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Christmas wish list: What does UNLV want and need?


Mike Miller

From now until Christmas, Beyond the Arc will detail what some teams need. Hey, we’re in a giving mood.

Why would UNLV need anything this holiday season? The Rebels have knocked off a No. 1 team (North Carolina) handed an unbeaten Big Ten school its first loss (Illinois) and whipped Cal by 17 points on Friday.

Does Dave Rice’s team really need anything else? Well, yeah.

What other teams have Christmas wish lists? Click here

Must have: A fast pace.

When Dave Rice took over for Lon Kurger, he promised the Rebels would run and score. He’s proven to be a man of his word, too. UNLV runs (it gets about two more possessions a game than the average D-I team, and that’s after playing the likes of USC, Wisconsin and Louisiana Monroe, three of the pokiest teams around) and scores (78 points a game, or the 18th most efficient team). At 13-2, it’s clearly paying off.

Yet those two losses came in games where … the … pace … crawled. Wichita State went slow (not its style this season, oddly enough) and seemingly hit every possible shot in an 89-70 win. Wisconsin did the same two weeks ago, though that was expected. With athletic wings and fleet guards, Rice is playing to UNLV’s strengths. The Rebs have fared OK in some half-court settings this season, but the faster, the better.

Stocking stuffer: Getting Anthony Marshall to control the game.

If UNLV’s junior guard struggles, it’s not a huge issue. Senior Oscar Bellfield can run the offense, or junior Justin Hawkins can step in. But Marshall presents the most upside, both for his defense and quickly improving offensive game. He struggled with his shot until breaking out for 22 against Cal.

His assist-to-turnover ratio needs work (it’s essentially 2-1), but there’s lots to like about his game. Especially when he’s hitting.

Planning to re-gift: That perimeter defense. It’s the chink in UNLV’s armor.

Entering the Cal game, teams were hitting 35 percent of their 3s against the Rebels, slightly above the D-I average. Rice says the team doesn’t do as much trapping around the arc as UNLV did last season, which has made it a little tough for the players to adjust.

Cal was a bright spot, though. The Bears entered the game hitting 44 percent from deep and they finished just 5 of 15.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.