Wednesday, September 24, 2008

No. 21 UNLV: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Team Record: 27-8, 12-4 MWC (2nd)

Key Losses: Curtis Terry (11.1 ppg, 4.9 apg), Corey Bailey (6.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg), Matt Shaw (6.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg, knee surgery)

Key Returnees: Wink Adams (16.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg), Joe Darger (11.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg)

Newcomers: Beas Hamga, Deshawn Mitchell, Oscar Bellfield, Brice Massamba, Darris Santee

UNLV lost a lot from last season's team (namely the underrated Curtis Terry), but still return a team that is talented enough to be considered the favorite in the MWC. The main reason for that is Wink Adams. Adams (whose given name is Jo'Van) is a spark plug for the Runnin' Rebels, both offensively and defensively. He averaged 3.3 apg to go along with his 16.9 ppg, but also was one of the teams best on-the-ball defenders - he had 52 steals on the year. Adams is a good three point shooter (66 3's, 36%, but streaky) and can get to the rim, but is probably most effective when in transition. Starting along Adams in the back court will be 6'6" former walk-on Rene Rougeau (he is classified as a guard, but plays more like a forward). Rougeau is a slasher and a tough defender who can get out on the wing and run the floor. He is not a shooter (as a starter, he shot 1-5 from 3) but he is a tough kid, can hit the glass (led the team in rebounding at 6.2 per), and is perfect for the UNLV system. Expect freshman Oscar Bellfield (from famed Westchester High in Los Angeles) and senior Mareceo Rutledge to also get extended minutes in the backcourt.

The Rebels also return Joe Darger, who was very important for the Rebels last year. He is big enough (6'7", 225 lb) that he is able to defend in the post, but also was one of UNLV's best three point shooters last year (67 3's at a 38% clip). UNLV was thin up front last year (which wasn't too big of a deal because of the tough perimeter defense they played), but they should be deeper this season even with Matt Shaw sitting out due to a knee injury. A big (literally) reason is that 7-footer Beas Hamga will be playing this year. Hamga was the 26th rated recruit coming out of high school is 2007, but red shirted 2007-08 because of eligibility issues. The 20 year old from Cameroon is long and athletic, much in the same mold as Samuel Dalembert, and should be a force in the MWC.

UNLV also signed 6'10", 255 lb Brice Massamba, who is fairly polished down low but can also step out and knock down a perimeter jump shot. The combination Hamga, Massamba, Darger, and JuCo transfer Darris Santee should give the Runnin' Rebels one of the best front courts out west.

Outlook: With Wink Adams and Joe Darger running the show, UNLV will be able to compete in the MWC. But depending on how good the bigs (especially Hamga and Massamba) turn out to be, UNLV is talented enough to make a run to the Sweet 16 and farther.

No comments: