Five Keys to Watch at Scarlet/Gray Showcase

For most fans, the Scarlet/Gray Showcase (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. at the Thomas & Mack Center) represents their first chance to see the 2013-14 Rebels in action. And while the night’s main event—a full intrasquad scrimmage—won’t reach the intensity of a real game, it’s as close as the Rebels are going to get until their first exhibition game.

So it won’t replicate the feel of a regular season contest, and it mainly exists as a chance for the fans to rally around the team and support their Rebels, but there will be some valuable takeaways from the night’s proceedings.

Here are five things to watch at the Scarlet/Gray Showcase:

1. Bright lights
The event will be played at the Thomas & Mack Center, at night, in front of a decent crowd and with a lot of pageantry involved. So yeah, it’s not a real game, but it does gives Dave Rice a chance to look at a number of elements through the lens of a game-like atmosphere.

“It’s important for us—particularly the new guys—to play in front of fans,” Rice said, “under the lights, just for me to be able to evaluate and see certain combinations and see how guys respond.”

The players will be amped up and surging with adrenaline for the event, and that’s what differentiates it from a normal practice scenario.

2. Lineup combinations
This goes back to the previous Rice quote. Because the team will be playing full-court, 5-on-5 with a scoreboard, the coaches will get a chance to tinker with certain lineup combinations. Obviously they can do this in practice, but the Scarlet/Gray game gives them a chance to substitute as though it were an actual game.

The coaches will have a chance to evaluate how certain guys play off each other. For example: Who’s better at initiating the offense when Bryce Dejean-Jones and Jelan Kendrick play together? Can Khem Birch play power forward next to Carlos Lopez-Sosa at center? Can Kevin Olekaibe come of the bench and run the point for a couple minutes at a time?

Those are just three random scenarios I’m throwing out there—I don’t know if those are actual points the coaches are considering. But those are the kinds of situations that can arise, even in a midnight madness-type event.

3. Khem’s low-post improvement
Individual skill is another thing that can be evaluated (to a point) during the Scarlet/Gray game. For instance, Khem Birch has talked about him improvement on the offensive end and how he feels he can contribute in the low post this season, so this event will give him a chance to unveil some of his new moves in a relaxed setting.

If he’s unable to handle the ball and is relegated only to dunks and tip-ins, it could be cause for concern. But if Birch shows improved footwork, tosses in a hook or two, and drop-steps his way to the rim on occasion, it could be a sign that his offensive improvement is for real.

4. Shooting gallery
The Rebels struggled from 3-point range last year, and at first glance it doesn’t appear that the team will be any better in the shooting department this season. It’s particularly telling that the two favorites to win the night’s 3-point contest, Dantley Walker and Kevin Olekaibe, may not even suit up for the team this season.

On the other hand, players like DeVille Smith and Jelan Kendrick have been shooting well in preseason practices. If those two guys can knock down outside shots consistently on Thursday night, it would go a long way toward assuaging some of the concerns over the team’s lack of shooting.

5. Point man
The Scarlet/Gray game is going to be structured for about two minutes. After that—as Khem Birch said this week—it will basically turn into an All-Star game, with little defense and players looking to leak out for fast breaks and big plays.

But even in that kind of helter-skelter setting, true point guards have an ability to control the chaos and bring a certain amount of stability to the proceedings. With the Rebels in the middle of a preseason battle for the point guard job, this game will give the contenders (DeVille Smith, Daquan Cook, Kendall Smith, etc.) a chance to show how well they can run the offense when everything is breaking down.

Will any decisions be made based on the Scarlet/Gray Showcase? Probably not. But every piece of data helps. And hey, it’s probably going to be fun, too.

Related content:
Khem Birch: “I Might Have to Score More”
Jelan Kendrick: “It’s Entertainment for the Fans”
Rice Unhappy With Rebels’ Sloppy Play on Monday
Dantley Walker: “I’m Excited”
Chris Wood Has Cast Removed; No Timetable for Return
Rice: Point Guard Battle Already Underway

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