Rice’s Reputation, Birch’s Role and More Reader Questions

With the Rebels set to take on Cal in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday, now seemed like as good a time as any to sift through the RunRebs mailbag and answer some questions from readers. Let’s jump right in.

(Note: Some questions have been tweaked to clean up Tweet-speak)


It’s crazy that people are hating on Dave Rice. What will this year’s tourney results mean to recruiting and Rice’s future?

When it comes to recruiting at the national level, the two biggest factors are the ability to turn out NBA players and playing time. I’d lump NCAA tournament success together with the overall prestige of a program, and that would rank third. Of course a deep tournament run will only help when it comes to recruiting, but I don’t think an early exit would be a killer. For Rice’s reputation, though, an NCAA tourney win is essential. He’s only in his second year, but he’s also cultivated sky-high expectations. People believe this team should be better than they’ve been to this point, and that’s not a reputation any coach wants to carry around. The sooner Rice gets that monkey off his back, the better.

@Carmine 1124
What’s up with Birch’s playing time? Is he going to play more than nine minutes? The Rebels won’t advance without him on the floor.

I looked at the issue of Birch’s role in this piece, and I think most of those points apply to this question. Yes, Birch is the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, but that doesn’t automatically preclude him from having weaknesses. At a slender 220 pounds, he doesn’t hold up against physical post players as well as senior Quintrell Thomas (245 pounds). Against Colorado State (Colton Iverson) and New Mexico (Alex Kirk), Rice went with Thomas to combat their size. Against Cal, a team that doesn’t have any post scorers, Birch’s incredible help defense will once again be at a premium. I expect Birch to double and maybe triple the nine minutes he saw against New Mexico.

What’s are the chances that UNLV lands Dwayne Morgan?

Morgan recently cut down his list, and UNLV is in the final three, so that’s obviously a great sign. Maryland is believed to have something of an inside track just by virtue of being the hometown option (Morgan is from Baltimore), and Georgetown was a late addition to his list. It actually reminds me of the just-completed Jermaine Lawrence sweepstakes, in that the player is considering two schools close to home with UNLV as the lone west coast option. In Lawrence’s case, he chose Cincinnati over the Rebels. If I had to rank them right now, I’d go Maryland—UNLV—Georgetown. We’ll find out for real when Morgan announces on April 5.

Who will play the most at the point guard position next year?

When Anthony Marshall graduates, he’s going to leave about 35 minutes a night to fill at the point guard position. We’ve seen Katin Reinhardt get spot minutes there, and Daquan Cook has gotten his feet wet throughout the year. And with incoming freshman Kendall Smith also on board, it looked for a while like UNLV might hold a preseason competition to see which player fit the best. But when the Rebels got a commitment from juco point guard DeVille Smith earlier this month, that sort of cleared up the situation, in my opinion. He’s athletic, active, and a terrific shooter, and he’s experienced enough to come in and play big minutes right away. Look for DeVille to get every opportunity to lock down the starting point guard spot next year.

Are any of our assistant coaches’ names coming up regarding all the new coaching vacancies?

Dave Rice has a talented staff of assistants. Heath Schroyer is a former head coach at Wyoming, Stacey Augmon interviewed for an NBA job last offseason, and associate head coach Justin Hutson is building a rep as one of the nation’s best recruiters. I haven’t heard anything on the coaching carousel yet, but a lot of those moves happen after the season is completed. We may have to wait a while before names start getting floated.

Related content:
Point/Counterpoint: Similar Paths for Cobbs, Marshall
How Will Khem Birch Impact Rebels’ Defense Against Cal?
Chatting with the Enemy: Q&A with Cal Blogger

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  • ph90702

    I’d like to mention that Dave Rice said that Birch’s role was limited against Colorado State and New Mexico because he felt under the weather. Obviously, Thomas was going to see some time, but Birch probably sees 20 minutes in each of the two games if he wasn’t under the weather.

    • Mike Grimala

      Rice did say that, but I’m not sure I buy it 100 percent. In the last regular-season game against CSU, Birch’s +/- was -5. In the last regular-season game against UNM, it was -2. They just weren’t good matchups for him. But this Cal team is right in his wheelhouse.

      • ph90702

        What’s he going to do next year when they don’t have a banger in the post?

        • Mike Grimala

          Another year of development will do wonders for Birch. Anyone that saw him in high school (or even at Pitt) has to be amazed at how he’s changed his body and improved his post game. He’ll be the man at that position next year, no question.

          • ph90702

            You think he could get up to 235 lbs. and not lose any mobility or athleticism?

          • Mike Grimala

            I’m not good with weights and numbers, but I think he can stand to get a little bigger. But the biggest improvement may come from experience — learning how to play with better leverage, learning how to position himself better, etc. That should help him against bigger, stronger post players.

          • ph90702

            Maybe they could front Birch more against guys like Kirk and Bairstow.

  • Test

    GO REBS!!!!!!