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UNLV Defeats Utah State, 70-53

Wade Vandervort

UNLV’s Bryce Hamilton dunks the ball during a game against Utah State at the Thomas & Mack Center, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020.

UNLV should be able to make a run at a Mountain West title this season, and apparently the league’s media contingent agrees, as T.J. Otzelberger’s squad was picked fourth in the preseason poll released on Wednesday.

Though UNLV didn’t garner any first-place votes — those were gobbled up by first-place San Diego State (14 votes), second-place Boise State (four) and third-place Utah State (2) — it is the scarlet and grey’s highest projected finish in a preseason poll since they were picked fourth prior to the 2015-16 campaign. And the voters seem to believe UNLV is stocked with talent, judging by the individual honors.

Junior guard Bryce Hamilton earned a spot on the preseason All-MWC first team, along with Boise State guard Derrick Alston, Colorado State guard Isaiah Stevens, San Diego State forward Matt Mitchell and Utah State center Neemias Queta. Last year proved to be a breakout for Hamilton, as he averaged 20.9 points and 6.7 rebounds in conference play.

Hamilton’s expected backcourt partner, junior David Jenkins, was named Newcomer of the Year. Jenkins averaged 19.7 points and made 45.3 percent of his 3-pointers in 2018-19, when he played under Otzelberger at South Dakota State.

Nick Blake was named Freshman of the Year. Blake, a Las Vegas native, is the highest-rated recruit in UNLV’s incoming class. He is the first UNLV player to earn the league’s preseason frosh honors since Brandon McCoy in 2018-19.

UNLV outperformed expectations last year, as Otzelberger coached the team to a 17-15 record and a 12-6 mark in the Mountain West. The team got better as the season progressed and appeared to be peaking in March until an ankle injury sidelined point guard Elijah Mitrou-Long for the conference tournament. If UNLV can continue that momentum and players like Jenkins and Blake can make significant contributions, it’s not farfetched to think UNLV could challenge for the MWC crown in 2020-21.

The full Mountain West preseason superlatives:

Rankings

1. San Diego State

2. Boise State

3. Utah State

4. UNLV

5. Colorado State

6. UNR

7. New Mexico

8. Fresno State

9. Wyoming

10. Air Force

11. San Jose State

Player of the Year

Derrick Alston, Boise State

Newcomer of the Year

David Jenkins, UNLV

Freshman of the Year

Nick Blake, UNLV

All-Mountain West First Team

Derrick Alston, Boise State

Isaiah Stevens, Colorado State

Matt Mitchell, San Diego State

Bryce Hamilton, UNLV

Neemias Queta, Utah State

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

Article written by #LasVegasSun

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