The Arizona Wildcats travel to Las Vegas to play the UNLV Rebels Tuesday night in their final non-conference game of the season.
1. Rashad Vaughn is the best freshman UNLV has had since....
Don't have to go far. Looking back to 2013, Anthony Bennett averaged 16 points and eight rebounds on 53 percent shooting as a freshman. Vaughn has not been as efficient of a scorer, but he has shown some NBA caliber on the pick and roll this season; he just hasn't done it consistently. Vaughn can be as good Bennett, but I wouldn't put him there yet.
2. Christian Wood is averaging nearly ten rebounds a game. Do you think he'll be effective on the glass against a seven-footer like Kaleb Tarczewski and athletic forwards like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Brandon Ashley?
Rebounding has been a huge problem for UNLV. But Dave Rice made that emphasis of practice leading up to the game against Utah, and UNLV became the first team to outrebound Utah this season. I wouldn't expect UNLV to do much damage on the offensive glass since Arizona leads the country in defensive rebounding percentage, but if it remains a focus in practice I'd expect UNLV to hold their own on the glass.
3. UNLV is 0-3 against Pac-12 teams so far this year. Has there been one constant theme in those games against Stanford, Arizona State and Utah?
Three-point shooting has killed UNLV in their three losses. Stanford, Arizona State and Utah shot 52.6 percent beyond the arc against UNLV; all other opponents have been held to 23.3 percent shooting on threes. Although Utah was just 5 of 15, all three Pac-12 teams have created open shots on the perimeter through penetration and post ups.
4. Who's the one guy off the bench that Arizona fans should be wary of, and what might that player be able to take advantage of against the Wildcats?
The rotation is slim for UNLV, so the only real worry off the bench is Pat McCaw. He has been the Swiss army knife this season, as he has been the backup point guard, top wing off the bench and even played some of the center position in UNLV's zone offense against South Dakota. McCaw is UNLV's best perimeter defender by far; he'll likely play 30 minutes guarding whoever Dave Rice determines is the biggest threat to get into the lane. He is the best at defending ball screens and creates a lot of steals and loose balls with his hands.
5. Your personal thoughts on Dave Rice?
Rice has some tremendous talent on his roster this season. The biggest issue is that he allows too much freedom to his team. That is a big reason why UNLV is outside the top 200 in offensive efficiency. But that freedom is also the reason we've seen Vaughn and other players make tremendous plays. Even when UNLV needed baskets late to tie and beat Portland Rice just let his point guard, Cody Doolin, go to work; and it worked. I'd definitely like to see more play calls based on Doolin getting into the lane via ball screens. But there was a possession against where Chris Wood took an off-the-dribble-step-back three with 15 seconds on the shot clock. When those plays happen there's nothing but sorrow to feel for Rice.
6. How do you see this game on Tuesday playing out?
Between UNLV's three nonconference games against ranked opponents - Utah, Arizona and Kansas - I'd project Arizona is the most winnable. This game is at home for UNLV, and if UNLV continues to protect the rim like one of the best teams in the country, they'll have a chance. But Arizona will win this game because UNLV's offense cannot score efficiently. Wildcats 63, Rebels 56.
Thanks again to Tyler and make sure to check out Mountain West Connection!