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Oct 6: UNLV Rebels Practice

Steve Marcus

UNLV head basketball coach Kevin Kruger talks with players during practice in Mendenhall Center at UNLV Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021.

If UNLV basketball is going to contend in the Mountain West in Kevin Kruger’s first year at the helm, they’ll be doing it as big, big underdogs.

The Mountain West released its preseason poll on Wednesday and the scarlet and gray have been picked to finish seventh in the 11-team league.

Colorado State was chosen as the preseason favorite, claiming 11 of 20 votes. San Diego State is second with seven first-place votes, and UNR garnered two first-place votes. No other team picked up a first-place nod.

The complete rankings:

Mountain West preseason poll

1. Colorado State (207 points)

2. San Diego State (201)

3. UNR (189)

4. Boise State (147)

5. Utah State (127)

6. Fresno State (119)

7. UNLV (109)

8. New Mexico (79)

8. Wyoming (79)

10. San Jose State (40)

11. Air Force (23)

UNLV went 12-15 overall last season in Year 2 under T.J. Otzelberger. After a promising first year, Otzelberger’s crew trudged through an 8-10 Mountain West campaign and the coach departed for Iowa State shortly after the team was eliminated in the second round of the MWC tournament.

Kevin Kruger brought in 10 new players—nine college transfers and one incoming freshman (more on him below)—and outside expectations are apparently low for the 2021-22 season.

Despite being picked to finish in the bottom half of the standings, UNLV is not bereft of talent. The program was overjoyed when Bryce Hamilton decided to return to college for his senior season, and with good reason—the kid can play. On Wednesday, Hamilton was named to the Preseason All-Mountain West First Team, his second such selection.

Hamilton was an All-Mountain West honoree after his sophomore season, and he was a preseason All-MWC pick before last season. He struggled with his shot throughout the year, however, making just 43.0% from the field while averaging a career-high 17.9 points per game.

Hamilton is poised for a big bounce-back year. The southern California native has been shooting the ball well in practice, and Kruger said he is going to lean on Hamilton to play a big role in the offense.

UNR guard Grant Sherfield was named Mountain West Preseason Player of the Year.

The complete All-MWC selections:

All-Mountain West First Team

Grant Sherfield, G, UNR

Isaiah Stevens, G, Colorado State

Bryce Hamilton, G, UNLV

David Roddy, F, Colorado State

Orlando Robinson, F, Fresno State

UNLV guard Keshon Gilbert was chosen as the conference’s Preseason Freshman of the Year. Gilbert, a 3-star recruit, was rated the No. 205 prospect in the Class of 2021 by 247 Sports. He led his St. Louis high school team to a state championship last year, and his tough-nosed defense has turned heads in early practice sessions.

San Diego State senior transfer Matt Bradley was named Preseason Newcomer of the Year.

The all-conference team, preseason awards and preseason rankings are voted on by local media.

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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