Preseason hype continues to build

ESPN, Sporting News latest media outlets to tout the Rebels as national contenders

The hype for the upcoming season of UNLV basketball keeps gaining momentum, as ESPN and the Sporting News became the latest media outlets to spotlight the Rebels as a potentially elite team.

Athlon Sports has already ranked the Rebels No. 13 in its preseason rankings, and Lindy’s preseason magazine has UNLV at No. 21.

The Sporting News has pegged UNLV in the same range, putting the Rebels at No. 20 in their preseason rankings.

While ESPN’s rankings aren’t out yet, the Rebels were the focus of a front-page package on over the weekend, with several prognosticators on the site calling for a deep NCAA tournament run for coach Dave Rice’s squad. college basketball blogger Eamonn Brennan joins the chorus of experts in predicting big things for the Rebels’ frontcourt.

  • “The strength of this team is going to be its frontcourt, which just might be the most talented in the country.”

Brennan goes on to call freshman Anthony Bennett a “sure thing” to be a difference maker, and projects the trio of Bennett, junior Mike Moser and sophomore Khem Birch to be one of the top units in the nation.

  • “With Moser and Birch in the same frontcourt, the Rebels could outright dominate folks on the inside.”

Sporting News writer David Steele echoes many of the same points in his team preview.

  • “The combinations available up front are expansive and enticing and a reason this might be the top frontcourt in the country. Moser could be even more effective when sharing the load.”

In a separate Sporting News piece, Steele asks Rice about managing such high expectations, and the second-year coach says he doesn’t shy away from the hype.

  • “I do know we have high expectations as a team,” Rice told Sporting News, “and as a basketball coach, it’s not my job to manage expectations. I’m excited there’s a buzz in our community and there’s a belief that there’s a chance for us to be good. I believe we’ll be very good. But expectations are one thing I can’t control.”

With team practices officially beginning on Friday, look for the excitement level surrounding the team to run even hotter in the coming weeks.

Follow Mike Grimala on Twitter for 24/7 Rebels updates (@MikeGrimala).