UNLV guard Anthony Marshall laughs at teammate Justin Hawkins after a possession against the University of Ottawa at Montpetit Hall in Ottawa, Ontario Sunday, August 19, 2012. UNLV won the game 89-76. The Runnin' Rebels are in the midst of a four-game exhibition tour in Canada.
You already know their faces, and whether they like it or not, you already know what you think they bring to the team. UNLV basketball’s five returning scholarship players are mostly household names by now, in some cases even in homes far across the country.
For the dozens of UNLV basketball fans who followed the Rebels from Las Vegas to Ottawa and Montreal, the four-game exhibition tour last week was like getting a glimpse at the rough cut of a movie months before the grand opening.
The UNLV basketball players on scholarship who didn’t play in Tuesday’s 74-59 victory against McGill could end up being some of the most important contributors this season. Those four — freshmen Katin Reinhardt and Anthony Bennett, sophomore Khem Birch and junior Roscoe Smith — alone could be the nucleus of a separate top-25 team.
The outcome of the games UNLV played over the last four days doesn’t actually mean anything, at least not in the same way it will in the regular season. The Rebels went 4-0, including Tuesday’s finale, a 74-59 victory against McGill, but you won’t find that record in any standings.
There were really no season-impacting lessons to take away from UNLV’s 97-62 runaway victory against Laval in McGill’s Love Competition Hall on Monday night. The Rebels, who moved to 3-0 in their four-game Canadian exhibition tour, were the better team by a margin wider than the final score, and they played like it from the start of the game.
If you’re a UNLV basketball fan, there’s a fun game you can play during the Rebels’ games up in Canada. It’s sort of a fill in the blank format, and it goes like this: On any given play at any point in the game, how would it play out if UNLV coach Dave Rice had his full compliment of scholarship players?
Mike Moser sounded like a witness whose eyes had finally confirmed the rumors he’d heard all summer. Taking a seat on the bench during a timeout in the second half of UNLV’s exhibition game at Carleton on Saturday, Moser leaned toward freshman Katin Reinhardt and shared his findings with the man himself. “They telling the truth,” Moser yelled into his teammate’s right ear, “the kid can ball.”
There’s no second chance to make a first impression. For the Rebels fans in Carleton’s Norm Fenn Gym on Saturday and those who watch a replay of the game on UNLVRebels.com, this is the first point of reference they’ll have for the five newcomers participating in this Canadian tour. Exhibition or not, UNLV’s 74-70 victory mattered. The hype around this year’s team is as high as it has ever been and many people traveled a long way to get their first glimpse at this year’s team and the new faces filling it out.
Carlos Lopez yelled at Demetris Morant because he thought the TV was too loud. Quintrell Thomas woke up angry with Mike Moser for making too much noise. “He thought I was playing games, messing with him,” Moser said.
When the UNLV basketball team opens play this week in Canada for its exhibition tour, eyes will be on players' improvements from last year. But they won’t be the only ones with noticeable upgrades to their performances.
Far away from the headlines and the hype, UNLV post players Carlos Lopez and Quintrell Thomas spent their summer in relative anonymity. Each one of those heralded recruits UNLV hauled in pushed the duo further out of the public eye and closer to roster irrelevance.
Roscoe Smith isn’t in a hurry. His moments in the public eye currently consist of sitting at the scorer’s table during UNLV’s practices for its upcoming trip to Canada, then taking shots after his teammates have vacated the floor. It looks like a frustrating position for a kid who already owns a national championship ring, but his easy smile suggests otherwise.
The evidence at the end of this season may prove him wrong, but from Mike Moser’s new-ish view on the wing he doesn’t see any reason he can’t rebound at the same rate he did last year. UNLV has the bodies to handle the offense on the block without him. Still, Moser and coach Dave Rice know it’s still in the team’s best interest to let the nation’s 10th-leading rebounder last year go after every loose ball he can.
From the moment the 2011-12 season ended, when a furious rally against Colorado came up short and UNLV lost its fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament game, the focus turned to 2012-13. What would coach Dave Rice and his staff be capable of accomplishing in Year Two?
Las Vegas Sun Sports Editor Ray Brewer and UNLV reporter Taylor Bern serenade you with information and analysis leading into the UNLV basketball team's highly-anticipated exhibition tour in Canada this week.