Illinois vs UNLV Preview and Prediction
Illinois vs UNLV Preview
The Illinois Fighting Illini head to Vegas to play the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels of the Mountain West Conference on Saturday night. The Rebels are coached by Marvin Menzies. Menzies is in his second season at the helm of UNLV with a 18-23 record after leading the Rebels to an 11-21 record in his first season.
The Rebels have started the season 7-2, already closing in on their win total of 11 from a year ago. Their best win this season came against a solid Utah Utes team, where the Rebels smacked them silly en route to a 27-point victory. UNLV doesn’t have a bad loss on their resume, losing back-to-back overtime games against Northen Iowa and Pac-12 favorite Arizona.
One reason for the drastic turnaround from year one under Marvin Menzies and year two is five-star recruit Brandon McCoy. McCoy is a seven-foot freshmen center from California who chose UNLV over Arizona and Oregon. The prized recruit has averaged 20 points per game and 12 rebounds per game on the young season.Not only is McCoy clearly the best player on the Rebels, but he is also the biggest matchup problem for the Illini. Illinois doesn’t have anyone on the roster who can defend McCoy on their own. Containing McCoy will be a team effort, and Illinois will try to get him in foul trouble early on.
Illinois scored a victory over Austin Peay in their last game, but just like UNLV, the Illini were coming off of back-to-back overtime losses against Big Ten foes Maryland and Northwestern. Those were crushing conference defeats.
Leron Black leads the team with an average of 14.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, while Te’Jon Lucas is the team’s top assist man with 3.6 helpers per game this season. As a team, Illinois is scoring 83 points per game on 44.7% shooting from the field, 31.7% from behind the arc and 76.1% from the foul line this season.
First-year Illinois coach Brad Underwood is shaking up his starting lineup a bit for this game, inserting freshman Da’Monte Williams in place of classmate Mark Smith (8.6 ppg, 1.7 rpg)
Illinois leads the all-time series 4-1. The last meeting between the schools was Illinois’ 61-59 victory on Nov. 26, 2013, in Las Vegas.
The game which benefits Coaches vs. Cancer program was moved from UNLV’s normal home as the Thomas & Mack Center is hosting the National Finals Rodeo. The Runnin’ Rebels are 4-2 all-time on the Strip with a 2-1 mark at the Grand Garden Arena
Illinois head coach Brad Underwood is in the beginning of building this Illini program back up. They have some talented pieces, but no one on the team will be able to handle Brandon McCoy.
LINE: -5 UNLV
UNLV 94 Illinois 85