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Big predictions for UNLV basketball

Image

Steve Marcus

Jordan Johnson (24) looks for an opening during the UNLV basketball Scarlet & Gray Showcase at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017.

So much has changed for UNLV basketball in the past year, it’s almost impossible to predict how the 2017-18 season will unfold. But that didn’t stop us from trying. With the season set to tip off on Saturday against Florida A&M, here are 31 predictions for the Runnin’ Rebels:

Leading scorer: Jovan Mooring, 14.5 points per game

Leading rebounder: Shakur Juiston, 9.2 rebounds per game

Best win: At San Diego State, Feb. 17

100-point games: Two (Nov. 15 vs. Prairie View A&M, Nov. 25 vs. Southern Utah)

Number of games with at least one 3-point shot made: 31 (the streak continues for another year)

Leader in assists: Jordan Johnson, 7.9 per game

Johnson averaged 8.1 assists per game two years ago at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, so this would actually be a drop in production for the gifted passer. But UNLV has another capable ball-handler and facilitator in Jovan Mooring, and Shakur Juiston has some point-forward skills. They’ll eat into Johnson’s stats a bit, but the senior will still lead the Mountain West in assists.

Highest attendance home game: 16,440 vs. Arizona, Dec. 2

Longest winning streak: 10 games, from Dec. 5 (vs. Oral Roberts) to Jan. 17 (vs. New Mexico)

Double-double leader: Shakur Juiston, 16

Triple-doubles recorded by Rebels: Zero

Leader in field goal attempts: Jovan Mooring, 13.0 per game

Plus/minus leader: Shakur Juiston, plus-4.5 per game

Juiston may not be the Rebels’ flashiest player, but the 6-foot-8 forward is productive on both ends of the court and his plus/minus numbers should reflect that. While +4.5 may seem modest, keep in mind that UNLV didn’t have a single player finish with a positive plus/minus rating last year.

Non-conference record: 10-3

Mountain West record: 14-4

Regular-season record: 24-7

All-Conference players: Four

The Mountain West announces a first, second and third team, and last year Mooring was the only Rebel to get any recognition (he was a third-team pick). This year, look for Mooring to be joined by Juiston, McCoy and Johnson on the All-MWC teams.

Conference rank in scoring: Fourth

Conference rank in points allowed: Third

Conference rank in rebounding: Second

Final KenPom ranking: No. 75

Possessions per game: 76

Marvin Menzies wants his team to run, and while he doesn’t have a roster full of top-tier athletes, there is enough talent in the rotation to push the pace when the opportunity presents itself. Last year, UNLV ranked 121st in the nation with 72.7 possessions per game. Upping that to 76 per game should place the Rebels among the top-25 fastest teams in the nation.

Team leader in dunks: Brandon McCoy, 28

Team leader in 4-point plays: Jovan Mooring, 3

Best highlight dunk: Anthony Smith

Average home attendance: 11,720 per game

The Rebels only drew 10,120 fans per game last season, and on many nights it seemed like the Thomas & Mack Center was strictly for friends and family. The team should be much better this year, but the fans won’t come back overnight.

Blocks leader: Brandon McCoy, 1.8 per game

High scoring game: Jovan Mooring, 33 points vs. New Mexico, Jan. 17

Leading bench scorer: Amauri Hardy, 7.8 points per game

Leader in charges drawn: Jovan Mooring, 15

Mooring is known for his outrageous long-distance shooting, but he’s as tough as they come and doesn’t hesitate to put his body on the line. He was the Rebels’ unofficial leader in this category last year, and he’ll continue to hit the floor this season, despite the resulting bruises.

Record at Thomas & Mack Center: 13-2

Mountain West finish: Second place

The Rebels are just one year into their proper rebuilding effort, but a strong recruiting class is going to immediately boost the team in two areas that usually correlate directly with winning: rebounding and interior defense. With Brandon McCoy and Shakur Juiston patrolling the paint, UNLV will push for the MWC regular-season title and ultimately finish second.

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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