Rebels ranked No. 18 in AP preseason poll

Entering his second season, coach Dave Rice is overseeing a UNLV basketball team that is ranked in October for the first time in 20 years.

The Rebels, 26-9 last season, were ranked No. 18 in The Associated Press’ preseason Top 25 poll released Friday.

“We feel like we have made significant progress,” Rice said.

UNLV actually moved up one spot from last week, when it debuted at No. 19 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll. The preseason rankings are the first for the Rebels since 1992, when they were No. 22. That was after they opened the 1990-91 season as the nation’s top-ranked team.

Preseason polls are mostly for amusement purposes. But with national respect comes a responsibility to back it up, and Rice knows his team is not sneaking up on anyone.

“The only guarantee is that our opponents will be even more ready to play us,” he said. “It is great national recognition for our program. But we know the tremendous challenges ahead and how hard we have to work.”

UNLV returns two starters, senior point guard Anthony Marshall and junior forward Mike Moser, the team’s top scorer and rebounder last season.

Rice’s roster is a mixture of experience – seniors Justin Hawkins and Quintrell Thomas and junior Carlos Lopez-Sosa also return – and youth. A talented freshman class features forward Anthony Bennett and guard Katin Reinhardt, two of the nation’s top recruits.

The Rebels also will be working transfers Bryce Dejean-Jones and Khem Birch into the rotation.

“We know it is going to take some time this season with so many new players,” Rice said.

UNLV opens the season Nov. 7 with an exhibition against Dixie State at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Rebels begin the regular season Nov. 12 against Northern Arizona at the T&M.

Indiana is ranked No. 1 in the AP poll for the first time since the 1979-80 season. The Hoosiers return five starters, including 7-foot sophomore Cody Zeller. They received 43 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel.

Louisville and Kentucky, ranked second and third, received the rest of the first-place votes, with the Cardinals getting 20 and the defending national champion Wildcats the other two.

Ohio State and Michigan join Indiana as Big Ten teams in the top five. The last time a conference had three teams in the preseason top five was 2008-09 when Connecticut, Louisville and Pittsburgh of the Big East were second, third and fifth.

San Diego State of the Mountain West Conference is ranked No. 20. Other West Coast teams in the Top 25 are Arizona at No. 12, UCLA at No. 13 and Gonzaga at No. 21.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact reporter Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.

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