NCAA Bracket Preview: Complete UNLV Tournament Primer

by Mountain West Connection

The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels will hit March Madness just as their name indicates: running. UNLV has very talented guards and three big men that can all run the floor fairly well, so when this team gets in transition, they are hard to stop. UNLV has three tall, talented big men that all share time. Due to our excessive amount of guards that could start and play well on any given team, you will only see one of them at a time. Quintrell Thomas is the starter and has recently increased his impact, getting 3 double-doubles in the past 5 games. Carlos Lopez and Brice Massamba both play a similar style to Thomas’s, but they don’t have as big of an impact. Our guard play is outstanding, with every guard that is in the game at the time being able to handle the ball and run the offense from the point position – don’t expect to see the same guy bring the ball up the court every time. What sets the Rebels apart from other teams is their pressure man-to-man defense. Lon Kruger, who has taken Florida to the Final Four in his career, has coached each guard into playing almost seamless one on one defense and teams have real trouble with penetration against this team. Their full court press also creates 5-8 turnovers a game of which become easy buckets on the other end. The only real weakness for this team is playing against the zone. The offense is almost entirely predicated upon penetration and a zone is designed to eliminate that. Unless the shooters are hot from the outside, UNLV struggles mightily against a 2-3 or 3-2 zone.

Record: 23-7 (11-5) as of March 10th.

RPI: 26

Key wins: Nov. 20 over Wisconsin, 68-65; The Badgers have a Top 20 RPI. Dec. 21 at Kansas State, 63-59; A win in the “Octagon of Doom” looks very good on the Rebels resume. Jan. 22, over New Mexico, 63-62; UNLV had lost to the Top 3 MWC teams already in the first half of the conference season and a win here kept the Rebels on track to make the Tournament.

Key losses:
- 12/11/10 – Louisville, KY – Louisville 77, UNLV 69: UNLV was undefeated up to this point and looked to have a grip on the game in the second half when they took a 45-36 lead. The Rebels lost, but a win here would have put the Rebels into the Top 15 into the polls.
- 12/15/10 – Las Vegas, NV – UC-Santa Barba 68, UNLV 62: A bad letdown loss following a tough loss in Louisville really put a damper on the season which had been great up until that point.

Players to Watch: Tre’Von Willis was a second team all-MWC choice and had been the Rebels best player over the past two years. Willis is a lockdown defender who averages two steals per game, but he also leads the Rebels in scoring at 13 points per game. Anthony Marshall is only a sophomore point guard, but he can dunk, get to the rim and finish and shoot the three. Marshall is an inconsistent scorer, but if his shot is falling then Marshall is an extra weapon that can make UNLV very dangerous come this March.

For more coverage of the Runnin’ Rebels, please visit our Mountain West blog, Mountain West Connection.

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