USA Today's preseason college basketball poll has been released and the UNLV Runnin' Rebels came in at No. 19 in the first poll of the 2012-13 season.
Helping the Rebels land the ranking is a slew of returning talent including senior guard Anthony Marshall, junior forward Mike Moser among others and a talented group of newcomers ready to make their UNLV debut.
Incoming transfers Bryce Jones (USC) and former McDonald's All-American big man Khem Birch (PITT) and UNLV's No. 7-ranked recruiting class of 2012 (according to ESPN.com) will no doubt have as big of an impact on the Rebels this season as any returning player.
Included in UNLV's much-hyped recruiting class are No. 7 overall prospect, forward Anthony Bennett and No. 47 overall prospect, sharp-shooting Katin Reinhardt among a few other talented freshmen.
The Rebels have the talent to be ranked in the top 10 on any list, but as in any situation where you have some many new faces, the question of how the team will mesh is still a something that needs to be answered on the court.
A four-game exhibition tour of Canada that UNLV took during the summer will work to their advantage as far as meshing goes, as the Rebels went 4-0 on the trip and were able to test different lineups during the course of those games.
Bennett and Birch were both unable to play on the exhibition tour of their home country due to Bennett not being declared eligible at the time by the NCAA and Birch not being eligible until the midway point of the season due to transferring halfway through last season.
UNLV has the opportunity to open the season 11-0 before meeting the currently No. 12-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels on December 29 at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill, NC. The Rebels' biggest tests before the Tar Heels game come against Oregon at home on November 23, at California on December 9 and at UTEP on December 17.
If the Rebels win all the games they "should" then UNLV could very well be in the top 10 when they meet North Carolina at the end of December.
UNLV sparked their season last year with a big upset of then No. 1-ranked North Carolina at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. as part of the Las Vegas Invitational.
Revenge will undoubtedly be on the Tar Heels 'minds this year, but the UNLV team they will be facing this time around are better on paper than last year. The Rebels could very well come out on top once again in UNLV's marquee non-conference matchup of the season.
Rebels' head coach Dave Rice had a stellar inaugural season at the helm of UNLV amassing a record of 26-9 and being ranked as high as No. 11. Rice and the Rebels had a sour taste left in their mouths at the end of the 2011-12 season, after a lackadaisical showing in the NCAA tournament being knocked out in the round of 64 by Colorado.
There is a lot of hype surrounding this UNLV squad this year and two CBS analysts even have the Rebels as one of their Final Four picks.
UNLV's Mountain West rival San Diego State also found themselves on the top 25 list, coming in right behind the Rebels at No. 20.