What do we know about Dixie State? Not that much. We know that the Division II squad beat Cal-Bethesda (a D-III team), 91-56, last week in its first exhibition game, and that’s about it.
But the focus tonight won’t be on Red Storm sophomore Zach Robbins, although the 6-foot-10 sophomore did put up 16 points and 14 rebounds against Bethesda. And we won’t be spotlighting junior Dalton Groskreutz, who led Dixie State with 17 points in that contest.
Tonight’s exhibition game at the Thomas and Mack Center (7 p.m.) is all about UNLV. The Rebels have put together their most exciting team in decades, and this will be their first chance to play an actual game in front of actual fans. The talent level is so high, it really shouldn’t matter what Dixie State brings to the table. Instead, it’s more of an opportunity for the Rebels to gauge themselves against a real opponent and test the things they’ve been working on in practice for the past month.
Here are five keys to watch for during tonight’s game.
1. Who starts?
I expect Anthony Marshall, Justin Hawkins, Katin Reinhardt, Mike Moser and Anthony Bennett to make up the starting five, like they did in the UCLA scrimmage. There’s no planet where the Dixie State frontcourt should be able to run the floor with Mike Moser and Anthony Bennett, so expect that duo to do plenty of damage.
2. Who runs the offense?
The answer to this question, which has been asked all through the offseason, remains Anthony Marshall. The senior point guard played well against UCLA, and he’s looked confident and under control in practice. Still, it will be calming to a lot of fans if Marshall takes care of the ball and directs the offense smoothly tonight. And one of his highlight-reel dunks wouldn’t hurt, either.
3. What to expect from BDJ?
Bryce Dejean-Jones only has two full practices under his belt since he returned from a broken left (non-shooting) hand, but he says he’s going to play tonight. The hand still isn’t 100 percent — Dejean-Jones was visibly wincing and flexing the hand after getting hacked during Tuesday’s practice — but he looks like he’s ready to contribute. He may be the best pure scorer on the team. I think he’ll get good minutes tonight, playing mostly with the second unit.
4. Where will Mike Moser play?
There was a ton of offseason talk about moving Moser to small forward to accomodate freshman Anthony Bennett, who is the nominal starter at power forward. But against UCLA, Bennett played mostly center and Moser remained at the 4 spot. This may be due to a shortened roster — centers Carlos Lopez-Sosa (injury) and Khem Birch (ineligible) didn’t play against UCLA — but I expect a similar look from the Rebels tonight. A small-ball lineup with Bennett at 5 and Moser as a stretch-4 could be devastating offensively.
5. Will Dixie State pull off the upset?
In a word, no sir. Everyone I’ve talked to, from Dave Rice to Anthony Bennett to Justin Hawkins to Anthony Marshall said they were approaching this like a real game, and that they’re going to play to win. So what do I think happens tonight? Look for UNLV to run. A lot. Despite the thin frontcourt (see No. 4), the
Rebels should control the glass without much trouble, which should fuel
their transition offense. Dixie State isn’t making this trip to be a punching bag, but I don’t think they’ll be able to keep up when the Rebels get out on the fast break. Too many athletes, too many shooters and too much energy. UNLV should dominate.
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