Commentary

CBB Summer Buzz: UNLV

The Rebels are instant MWC contenders in their first season under new coach Dave Rice

Updated: August 23, 2011, 1:35 PM ET
By Eric Angevine | ESPN Insider
Oscar BellfieldJosh Holmberg /Icon SMIOscar Bellfield and UNLV should contend for the MWC title this season.

Insider knows you're hot for hoops during the summer, so we're bringing you a closer look at a few of the high-profile schools before most freshmen have even moved into their dorms.

We continue with UNLV.

UNLV Rebels

2010-11: 24-9 (NCAA tournament -- round of 64)

It's tempting to say UNLV has a new coach, which is technically a true statement. Look at Dave Rice's history, however, and you'll realize his arrival in Sin City is more of a homecoming than anything.

In 1990, Rice was a member of the Runnin' Rebels squad that claimed the national championship under the guidance of Jerry Tarkanian. A Rhodes scholarship candidate, Rice finished his bachelor's degree in '91, then his master's degree in '93, while working as an assistant coach. "The thing for me that's been great to help the transition is that I was here at UNLV as an assistant coach for 11 years," Rice said. "So I've only been gone from UNLV for seven."

Those seven years away have helped cement Rice's Western hoops bona fides. One year under Stew Morrill at Utah State led to six more as the offensive coordinator at BYU. When Lon Kruger went back to the Midwest to take over at Oklahoma, Rice jumped at the chance to go back to his alma mater, staying in the Mountain West Conference as the Cougars departed for the WCC.

And well he should. Kruger left him a tough, well-drilled veteran team -- an instant contender. Rice quickly assembled a veteran staff that should know what to do with a team that once haunted the coaches' nightmares.

"I was at BYU last year, so we played in the same league with UNLV," Rice said. "Our associate head coach Justin Hutson was at San Diego State for five years. Heath Schroyer was head coach at Wyoming for the last four years, so we all have a really good feel for UNLV and the players." Not to mention that his third assistant is UNLV legend and former teammate Stacey Augmon.

Rice and his MWC coaching all-stars will have some quality material to work with. Point guard Oscar Bellfield (3.7 assists per game while sharing with Tre'Von Willis) is ready to run the offense as a senior, and he'll have fourth-year classmates Brice Massamba and Chace Stanback patrolling the interior -- though Stanback's situation could change, as we'll discuss later. Kansas transfer Quintrell Thomas will attempt to improve on his uneven sophomore season in the paint, as well -- he certainly has the size, at 6-foot-8, 245 lbs.

Rice is also interested to see what happens when three experienced players, who were limited to the practice floor last season, get into game action.


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