The UNLV Runnin' Rebels are in several publications' preseason Top 25 rankings, largely on the strength of an absurdly loaded frontcourt. Some early games, however, may be more difficult than expected due to a key injury in the backcourt.
Shooting guard Bryce Dejean-Jones is expected to be in a cast for four to six weeks after suffering fractures in his left hand during a team workout on Thursday, according to the Las Vegas Sun. Dejean-Jones broke the bones that lead to the middle and ring fingers on his non-shooting hand.
UNLV begins its regular-season schedule on November 12 with a home game against Northern Arizona. Following that, Jacksonville State visits, followed by host duties at the Global Sports Classic. The Rebels will play Oregon on November 23 and either Iowa State or Cincinnati the following day.
If the more optimistic projection holds true, Dejean-Jones could be out of his cast well before the season opener. The games against NAU and Jacksonville should not pose major challenges to the Rebels, but the opposition at the GSC is a different story, especially if Dejean-Jones is a slow healer.
Oregon has more than enough size to compete with the Rebels' frontcourt, and Dejean-Jones' perimeter shooting will be needed to spread the floor.
Iowa State led the Big 12 in three-point defense last season, and even if Dejean-Jones is back he'll need to shake off the rust quickly to succeed against the Cyclones' tenacious defense.
Cincinnati is likewise a strong defensive squad, but may lack the size needed to compete with the Rebels' bigs.
Injuries are always an inopportune visitor to preseason practices, but Dejean-Jones' broken hand should at least heal early enough for the Rebels to escape the worst effects.