As an ex-Rebel and a member of the broadcast team, I get a lot of questions from fans, and the question they’re asking lately is, “What’s wrong with the Rebels?” As tempting as it is to pick out one thing that’s “wrong,” we need to look at a number of problems that add up to some real midseason struggles. Here are some of my thoughts:
Teams have figured out that Anthony Bennett is the first option for the Rebels, and they’ve responded effectively
In Mountain West Conference play, teams have been fouling Bennett hard, and they double-team him whenever he touches the ball. Bennett is not as patient on offense as he was earlier in the season, and it’s because he’s either being denied the ball, or his scoring lanes are being cut off by two or three players. There have been times he’s gotten open and his teammates have missed him, and he gets in a hurry to score when he does receive the ball. The upshot of all this is that the Rebels need to share the ball more. Ball movement—and movement without the ball—will help keep opponents honest, which will open up more opportunities for Bennett.
On offense, the team needs to run more to get easier shots
Some teams try to slow the Rebels down, but the Rebels should push the issue by running on both made and missed baskets by their opponents. This will put the pressure back on the opposing defense.
The Rebels’ youth and inexperience is leading to too many defensive breakdowns
Last year, UNLV had more veteran players who had played together and knew the defensive schemes. Now it’s time for this year’s team to start playing like veterans. More pressure on the ball, with better weakside help, will take away those easy points in the paint.
On both sides of the ball, it’s time for the Rebels to trust one another more
There’s plenty of talent on this team. If they can leverage that talent and work together, they can still make a run as tournament time approaches.
Robert Smith, a star UNLV point guard from 1974-77, is the color analyst for Rebel broadcasts on ESPN Radio 1100.