Rebuildin’ Rebels: 75 predictions for UNLV basketball

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Steve Marcus

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels pose for a group photo during an exhibition in the parking lot of Sam Boyd Stadium before the UNLV-Air Force football game Friday, Oct. 19, 2018.

Thu, Nov 8, 2018 (2 a.m.)

The Rebel Room

Crashing mics, coaching changes and championing Clyburn

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Ray Brewer, Mike Grimala and Case Keefer go over UNLV football and basketball after a trying weekend for both programs.

UNLV basketball will open its 2018-19 campaign on Saturday against Loyola Marymount (7 p.m., AT&T SportsNet), and this season figures to be an important step in the Rebels’ rebuilding process.

After winning just 11 games in Marvin Menzies’ first year as head coach, UNLV improved its record to 20-13 last year, and the team should take another leap forward this season. The roster is more talented, more experienced, and better suited to matching up with a tougher Mountain West Conference.

How will the season turn out for the Rebels? Here are 75 predictions — including every game on the schedule — to help you sort it out.

1. Will UNLV finish with a better record than last year (20-13)? Yes

2. What will be UNLV’s home record? 11-6

3. What will be UNLV’s longest win streak? Five games (Feb. 9—Feb. 23)

4. What will be UNLV’s longest losing streak? Three games (Jan. 22—Jan.29, Feb. 22—March 9)

5. Who will be UNLV’s leading scorer? Shakur Juiston, 17.7 points per game

Juiston, a senior forward, may not necessarily want to be the go-to guy, but he will have no choice but to fill that role for the Rebels. He scored 14.6 points per game last year on 10.3 field goal attempts; given three or four additional shots per game, he should be able to pump his scoring up above 17 points.

6. Who will be UNLV’s leading rebounder? Juiston, 10.1 rebounds per game

7. Who will lead UNLV in minutes? Noah Robotham, 32.5 minutes per game

8. Who will lead UNLV in assists? Robotham, 4.0 per game

9. Who will be UNLV’s leader in 3-point accuracy? Robotham, 40.1 percent

This will be an important storyline for UNLV, which is in desperate need of good 3-point shooting. Robotham has the best track record on the roster, with a career mark of 38.5 percent from long distance, but the coaching staff may have to convince him to shoot more than he's accustomed. He made 3-of-5 from 3-point range in the exhibition win over Montana State-Billings, so that's a good sign.

10. Will UNLV beat UNR this season? No, the Rebels will go 0-2.

11. Will UNLV beat San Diego State? Yes, the Rebels will go 1-1.

12. Who will have UNLV’s highest scoring game? Juiston, 28 points

13. Who will have UNLV’s highest rebounding game? Diong, 18 rebounds

14. Who will lead UNLV in field-goal percentage? Juiston, 63 percent

15. Who will lead UNLV in 3-pointers made? Robotham, 75

16. Will UNLV win on a buzzer-beater? Yes, 79-77 at Illinois

17. What will be UNLV’s overall record (not including two TBD games at Diamondhead Classic)? 18-10

18. What will be UNLV’s Mountain West record? 10-8

It's easy to forget that at one point last season, UNLV was 8-5 in Mountain West play and looking good. Then the team crumbled down the stretch, losing its last five to finish 8-10 in league play. A winning record in the MWC this season would be huge for Menzies in proving that he can build a program that will compete for conference titles.

19. What will be UNLV’s biggest win? vs. San Diego State, Feb. 23

20. Will UNLV score 100 points in a game? No

21. What will be UNLV’s highest scoring game of the season? 97 points vs. Pacific

22. Who will lead UNLV in double-doubles? Juiston, 16

23. Will any UNLV player record a triple-double? No

24. Will a UNLV player make the All-MWC First Team? Yes, Juiston

25. Will UNLV play a postseason game? No

26. What’s the most 3-pointers a UNLV player will make in a single game? Noah Robotham, 5

27. How many 3-pointers will UNLV make this season? 201

28. How many 3-pointers will UNLV opponents make this season? 265

29. Will UNLV's 3-point streak survive the season? Yes

A ton of fans care deeply about this streak, which ended last season going strong at 1,039 games. That's the longest active streak in the country, and though there will be some scary moments this season — the Rebels are not going to take or make a tremendous amount of 3's — they will find a way to keep it going. Look for at least two games where the Rebels go into the second half without a 3-pointer, which should create some drama for the streak counters.

30. Who will lead UNLV in dunks? Diong

31. Will UNLV make it to the Mountain West championship game? No

32. Who will lead UNLV in blocked shots? Mbacke Diong

33. What will be the highest attendance at the Thomas & Mack Center? 14,250, Jan. 29 vs. UNR

34. Will a player leave the program or be forced off the team during the season? No

35. Which player will have the highest usage rate? Robotham

36. Which player will have the highest points-per-possession rate? Juiston

37. Which player will have the highest plus/minus rating? Diong

This may seem like an odd choice, because Diong is not a star player. But he ranked fourth among returning Rebels in plus/minus last year (-3.9 per 40 minutes), and he is on the verge of becoming a big-time defensive game changer. If the 6-foot-11 sophomore looked great in the exhibition game, and if he continues to develop throughout the season, I could see the advanced metrics taking a shine to him.

38. How many 3-pointers will Amauri Hardy make? 31

39. How many 3-pointers will Tervell Beck make? 35

40. Where will UNLV peak in the KenPom rankings? No. 88

41. Where will UNLV finish in the KenPom rankings? No. 102

42. How many UNLV players will have a game of 20-plus points? Four: Juiston, Beck, Robotham, Clyburn

43. Which freshman will have the highest scoring game? Bryce Hamilton, 19 points

44. Will Hamilton start at least one game? Yes

Senior wing Kris Clyburn started at small forward in the exhibition game, and he played well, scoring 19 points and hitting the game-winner in the final seconds. But Hamilton is a special scorer, and Clyburn has a tendency to drift in and out of games. At some point this year, Hamilton will get hot at the same time Clyburn is running cool, and that's when Menzies will give the freshman a chance with the starting unit.

45. How many games will UNLV shoot better than 50 percent from the field? 10

46. Will a player be called for a technical foul? Yes

47. Will a freshman lead UNLV in scoring in a game? Yes, Hamilton

47 - 75. Which games will UNLV win (and lose)?

Nov. 10 vs. Loyola Marymount — Win (1-0)

Nov. 13 vs. UC Riverside — Win (2-0)

Nov. 16 vs. Oakland — Win (3-0)

Nov. 20 vs. Pacific — Win (4-0)

Nov. 23 vs. Southern Utah — Loss (4-1)

Nov. 28 vs. Valparaiso — Win (5-1)

Dec. 1 vs. Cincinnati — Loss (5-2)

Dec. 8 at Illinois — Win (6-2)

Dec. 15 vs. BYU — Win (7-2)

Dec. 22 at Hawaii — Win (8-2)

Dec. 23 Diamondhead Classic — N/A

Dec. 25 Diamondhead Classic — N/A

Jan. 2 vs. Colorado State — Win (9-2)

Jan. 5 vs. Wyoming — Loss (9-3)

Jan. 8 at New Mexico — Win (10-3)

Jan. 16 at Air Force — Win (11-3)

Jan. 19 vs. San Jose State — Win (12-3)

Jan. 22 vs. New Mexico — Loss (12-4)

Jan. 26 at San Diego State — Loss (12-5)

Jan. 29 vs. UNR — Loss (12-6)

Feb. 2 at Utah State — Win (13-6)

Feb. 6 at Boise State — Loss (13-7)

Feb. 9 vs. Fresno State — Win (1478)

Feb. 12 vs. Air Force — Win (15-7)

Feb. 16 at San Jose State — Win (16-7)

Feb. 19 at Wyoming — Win (17-7)

Feb. 23 vs. San Diego State — Win (18-7)

Feb. 27 at UNR — Loss (18-8)

March 2 vs. Boise State — Loss (18-9)

March 9 at Colorado State — Loss (18-10)

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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