With football suffering through another losing season and expectations the highest in two decades for Dave Rice’s Runnin’ Rebels basketball team, many UNLV basketball fans have been counting down the minutes to get their first look at this year’s squad.
Tonight at 7 p.m. at the Thomas & Mack Center, the wait finally comes to an end.
UNLV hosts its annual Scarlet/Gray Showcase that will feature a dunk contest, scrimmage and a legends game. A fan fest featuring games for kids on the concourse between the Thomas & Mack and the Mendenhall Center starts at 5:30 and doors open at the Mack at 6 p.m.
Among those scheduled to take part in the dunk contest are highly-touted freshmen big men Anthony Bennett of Findlay Prep and Demetrius Morant of Bishop Gorman, transfers Khem Birch (Pitt) and Roscoe Smith (UConn) and senior guard Anthony Marshall.
The Runnin’ Rebels return six letterwinners from a 26-9 squad that upset then-No. 1 North Carolina and received an NCAA Tournament at-large invitation, including Marshall, a second team all-Mountain West selection and junior forward Mike Moser, a first team all-Mountain West pick and honorable mention Associated Press All-American.
Also back are seniors Justin Hawkins and Quintrell Thomas and junior center Carlos Lopez-Sosa. Bennett heads up one of the nation’s top recruiting classes that also includes guards Katin Reinhardt, Daquan Cook and Savon Goodman, Morant and Smith, a transfer from UConn who must sit out the 2012-13 season. Another key addition, USC transfer Bryce Dejean-Jones, is sidelined until the end of the month with a broken hand.
UNLV opens its season on Nov. 7 with an exhibition game against Dixie State College at the Thomas & Mack. The season opener is Nov. 12 against Northern Arizona, also at the Thomas & Mack Center.
UNLV was ranked No. 19 in the preseason USA Today Coaches’ Poll released on Wednesday.
It marks the first time the Runnin’ Rebels are in the preseason Top 25 of the coaches’ poll since they were No. 23 at the start of the 1992-93 season. It also is the highest the Rebels have been ranked in a preseason poll since the 1990-91 season when UNLV began the year No. 1.
San Diego State, which is expected to battle the Rebels for the Mountain West title this year, came in at No. 20 while New Mexico and Colorado State also received votes.