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Know Thy Enemy: UNLV Runnin' Rebels

I don't know of any Runnin' Rebs blog out there, but Fooch from over at Niners Nation, a San Fransisco 49ers blog here at SB Nation, kindly offered to answer some questions about his favorite college basketball team. UNLV. So, thanks to Fooch for answering the questions. It is always to hear and learn about a team from someone who has followed their every move since November, as opposed to what I would be doing. Of course, I will still be looking at numbers and names and be delivering a preview of my own a little later on tonight. For right now, I am still recovering from Western Kentucky and Davidson.

1) Last year, UNLV made the Sweet 16, but you have lost a substantial portion of that team to graduation; namely Wendell White and Kevin Kruger. How do you compare to that team? Better? Worse? The same?

1. This year's team is nowhere near as talented as last year's team.  In addition to White and Kruger, they lost the Mountain West defensive player of the year, who actually came off the bench all season long.  This year's team follows the cliche of grit and determination and is actually a better coaching job by Lon Krueger, even if they had lost to Kent State.  Going into the season I was more looking forward to 2008-2009 when two redshirts (one for random reasons and on as a transfer from Memphis) will be on the court.  Considering this team only loses 2 seniors (Terry and Bailey), it makes me even more exicted for next year.

2) What is UNLV's biggest overall strength? Basically, if UNLV pulls off the upset Saturday, the main reason will be...what?

2. UNLV will pull off the upset if they can dictate the tempo on defense.  Part of the reason Kent State looked so bad today is that they average roughly a turnover per minute in the first half.  This UNLV team is not gonna win by an overpowering offense, but rather a suffocating defense.  As great as the national title Rebels were on offense, they used a suffocating defense to lead to big transition points.  This UNLV team is similar in that regard, although all similarities end there.  If UNLV can force Kansas into taking bad shots and turning the ball over, they can pull the upset.

3) Similar to Question #2, what is UNLV's biggest weakness? Is it the lack of height and depth in the middle, following the dismissal of Emmanuel Adeife, or something else?

3. Lack of size is definitely a problem and one I expect the Jayhawks to exploit.  UNLV's tallest player is 6'7 forward Joe Darger.  After losing Adeife, Darger has played the opposing team's big man, which included 7' footers from Utah and BYU.  It's possible Darger has been worn out from having to play the opposing big night in and night out and Kansas would be wise to go into the block as much as possible.  Part of the size issue could also be the athleticism issue.  Kansas has some serious athletes and UNLV has decent athletes but not on the same level.  UNLV has 2 walk-ons in their starting line up (Terry and Rougeau) and they need to avoid a track meet with Kansas.

4) Wink Adams gets the most attention on UNLV, but who else should Kansas fans look out for on Saturday?

4. While Wink is the best player on the team, Curtis Terry drives the team.  In the 3 games of the Mountain West tournament he played all but 1 minute of the tournament!  He is the leading assist man and he can shoot UNLV into games, but he can also shoot UNLV out of games with some very bad shots.  He's probably the prototypical Rebel this year.  They're an unorthodox team and he is an unorthodox point guard.  Two other guys to look out for are Joe Darger and Rene Rougeau.  Darger is the long range shooter, who when left open can kill a team.  Considering his size and who he matches up with, he can extend centers and power forwards out to the 3-pt line.

5) What would it take for you to be "pleased" with the result? Do you have a win-or-bust attitude, or would a solid showing and a close game be enough to satisfy you, especially considering this was considered a "rebuilding year" in the preseason?

5. While I would be satisfied with a close game, a loss would be obviously disappointing anyways.  Outside of a win, I think I would be happy with a game that is close in the last few minutes, even if the Jayhawks pull away in the end.  But, as you mentioned, this was considered a re-building season so it's been a success even without a victory.

6) What do you think will happen on Saturday?

6. I guess it would be realistic expect a 15 or 16 point Kansas win.  I think best case scenario for the Rebels is a narrow 4 or 5 point win and a worst case scenario is a 25 point Kansas win.  I do think UNLV can win this game but they have to play a pretty perfect game.  That would entail suffocating defense, the 3s dropping and easy baskets in transition and in the paint.  Just to give you my own prediction I'll go UNLV 65 - Kansas 63.

Thanks again to Fooch for answering my questions. And, in case you haven't seen it already, make sure and check out his preview of the Runnin' Rebs for Deadspin.