UNLV Basketball: 5 Reasons the Runnin' Rebels Could Be Scary Good in 2012-13
UNLV basketball doesn't have to just remember the glory days when Larry Johnson and Stacey Augmon used to dominate games at the Thomas and Mack Center to get excited.
The Runnin' Rebels are positioning themselves for this upcoming season to be considered one of the elite college basketball teams in the West.
After posting a solid 26-9 record in head coach Dave Rice's first season in Vegas, Nevada-Las Vegas is ready to move up again.
Here are five reasons why UNLV could be scary good in 2012-13.
5. Some Sweet Recruits Comin' to Campus
Dave Rice has only been on the job at UNLV for 13 months, and he just reeled in some elite-level talent in the Class of 2012.
McDonald's All-American Anthony Bennett, ESPNU's No. 1 PF among this year's recruits, just decided to come on board. He is one of the top-rated recruits in school history.
Rice also added Katin Reinhardt, a 4-star SG who is fantastic in the open court.
Plus, local PF Demetris Morant and Baltimore-native PG DaQuan Cook fill out what is an impressive group of high school commitments.
4. Significant Transfers Become Eligible
As if Rice's recruiting success wasn't enough, Rebel fans have to be jazzed about two huge transfers who will be suiting up this year.
Bryce Jones (pictured), a former 4-star SG from USC, will add an edge to the Rebels backcourt. Jones is a fierce competitor who is relentlessly in attack mode, so look for the 6'5" wing to be in the opening game starting lineup.
Former McDonald's All-American, 5-star PF Khem Birch also comes to Vegas with a lot to prove, as he only played 10 games at Pitt before leaving the team.
Like Bennett, Birch was ESPNU's No. 1 PF from the Class of 2011. He brings nice length and freakish athletic ability to the Rebels frontcourt.
If these two players play up to their reputations, take cover!
3. Nice Complementary Players on the Court
Rising senior Anthony Marshall (pictured) will most likely start for the Rebels at PG. Coming out of Mojave High School in Vegas, Marshall was described as, "the quintessential glue-type for the next level."
Marshall understands the game and plays with an in-your-grill mentality from the time he steps on the court. At 6'3", he was second on last year's team in both rebounding (5.1 RPG) and assists (4.6 APG).
Watch for Marshall to have a big final season.
Justin Hawkins, another senior guard, will still be very much in the mix this year. Hawkins played almost 25 minutes per game last year, averaging 7.9 PPG and 2.9 RPG.
Rice has plenty of options of how he can mix and match Marshall, Jones, Hawkins and Reinhardt in the backcourt.
2. Rice Has Had a Year-Plus to Implement His System
Most coaches struggle the first year or two when they take over a new position.
Heck, Coach K went 38-47 in his first three seasons at Duke.
Rice and the Rebels came out with guns blazing in his first year on the UNLV sideline.
The team posted an amazing 26-9 record in 2011-12. If it weren't for some late-season struggles (the Rebels went 5-6 in their last 11 games), Rice would have pulled off a rare 30-win first season.
He has now had time to further implement his system, and that can't do anything but help this team excel in 2012-13.
1. Mike Moser Returns for Another Year
With all of the positives that have already been mentioned, Mike Moser's return is the biggest reason that UNLV might be scary good in 2012-13.
Moser was a double-double machine (14 points/rebounds double-doubles) last year. He put up 16 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in the Rebels' upset victory over North Carolina.
Not a bad night when you are playing against Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Harrison Barnes.
Moser also was the No. 10 rebounder in the nation (10.6 RPG) while leading the Rebels in scoring by averaging 14.1 PPG.
The 6'8" rising junior is a good example of a guy who benefited from a fresh start via transferring. Moser had an almost nonexistent freshman year at UCLA, playing only 70 minutes and scoring nine points all season in 2009-10.
If Moser, Birch and Bennett can learn to blend their ridiculous talent, look for UNLV to make a very deep run in the NCAA tournament during the second half of the season.
And don't be surprised if you see them in the 2013 Final Four in Atlanta.