This summer is the honeymoon phase in Las Vegas for Marvin Menzies, who was hired as UNLV basketball coach in April and has yet to lose a game.
But he’s going to lose several games in his first season, and some of them could get ugly — the Duke game, for example. The Rebels and Blue Devils will meet in the first college basketball game at T-Mobile Arena on Dec. 10.
Duke, the favorite to win the NCAA championship at 7-2 odds, is loaded with experienced players and an elite incoming recruiting class. UNLV lost its top seven scorers from last season, and Menzies was rushed to do a patchwork job in recruiting.
Oddsmakers at the Westgate sports book opened the Blue Devils as 15½-point favorites over the Rebels.
“I don’t see it hovering anywhere near single digits because of the talent difference between the two teams,” Westgate book manager Jeff Sherman said. “It depends how lightly Duke takes the game.”
Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski is unlikely to take it lightly. Krzyzewski coached Team USA to a 111-74 exhibition victory over Argentina on Friday at T-Mobile Arena, and the result could be similarly lopsided when he returns in December.
Duke brings back junior guard Grayson Allen, the team’s top scorer, along with Luke Kennard, Amile Jefferson, Matt Jones and Bishop Gorman High product Chase Jeter. Krzyzewski added Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Frank Jackson and Marques Bolden to compile the nation’s No. 1-ranked recruiting class.
UNLV lost coach Dave Rice and its top seven players — Patrick McCaw, Derrick Jones Jr., Ike Nwamu, Stephen Zimmerman Jr., Jerome Seagears, Ben Carter and Jordan Cornish. Junior forward Dwayne Morgan (5.5 points per game) and sophomore guard Jalen Poyser (5.4) are the top returning scorers.
The Westgate made its line with input from five oddsmakers, and opinions ranged from a low of 10½ to a high of 18½. Because the game is not at the Thomas & Mack Center, UNLV is not credited with true home-court advantage in the number.
The Rebels are rebuilding. The Blue Devils will be a powerhouse. By game day, expect the line to be closer to 20 than 15. And expect a blowout.
Contact sports betting reporter Matt Youmans at email@example.com or 702-387-2907. Follow @mattyoumans247 on Twitter.