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UNLV MEN’S BASKETBALL NEWS: Runnin’ Rebels Picked Second By Mountain West Media, Birch & Kendall Smith Recognized

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RUNNIN’ REBELS PICKED SECOND BY MOUNTAIN WEST MEDIA

UNLV’s Khem Birch named to preseason all-conference team, Kendall Smith selected as Preseason Freshman of the Year

The UNLV men’s basketball team was picked to finish in a tie for second place in the Mountain West in 2013-14 as the league released its preseason media poll and all-conference team on Tuesday.

Two Runnin’ Rebel players earned recognition as junior forward Khem Birch was selected to the six-member (because of a tie in the balloting) preseason all-conference team and guard Kendall Smith was named Preseason Freshman of the Year.

A panel comprised of conference media selected defending MW regular-season and tournament champion New Mexico as the overwhelming preseason favorite to win this season’s regular-season title. The Lobos received 23 of 24 first-place votes and 263 points to garner the top spot in the poll. The Runnin’ Rebels claimed the remaining first-place vote and 214 points to tie with Boise State for second place, while San Diego State garnered 212 points to finish fourth.

Mountain West newcomer Utah State collected 156 points for fifth place, followed by Colorado State in sixth (142 points) and Wyoming (112 points) in seventh. Rounding out the poll were Fresno State (96 points) in eighth place, Nevada, Reno (84 points) in ninth, Air Force (61 points) in 10th and MW newcomer San José State (30 points) in 11th.

Two seniors and four junior representing four institutions were chosen for the preseason all-conference team. Joining Birch were Boise State junior guard/forward Anthony Drmic and junior guard Derrick Marks, Nevada, Reno senior guard Deonte Burton and New Mexico junior center Alex Kirk and senior guard Kendall Williams.

Williams was selected as the Preseason Player of the Year, while San Diego State senior forward Josh Davis was the recipient of the Preseason Newcomer of the Year honor.

Birch was tabbed last season’s MW Defensive Player of the Year and was also a MW All-Defensive Team selection. He blocked a league-high 48 shots in MW competition during 2012-13, averaging 3.0 rejections per game and also contributed 7.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game (12th in the league) against conference opponents to receive All-MW honorable mention.

Smith, ranked as a Top-100 recruit by ESPN.com, averaged 27.5 points, 6.7 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game, while shooting 46 percent from the field as a senior at Deer Valley High School in Antioch, Calif. He played in 27 games as a senior, recording 25 or more points on 12 occasions with a season-high of 52.

The Runnin’ Rebels played in their fourth straight NCAA Tournament last season and their sixth in the last seven years. Only 12 programs nationally have matched that and it is tops in the MW over that span.

UNLV head coach Dave Rice led the Runnin’ Rebels to another 25-win season in 2012-13 as they went 25-10 overall and 10-6 in conference play to finish third. The 51 wins by the program over the last two seasons is the most ever by a UNLV coach after his first two years leading the program (Hall of Famer Jerry Tarkanian had 44 wins in his first two years).

UNLV has been among the nation’s top 25 in home attendance in each of the last five seasons, coming in at No. 1 in the MW, No. 1 on the West Coast (also for five straight years) and 14th nationally in 2012-13.

UNLV, which won four games over ranked teams last year and ranked in the top-10 nationally in assists, rebounding and blocks, returns two starters and five players overall from last year. Ten new players are on the 2013-14 roster, including three that used their redshirt year while practicing with the team in 2012-13.

A limited number of season tickets in the lower bowl of the Thomas & Mack Center for the 2013-14 season are on sale now. Seats are being offered on a first-come, first-served basis and may be purchased in person at the Thomas & Mack Center box office, by calling 702-739-FANS (3267) or online at UNLVtickets.com. Supplies are limited and prices vary based on location with a priority seating donation required in addition to the ticket price.

For more information on purchasing season tickets in the lower plaza level, contact the Rebel Athletic Fund at 702-895-1533. For information on all other tickets, call 702-739-FANS or visit UNLVtickets.com.

-UNLV-

2013-14 MW MEN’S BASKETBALL PRESEASON MEDIA POLL                                                
Rank        School (First-Place Votes)        Points
1.         New Mexico (23)         263
2.         UNLV (1)         214
        Boise State         214
4.         San Diego State         212
5.         Utah State         156
6.         Colorado State         142
7.         Wyoming         112
8.         Fresno State         96
9.         Nevada         84
10.         Air Force         61
11.         San José State         30        
         
2013-14 MW MEN’S BASKETBALL PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM                                        
Name        Class        Pos.        Institution                
Anthony Drmic        Jr.        G/F        Boise State
Derrick Marks        Jr.        G        Boise State
Deonte Burton        Sr        G        Nevada
Alex Kirk        Jr.        C        New Mexico
Kendall Williams        Sr.        G        New Mexico
Khem Birch        Jr.        F        UNLV

Preseason Player of the Year
Kendall Williams, Sr., G, New Mexico
                                         
Preseason Newcomer of the Year
Josh Davis, Sr., F, San Diego State

Preseason Freshman of the Year
Kendall Smith, G, UNLV

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