Words with Fans: Post-Dixie panic

This week's questions cover the exhibition scare, recruiting and potential lineups

Wednesday’s closer-than-expected exhibition win over Dixie State certainly gave Rebels fans some food for thought, as most of the questions received this week dealt with the fallout from the overtime affair. It was also a big week for recruiting, as UNLV hosted two of the nation’s best high school prospects. Let’s jump in to this week’s mailbag. (Some questions tweaked to clean up Tweet-speak.)


Q: @Petersz3
I find it odd that Bennett is starting at center. Will this change before Khem Birch becomes eligible? Or will he continue to steal these pre-Birch center minutes from Carlos Lopez-Sosa and Quintrell Thomas?

A: @MikeGrimala
I asked coach Dave Rice about the Bennett/Mike Moser combo at the 4/5, and he said that he likes the versatility of that combination. I think he also likes playing three perimeter guys, which helps the Rebels get out in transition. As long as Bennett holds up defensively at center (he grabbed nine rebounds and blocked two shots in 23 minutes against Dixie State), I expect Rice to stick with A.B. and Moser as the two primary bigs. Lopez-Sosa and Thomas will probably continue to work in reserve roles.

Q: @SzymonGodzina
Outside shooting was terrible against Dixie State, is there any reason to expect improvement? Only Katin looks like a shooter.

A: @MikeGrimala
I agree, it was a cold, cold shooting night for the Rebs. Besides Reinhardt (3-7 on 3-pointers), the rest of the team shot 3-25 from beyond the arc. The accuracy has to improve dramatically, and it has to be team-wide. I believe it will get better. Bennett and Moser are floor-stretching bigs, and they combined to go 1-13 from deep against Dixie. I don’t know if it was just a bad night, or the fact that they were shooting at game speed for the first time, but that will probably be their worst shooting night of the season. Bryce Dejean-Jones is another gifted shooter who struggled, but he’s still working back from a broken hand. I don’t think UNLV will be a great shooting team this season, but they should make enough from the outside to be an elite team.

Q: @DendoGrim
What is the best starting five going forward for the Rebs?

A: @MikeGrimala
Awww, it’s always nice to hear from my younger brother, one of the biggest college hoops fans I know. Tell mom I’ll be home for Christmas. As far as a starting five goes, there are really two answers — pre-Birch and post-Birch. Until he becomes eligible in December, I think Rice will go with Moser/Bennett up front, and I think Anthony Marshall and Katin Reinhardt are the locks in the backcourt. Against Dixie State, freshman Savon Goodman got the start at small forward, but I could see Rice plugging in Justin Hawkins as a third guard and bringing Goodman off the bench as a hustle/energy type. If it were up to me, I’d probably go with Hawkins — advanced stats love him, and that means I love him too. Rice has also said that he values the stabilizing ability that guys like Hawkins can bring when coming off the bench. I think they’ll go with Marshall-Reinhardt-Hawkins-Moser-Bennett against Northern Arizona.

Q: Chris D. (Aberdeen, Md.) via email
The defense was beyond bad against Dixie State. How can they improve on that end in time for the regular season?

A: @MikeGrimala
Rice was very clear after the game (and after the following day’s practice) that his No. 1 issue with the defense was intensity. He thought the Rebels didn’t play as hard as they needed to until they were losing toward the end of regulation, and then again when they fell behind by 7 in overtime. The transition defense in particular suffered, as Dixie State outscored UNLV in fast break points (17-14). It may have been a case of the Rebels realizing they were playing a D-II team and letting up once they jumped out to a 17-point lead in the first half. I think the only way to fix that is to increase the intensity in practice, and maybe give the veterans more minutes early in the season. As I said above, expanding Justin Hawkins’ role could be one possible reaction.

Q: @Dirtball78
Can they close the deal with Hamilton this weekend?

A: @MikeGrimala
As RunRebs first reported, elite 2013 guard Isaac Hamilton is at UNLV this weekend for an official visit, while his younger brother Daniel (also a top 2014 recruit) is following on an unofficial visit. Isaac has been hard to read throughout the entire recruiting process — he recently “postponed” a visit to Washington (one of his final five teams) and took an official visit to UCLA instead (which wasn’t on his final list). But the fact that he’s coming to UNLV as his last trip before the early signing period opens has to give the Rebels’ staff some confidence. I’ve heard that Isaac is attracted to UNLV because of the style of play and because they should have big backcourt minutes available as early as next year. According to my sources, a commitment this weekend isn’t out of the question, but no one really knows when he plans to make a decision. It looks like it will come down to UNLV and UCLA, although San Diego State is also listed among his final five.

Want to submit a question for Words with Fans? Tweet to Mike Grimala (@MikeGrimala) or email him at mike.grimala@runrebs.com.

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