Around the Rim: Nevada at UNLV Preview

Coming off a wire to wire win against the Wyoming Cowboys, Nevada heads down to the land of the cannon (still upset about that) to try and take down the flagship basketball program in the state, the UNLV Rebels.

Nevada Sophomore Guard Marqueze Coleman
Returning to the court Wednesday will be the sophomore Coleman. During his absence, the Wolf Pack had to tighten up the rotation, have star point guard Deonte Burton play almost every single minute of every game, and go to playing only seven guys in most games. With Coleman back the bench scoring should improve, which was lacking during his absence, and Burton should get a few valuable minutes of rest. Coleman, before having eye surgery, was averaging 8.2 points and 3.2 rebounds a game, often playing point guard and letting Burton handle the shooting guard responsibilities. For Coleman, a return against the Rebels can be good or bad. If Coleman comes out rusty and out of shape, he might negatively affect the team in arguably their best game of the year. But if Coleman can play his game, which is to attack the rim and finish near the rim, and give Burton a few minutes of rest, his immediate return will be a success. To upset the Rebels Coleman will likely have to approach double digits in scoring and not turn the ball over.


UNLV Junior Forward Roscoe Smith
Who does Nevada defensive stopper A.J. West guard for a majority of the game? Nevada is going to have to pick their poison by having West guard either Pitt transfer Khem Birch or Connecticut transfer Smith, which would leave a mismatch with the other Rebel. West will likely start on Birch, which leaves undersized Wolf Pack forward Cole Huff with Smith defensive duties. Huff is not an elite defender but he will have his plate full with the Rebel's leading rebounder and second leading scorer. The key to stopping Smith, who did not play last season due to transfer rules, will be keeping him off the offensive glass where he averages nearly four a game. Like Larry Nance Jr. of Wyoming, the key to stopping Smith is to make him uncomfortable in the paint, where he is very efficient, and allow him to take jump shots, where he is inefficient. The Rebels have been an impressive +5.5 in rebound margin on the year, and Smith is a big reason why.

UNLV Senior Guard Kevin Olekaibe
Nevada basketball fans are familiar with Olekaibe, but may be confused on the team. Olekaibe used to play for the Fresno State Bulldogs in the WAC and even for their first year in the MWC and would absolutely light up the Wolf Pack on the scoreboard. After being granted a hardship waiver by the NCAA, Olekaibe was allowed to transfer to UNLV to be closer to home and was able to play right away. While Olekaibe is not the best guard or most important guard on the team, that title goes to junior Bryce Dejean-Jones, Olekaibe has the history and style of play to give Nevada trouble in their first meeting of the year with the Rebels. Olekaibe shoots seven threes a game and knocks them down at 36.5%. So while averaging 10.9 points per game this year, if Olekaibe gets hot, he is hard to stop in stretches. It will be up to junior Michael Perez and sophomore Marqueze Coleman to slow him down.

Prediction
Nevada is hot right now. UNLV, coming off a loss to Air Force, is cold. The seniors for the Wolf Pack have said beating UNLV, which they have yet to do, is one of their biggest goals of the year. Like the Rebels must have felt in football, if not now then when? On the year Nevada is averaging 74.8 points per game, while UNLV is averaging 74.9, so this game should be close.

Nevada 72 UNLV 70

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