Is UNLV’s win the result of phasing out Mike Moser?

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UNLV isn’t ready to throw in the towel on their Mountain West title dreams just yet.

After losing back-to-back road games to Boise State and Fresno State, the Runnin’ Rebels knocked off No. 15 New Mexico at the Thomas & Mack Center on Saturday night, 64-55.

That final score doesn’t actually do UNLV’s dominance justice. Dave Rice’s team jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. They were up 37-23 at the break and the Lobos never mounted a serious threat in the final 20 minutes.

It was precisely the kind of performance that UNLV needed, and it came at a time where Rice did something a little different with his rotation. Mike Moser, the best player on the team a season ago, played all of three minutes. Senior leader Justin Hawkins played just six minutes. It was the fewest minutes that either had played all season long. Hawkins had been in double figures in every game this season. If you take away the five minutes Moser played against Cal before he dislocated his elbow and the nine minutes he played against Air Force before being ejected for a Flagrant 2, the same can be said for him.

“All of my substitutions are situational,” Rice said in his press conference after the game. “On the bench, at halftime and after the game, Mike Moser and Justin Hawkins were as positive as can be, and that’s why we have a chance for success.”

“There’s no doubt that Mike Moser’s been frustrated. I was looking at his numbers the last couple of days and he was averaging close to a double-double before he had the elbow injury.”

But those numbers were put up before Khem Birch became eligible. With Birch back and Anthony Bennett playing like a first-team all-american, there’s no space for Mike Moser in the front court. Could it be that the situational subs that Rice is making involve cutting down how deep his rotation goes?

Perhaps the bigger question is whether or not this performance was more the result of the heavier reliance upon the starting five for minutes or if this was simply a case of a team playing a rival at home in a must-win game. UNLV is notorious for being a different team when they’re playing at the Thomas & Mack Center, and that could very well have played a huge role in Saturday night’s win.

But the speculation all season long has been that the Rebels are actually a better team without their preseason all-american, and this game seems to confirm that line of thinking.

UNLV’s next game is at Air Force on Wednesday. It will be quite interesting to see how Dave Rice’s rotation works itself out.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.

Report: Nike, Adidas and Under Armour all pass on sponsoring Lonzo Ball

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Lonzo Ball will enter his rookie season in the NBA without a sponsorship deal from Nike, Adidas or Under Armour, only his family’s Big Baller Brand apparel.

That, according to a report from ESPN, is due to his father LaVar’s insistence that Lonzo not sign with one of the three major apparel companies unless they opted to sign a licensing deal for Big Baller Brand merchandise instead of outfitting Lonzo with their own gear.

“We’ve said from the beginning, we aren’t looking for an endorsement deal,” LaVar told ESPN. “We’re looking for co-branding, a true partner. But they’re not ready for that because they’re not used to that model. But hey, the taxi industry wasn’t ready for Uber, either.”

LaVar had been representing his son in the negotiations, and is now expected to reach out to other shoe brands, including Chinese apparel companies like Li-Nang.

Big Baller Brand is a startup apparel company launched by LaVar Ball. They sell t-shirts, sweatshirts and hats, with most of their products costing at least $50.

Lonzo declared for the NBA Draft after an all-american season that saw him and the UCLA Bruins flame out of the NCAA tournament in the Sweet 16. UCLA lost to Kentucky in that game, and Lonzo had a quiet night while his point guard counterpart, De’Aaron Fox, went off for 39 points.

Lonzo is a likely top three pick in the NBA Draft and, potentially, could still end up going No. 1. He has two younger brothers as well. LiAngelo will be a freshman with the Bruins next season while LaMelo just finished his sophomore season in high school. Both will attend UCLA.