With UNLV’s matchup at Cal drawing closer, we’re starting to see more media coverage of the game. Most prognosticators expect Cal (6-1) to qualify for the NCAA tournament, so Sunday’s contest is intriguing on the national stage.
The NBC Sports blog College Basketball Talk covers the game in its weekend preview, spotlighting the game in the “Upset Alert” section. Rob Dauster forsees the Rebels falling in Berkeley, mostly because he’s not a believer in the UNLV backcourt.
- I love Anthony Marshall’s game. I don’t love Anthony Marshall’s game at the point guard spot. Bryce Dejean-Jones and Katin Reinhardt love to shoot, and they aren’t necessarily great shooters, at least not right now. For a team that will have one of, if not the best front line in the country once they have all their pieces available, having a back court that struggles to get those guys the ball is a major problem.
SB Nation’s Cal blog, California Golden Blogs, isn’t as optimistic about the game. Cal is coming off a blowout loss at Wisconsin, and their writers’ roundtable predicts matchup problems against UNLV.
- Unfortunately, UNLV has one of the best defenses in the country, and we have to be in control of ourselves and not let things fly off the handle. It’ll be important to move the ball patiently and look for the best shot, and also not lose defensive discipline (something that happened way too much last game and has been a recurring pattern all season).
San Francisco Chronicle writer John Crumpacker says “It will be an angry and humbled Cal basketball team that faces UNLV on Sunday,” after the Bears were pushed around by a more physical Wisconsin team.
- Worse still, Cal came out of the Wisconsin game with a reputation as a “soft” Pac-12 team, a term that should rankle anyone with a scintilla of competitiveness in him.
“I hate that word, soft,” (Richard) Solomon said. “I hate it so much.”
Taking a wider view of the season so far, ESPN’s College Basketball Nation blog posted its first Mountain West Conference Power Rankings on Friday, and UNLV is slotted at No. 4. New Mexico (9-0) is first, followed by San Diego State and Wyoming. Though they’re ranked fourth now, Andy Katz thinks the Rebels’ best days are ahead of them.
- The Runnin’ Rebels should be in the top spot later in the season if they live up to potential. UNLV has yet to fully click, but has won four in a row since a disheartening home loss to Oregon. Mike Moser, arguably the Rebels’ top rebounder and all-around player, was hurt for the Portland win. The Rebels could use him inside if they are to win at Cal … We should know a lot more about the potential of this squad by January.
Anthony Bennett has received much love from the Worldwide Leader this week. Writer John Gasaway ranked the top 25 freshmen in the country in his Thursday column, and Bennett came in at No. 1. Gasaway says not only is Bennett a contender for freshman of the year, but also a possible player of the year candidate. (ESPN Insider subscriber-only)
- This list is fairly brimming with elite talents who are off to amazing starts, but Bennett is the only player here who has put up numbers so good, they wouldn’t be out of place coming from a national player of the year. At 6-foot-8, he’s shown he can score whether he’s in the post or facing the basket, and before it’s over, he may prove he can make 3s as well.
Also on ESPN.com, Jay Bilas put out his list of the top five college big men regardless of class. They weren’t listed in any particular order, but Bennett made the cut — the only freshman named. Bilas is high on Bennett’s physicality. (ESPN Insider subscriber-only)
- Bennett has been arguably the best freshman big man in the country. Bennett is a power player who can get off the floor with force and finish in traffic. He is physically intimidating (6-8, 240 pounds), and has a knack for rebounding and scoring. Plus, he can step away or overpower defenders with deep post position.
And in the recruiting department, ESPN asked its high school hoops staff to predict where the top uncommitted players will land. UNLV is one of Jermaine Lawrence’s four finalists, but the ESPN panel doesn’t think he’s headed to Vegas (ESPN Insider subscriber-only). Not one of the seven writers predicted UNLV as his destination; each of his other three finalists (Syracuse, St. John’s and Cincinnati) got at least two votes.
Follow Mike Grimala (@MikeGrimala) on Twitter for 24/7 Rebels updates.