Over the course of the holiday week, we at College Basketball Talk will be detailing what we believe will be the New Year’s Resolutions of some of the nation’s most talented, most disappointing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams. What can we say, we’re in a giving mood.
Who else made Resolutions? Click here to find out.
WHAT DOES UNLV PROMISE TO DO MORE OF?: Play efficiently on the offensive end.
Outside of their 19-turnover performance against Mississippi State, UNLV has done a good job of taking care of the basketball during their current five-game win streak. Dave Rice’s team has averaged at least 1.09 points/possession during the streak, and with four players averaging double figures (and a fifth, Jelan Kendrick, averaging 8.2 ppg) the Runnin’ Rebels have the talent to be a productive offensive team. Roscoe Smith, who’s also the nation’s leading rebounder, leads the way with an average of 12.8 points per game. Four players are currently averaging at least two assists per game, with Bryce Dejean-Jones leading the team with 3.2 apg.
Well in looking at that five-game streak you also have to address the level of competition, with Santa Clara and Mississippi State being the best teams UNLV has faced. In their losses UNLV averaged one point per possession just once, and that was their home loss to Arizona State. Against UCSB (0.97), Illinois (0.89) and Arizona (0.88) the Runnin’ Rebels scored less than one point per possession, although that close defeat at Arizona may have been a game in which the proverbial lightbulb went on for this group.
WHAT DOES UNLV SWEAR THEY WILL DO LESS OF?: Miss free throws.
Interestingly enough junior forward Khem Birch has been UNLV’s best foul shooter amongst the regulars, knocking down 77.9% of his attempts on the season. But overall UNLV ranks 316th nationally in free throw percentage, and in the close games they’re likely to play in the Mountain West that could be the difference between winning a conference title and merely contending. They’ve got players capable of shooting a solid percentage from the charity stripe, which should lead to improvement in this area as the season wears on.
The two perimeter players with the highest number of attempts, Dejean-Jones (34 attempts) and Kendrick (30), are shooting just 61.8% and 53.3% from the foul line respectively. And amongst the guards in Dave Rice’s rotation Kevin Olekaibe’s been the best foul shooter, and he’s shooting just 63.6% from the charity stripe. When your guards have issues at the foul line it’s tough to make the strides needed when it comes to the team’s percentage, especially when considering how much they’ll be asked to handle the ball in late-game situations.