With Mike Moser returning to Vegas next season, his junior year, UNLV’s frontcourt is stocked for the foreseeable future. Come January 2013, Coach Rice will have a frontcourt rotation featuring an honorable mention A.P. All-American (Moser), a top 15 prospect from the class of 2011 (Birch), plus the top power forward in class of 2012 (meet Anthony Bennett).
The eligibility of the Canadian-born Bennett is still at-large, but if (and likely when) the incoming freshman suits up for the Rebels next season, UNLV will boast its most talented frontcourt since the 1991. And boy would that be in good company. Jerry Tarkanian’s 1991 Runnin’ Rebels won a measly 34 consecutive games before falling in the national semifinals to Duke. Tark the Shark’s frontcourt that season featured standout forwards Larry Johnson and Stacey Augmon on top of center Elmore Spence, the three of whom became NBA first round draft picks.
What’s most impressive about UNLV’s present situation is that the program truthfully doesn’t need a player like Smith anymore. Given what Dave Rice already has in tow for next season, the Connecticut transfer is more of a luxury than a necessity. In fact, Smith may not even be in the fold for UNLV next season, at little cost to the overall strength of the frontcourt. UNLV should still showcase a frontcourt in the discussion for best in college basketball by the start of the New Year, when Birch becomes eligible. That feat, unto itself, marks the biggest win for Rice and his staff.
As for UConn? Now that’s a totally different case. Never mind landing a transfer…or two in one semester. Connecticut is just looking to retain its own players for now.
Thanks in part to Roscoe Smith, March 25, 2012 marks a watershed moment in college basketball—a seismic shift in college basketball’s balance of power. For the first time in more than 20 years—when Greg Anthony was running the point in Vegas and Jim Calhoun had just gotten his feet wet in Storrs—the script is flipped. The Huskies will be measuring up their program against the Runnin’ Rebels beginning this season.