Over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams need. It’s the spirit of the holidays. We’re in a giving mood.
What do other teams have on their Christmas Wish Lists? Click here to find out.
Gotta have it list-topper: Someone to fill Mike Moser’s shoes
When Mike Moser went down with an elbow injury in UNLV’s win over Cal on Sunday, Rebel nation held its collective breath. After tests, it was revealed that he will likely miss about a month as he recovers from a dislocated elbow.
Luckily for UNLV, Pittsburgh transfer Khem Birch will come into the fold at the start of the second semester, which should help to fill the frontcourt gap while Moser works his way back. Birch is likely not the silver bullet that fixes everything for Dave Rice’s team, but his presence should take some pressure off of Anthony Bennett.
The freshman Bennett, in his own right, is having an All-American-type season, averaging 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Without Moser, they’ll like look to him more, but it will be the responsibility of Birch, Quintrell Thomas, and Carlos Lopez-Sosa to pick up the slack.
Looking at the UNLV schedule over the next four-to-five weeks, there are three major tests that stand out. The Rebels meet No. 21 North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Dec. 29, then No. 17 New Mexico at the start of conference play on Jan. 9. If Moser takes more time to recover, that could keep him out for the Jan. 16 game against No. 18 San Diego State.
Stocking Stuffer: Better shot selection
It is often the case with young teams that they can fall into the trap of taking bad shots, and sometimes taking bad shots in large numbers. UNLV has fallen victim to that at points this season, ranking 203rd in the nation with an overall shooting percentage of 42.7 percent.
Much of the problem is in the backcourt, with Katin Reinhardt, Bryce Dejean-Jones, and Justin Hawkins all shooting 37 percent or less from the field. Dejean-Jones and Reinhardt are also shooting close to 30 percent from behind the three-point line.
As the Rebels move into Mountain West play, close games can be decided by shot selection down the stretch. They’re doing fine in other major statistical categories (scoring, rebounding, assists), which means patience can go a long way.
Without Moser for the next month, Anthony Bennett will likely become even more of a focal point, as well as Khem Birch as he becomes acclimated to the program and the system. Both are options around the rim, with Bennett shooting 54 percent from the floor.
Planning on re-gifting: Turnovers
A byproduct of both pace and inexperience, the Rebels are turning the ball over 15 times per game. Granted, they’re one of the best teams in the country at sharing the ball and have a solid assist/turnover ratio, but working to reduce turnovers will go a long way. Anthony Marshall is still settling into his role as a point guard and is leading the team in assists, but also leading in turnovers (5.8/2.8).
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_