The 2009-2010 season ended shockingly premature for the Runnin’ Rebels being knocked out of the NCAA tournament by the Cinderella Panthers of Northern Iowa. Fans across the country had their brackets busted by Northern Iowa as they sent the Runnin’ Rebels back home to Las Vegas before they had a chance to take on #1 overall seed, Kansas.
This is a new season and it has the makings to be an even eventful one at that. It all begins tonight with the Rebs first preseason game against Grand Canyon. The competition in the Mountain West Conference will be tighter than ever this year with Brigham Young, New Mexico, and San Diego State all receiving votes in the ESPN/USA Today Top 25 poll. UNLV Head Coach, Lon Kruger has his work cut out for him this year with a tough out of conference schedule as well playing Wisconsin, Stanford, Boise State, Louisville, and his alma mater Kansas State.
However, the defensive-minded coach isn’t worried too much with returning starters Tre’von Willis, Oscar Bellfield, and Derrick Jasper. Not to mention the sophomore season of high flyer Anthony Marshall and highly recruited center, Carlos Lopez making his debut. While the team may like size in the lane, they make up for their deficiency with speed and guard play. Hopefully, Kansas transfer Qunitrell Thomas will add some size to the middle while not taking away any athletic ability.
The Rebels were picked 4th in the Mountain West Conference, most likely stemming from off the court troubles and uncertainty for senior, Tre’von Willis. However, with such competition throughout the conference it is very possible for the bigger schools to beat up on each other during conference play as a true leader emerges and that leader could very well be any of the four.
One thing the Rebels counted on late in the season was their clutch three-point shooting from Kendall Wallace, which will be missed as Wallace is out indefinitely with a torn ACL. The senior guard was finally coming into his own as he matured entering what would have been his senior season.
The Rebels will have to rely on their defensive tenacity and quickness throughout the course of the regular season to justify a good seed in the conference tournament. The Rebels tend to do well in low-scoring defensive games as their conditioning surpasses the competitions’. If the Rebels can keep the points down and intensity up, the loud and eruptive Thomas and Mack should serve as the 6th man for the Runnin’ Rebs.