’s impressive for a dude who is about 40 years young.

College hoops nutcases are well aware of Tarkanian’s teams of the early ‘90s with grand-mama and their consecutive Final Four appearances. Kruger took a 7 seed Rebels team to the Sweet 16 a few years ago when his crew took down a Brian Butch-less Wisconsin team. Not sure if Butch would have helped much b/c the Rebels were stacked that year led by Kruger’s kid. The Rebels have been solid under Kruger but now they are right back where they WANT TO BE …

Runnin’ … fast … all the time.

When Dave Rice took the gig a few months ago, he assured that UNLV would get back to the old days, when they dominated during the early ‘90s. But what he also meant was that they would be literally back to the same old style of play. Sprinting, not resting, forcing the opposing teams to see who can out-run them.

This style of play was obvious during the Mountain West season opener at San Diego State who surprisingly has put together a great season so far despite the loss of Kawhi Leonard to the NBA. The Aztecs took the season opener in a dramatic fashion but the Rebels are still the favorite to take the Mountain West conference.

The Rebels have had their fair share of tests this year – Wichita State, Wisconsin, Illinois (not much of a test really) but this game was a tough one due to the road atmosphere. The game didn’t disappoint but they imposed their style of play during the 40 minutes. And it was a race at certain times during the game … literally. Here are a few observations and thoughts about this squad that popped up during the best game from this past weekend.

The Anti-Wisconsin Tempo

Anybody and anyone who pays attention to Big Ten basketball knows two things for certain … never judge Michigan State’s season until the 3rd week of March and Wisconsin plays a very slow tempo. Here is an SAT analogy with regards to tempo this season …

Wisconsin : Professor X :: UNLV : Magneto

Badgers are on the slower extreme of tempo amongst the power conferences but UNLV is the EXACT OPPOSITE. And yes, I did imply that Mountain West is a power conference from my past statement.

On a side note, the MWC isn’t really a mid-major anymore. Not if you factor in the last three seasons with the rise of SDSU, New Mexico and now the return of UNLV to prominence on the national stage.

Back to the Rebels’ tempo … they average 71.3 possessions a game. To finish the Wisconsin analogy – the Badgers play at about 59-60 possessions per game.

Dave Rice’s squad will try to run on every possession and jack up shots as quickly as possible. They will test the opponent’s ability to get back on transition b/c they will push relentlessly. If the tempo is around 68-70 possessions per game, there is a fairly high probability that these kids will make a game out of it. Four out of the five players on the court will run up and down for the entire 40 minutes.

Can you imagine them playing Missouri in the postseason??? Might as well forget shooting and decide who wins by holding races amongst all players on the court. This matchup might actually happen but there is a data point when the Rebels play a slower game. Actually there are two … and they didn’t perform that well during those games.

Against Wisconsin, the game was held to 62 possessions. The game against Wichita State was around 60 possessions. Both games resulted in a thumping of UNLV.

What makes UNLV great on offense and unique also is a little bit of their Achilles heel. Why do you ask? It is the way the essential composition of the team. Because they push the ball immediately after defensive boards, they end up getting fairly good looks from the corners. They seem to have the green light to shoot any time if they get an open look regardless of the shot clock. UNLV’s guards were jacking up shots in transition ridiculously early in the shot clock.

Even though wide open looks are justified, the Rebels aren’t a GREAT 3-point shooting team. They shoot 37.5% from the 3-point land, which is not horrible but not sure if that justifies looking for offense from beyond the arc 38.3 out of every 100 possessions.

Once again, the transition offense and excessive 3 point shooting is not just a result of the system in place … it is also due to the key players’ tendencies on this team.

UNLV hit a jackpot with Moser's transfer from UCLA.

The M and M

No, Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer don’t play for UNLV. They are still on the Twins, although Morneau might as well retire after those concussions from last season. Ok, different sports for a different day.

M and M in the Rebels’ case are Moser and Marshall – the two best players on this team. Anthony Marshall is a relentless guard who will run you out of the gym. He dominated the game against San Diego State in various ways – pushing the ball, getting open 3s in transition and slashing into the paint whenever he can.

His partner in crime is Mike Moser – a 6’8 forward who can run the floor with the best of them. But what is more impressive of Moser as displayed in San Diego was his ability to throw the outlet pass. Kevin Love during his single season at UCLA wowed the scouts and the college world with his outlet passes to Darren Collison. That season for UCLA resulted in the Final Four. Guess where Moser came from?

That’s right, UCLA. Not sure what is going on with Ben Howland’s program out in the west coast. There are several theories floating around about him losing control a little bit over the last couple seasons. Moser transferred out to Vegas and apparently Howland was fine with that b/c Reeves Nelson was slated to start for rest of the season. Reeves got in some off court trouble and that left the Bruins in dust for the year.

Moser is the perfect forward for this offense. He hits the boards and can push it up. As soon as he draws the defensive board, Marshall and Stanback just take off on the wings, which usually results in 3-point looks from the corners. Talking about Stanback, that’s another potential starter that Howland lost to the Rebels. Another area where the M/M make a huge difference is tip-ins. Their average OR is about 37%, which is certainly above average, but there is really no statistic to factor the amount of tips by these kids during the games. The play is kept alive more often than not when Moser is in the game.

Ok, so Moser, Marshall and Stanback are very agile. But who controls the ball in the crucial minutes of the game?

Half Court Offense

The free-flowing nature of this offense can get them into trouble in certain type of games. When teams take out their transition game, the Rebels look for half court offense. And they get in trouble.

There is really no true point guard that gets significant minutes on this team. Marshall handled the ball over the last five to six minutes of the game on Saturday but he wasn’t looking to run any set plays or set his teammates. Consistent cuts towards the basket are strength of this team but there doesn’t seem to be a decent flow in their half court sets.

Moser doesn’t really have a game with his back to the basket. Hawkins is a true point guard but Marshall needs the ball in his hands to be active. Movement without the ball in the half court usually involves Marshall and Stanback waiting to hit the 3s from the top of the key or the corners. That strategy won’t work against teams who play a slower tempo i.e. Wichita State and Wisconsin.

The Aztecs were able to lock down at the end of the game. Jamaal Franklin also had some sick drives to the basket including the game winning shot. At the end of the day, the game can’t be used to judge against UNLV. It was the first game of the Mountain West conference season but the Rebels will have a couple more stiff tests – mainly at The Pit against the New Mexico Lobos.

Regardless of the results, the Rebels play an exciting brand of basketball. Especially coming from a Big Ten background where 60 points a game implies bad defense and a “fast” game. So definitely check with your cable provider to get access to NBC Sports or Versus b/c they own the primary rights to all Mountain West conference games. The sprint has begun and UNLV will be there at the finish line.

3 Comments to “Better do more sprints at the end of practice. The Rebels will test your stamina.”

  1. The Rebels are certainly on the rise. However, I wouldn’t sleep on SDSU. The Aztecs have a solid team this season in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year and Coach Fisher has them playing at the top of their game. The Aztecs are the reigning champs until someone can knock them off.

  2. SDSU is an intriguing team. They play tough defense but it’ll be interesting to see if Jamaal Franklin can continue to be the GUY on that squad. They won the game against UNLV due to the home court but I agree … they’ll make the NCAA tourney.

  3. Very informative. Nice to learn more about a team runnin under the radar.

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