With the start of college basketball season just around the corner, it’s time to break out some preseason predictions. Let’s look at seven Over/Under bets which should give a clearer view of what’s in store for the Rebels this season.
Future NBA first-rounders in the starting lineup: 2.5
Take the OVER. Coach Dave Rice may have pulled in a couple future NBA picks in his last recruiting class alone, with freshman Anthony Bennett leading the way. The 6-foot-8 Bennett could be one-and-done this season, so enjoy him while you can. Junior forward Mike Moser explored the draft after last season before deciding to return for school, and athletic sophomore center Khem Birch has everything that pro scouts look for in a defensive-minded big man. They’re probably the top three prospects on the team, but senior guard Anthony Marshall is a sleeper, and some of the younger players could emerge throughout the season.
Home losses: 1.5
This could depend on what you consider a “home game,” because the Mountain West tournament will also be played at the Thomas & Mack Arena. Either way, go with the UNDER. With this year’s North Carolina matchup being played in Chapel Hill, the toughest home games on the schedule are probably Nevada (Jan. 29) and San Diego State (Feb. 16). I think the Rebels will win both of those contests, as well as the rest of their home dates. A possible loss in the MWC tourney still puts them under.
Games started by freshmen: 33
With 31 games on the regular-season schedule, a freshman would basically have to win a full-time starting job from Day One order to go over on this bet. Have you met Anthony Bennett? The power forward has looked dominant at times during practice, and though it’s too early to project starting lineups, I think Bennett is going to be on the floor to start every game. Go OVER on this one, because even if Bennett doesn’t start every night, you’ve still got a chance that combo guard Katin Reinhardt could see some spot starting duty.
Team 3-point percentage: 39.5 percent
This was a sore spot for the Rebels last year. As a team, they shot just 37.0 percent from 3-point range, which placed them 58th in the nation. And if, as the experts expect, the team plans to pound the ball inside to Moser and Bennett on offense, the Rebs absolutely need to knock down threes consistently to keep defenses honest. Senior guard Anthony Marshall was inconsistent last year, hitting just 25.6 percent from distance, but he’s looked better in practice so far this season. And Reinhardt was possibly the country’s best high school shooter last year. If Reinhardt leads the team in attempts, it’s possible for the Rebels to go over on this one… but I still don’t think outside shooting is a strength of this team. I’m going UNDER here.
Wins against San Diego State: 1.5
The Aztecs bring back the MWC Player of the Year in Jamaal Franklin and another All-Conference talent in senior forward Chase Tapley, so beating SDSU is not going to be easy. Last year, they split their two regular season games (each team won by two points on its home court), and I expect them to play three times this season, with the final matchup coming in the Mountain West tournament. Look for the teams to split again this year, with the Rebels taking the postseason rubber match (with an assist from a partisan crowd at Thomas & Mack). Take the OVER.
Rebels who will earn All-American honors: 0.5
Mike Moser is the obvious choice here, as he’s already garnered a shelf full of preseason accolades. He’s been touted as a potential All-American, but I think his stats may actually go down this season. Call it the curse of surrounding talent. With other players to lessen the load, Moser may not match his scoring (14.0 points per game) or rebounding numbers (10.5) from last season. In the end, the safe bet is UNDER. The Rebels will be better, but I don’t think Moser will have the stats to be a first-team All-American.
NCAA Tournament wins: 2.5
This is the big one. Three tournament wins would put the Rebels in the Elite Eight. Does this team have Elite Eight talent? I say yes. Give me the OVER and let me enjoy the ride.