No, it's not the Maui Classic, Preseason NIT or the Battle 4 Atlantis, but the Global Sports Challenge to be held at the Thomas & Mack Center beginning Friday will have a large bearing on where the four teams participating may be heading in the near future.
The field is set with No. 18 UNLV hosting Oregon at 6 p.m. on Friday. That contest follows a clash of No. 22 Cincinnati squaring off with Iowa State, which tips at 3:30 p.m. Both games will be televised by the CBS Sports Network.
All four programs come into the event with unblemished records - Oregon (4-0), Iowa State (4-0), Cincinnati (4-0) and UNLV (2-0). The perfection from the four participants makes this one of the more intriguing holiday tournaments.
Here's a look at some questions surrounding each team and what they need to do to be successful over the weekend:
ROTATION ISSUES The highest ranked of the four teams in the event, UNLV, will need to start settling on its rotation in the next couple of weeks. Look for that to become more prevalent this weekend. The different combinations that head coach Dave Rice can use is endless. The problem will be on whether he wants to play a smaller more active line-up with multiple guards or use the combination of Quintrell Thomas and Carlos Lopez-Sosa off the bench to show a versatile big man line-up with forwards Anthony Bennett and Mike Moser on the court with a center.
UNLV falters if.... Team chemistry isn't clicking this weekend. The Runnin' Rebels may be the most talented of the four teams but they are also the most inexperienced. That inexperience could spell doom if UNLV gets caught up in one-on-one offense. This will be a major challenge for senior point guard Anthony Marshall to control his team and keep the offense running smoothly.
UNLV rolls if.... Defensive intensity will be the key for the Rebels this weekend. All four clubs like to play an up-tempo brand of basketball, so it will be key for UNLV to not surrender many easy buckets due to lack of concentration. UNLV should be thrilled with the style of the opposing participants but can't forget that its defense will be the difference maker.
HOMECOMING DUCKS No less than three Oregon players are going to feel awfully cozy in the Las Vegas area over Thanksgiving. Johnathan Loyd and Ben Carter played out their high school careers at Bishop Gorman, while Dominic Artis competed at Findlay Prep for his final year of eligibility. There's no question that this trio will enjoy nothing more than putting on a show in front of the locals in their two appearances.
OREGON falters if.... The size of the Ducks' backcourt catches up with them. Loyd and Arits are quick as hiccups but there is no denying that they are going to have a major size disadvantage, standing 5-foot-8 and 6-1, respectively. On Friday evening, you can expect the taller and stronger UNLV perimeter players to exploit this mismatch. Will the quickness of Loyd and Artis hold up in the post area?
OREGON rolls if.... Dana Altman is known in coaching circles as one of the game's elite. After spending the majority of his coaching time at Creighton, Altman headed to Eugene last year to pick up where underachieving Ernie Kent left off. Altman will have his hands full trying to counteract what Rice throws his way but you have to believe that the veteran coach will have a few wrinkles for the Rebels.
AROUND THE BLOCK The backcourt combination of Sean Kilpatrick, Cashmere Wright and JaQuan Parker have been there and done that. This trio has vast experience playing in hostile arenas and won't be fazed by anything that gets thrown their way. All three are averaging in double figures through four games and they all provide serious headaches for opposing defenses. What they lack in size they make up for with determination and toughness.
CINCINNATI falters if.... The Bearcats need scoring production from the backcourt just mentioned because there aren't many proven contributors outside of that trio. Junior center, David Nyarsuk, is a mountain of a man at 7-1, but he only has four games under his belt and could get bothered with the quickness that all three potential opponents could throw his way. If you slow down the Bearcat guards, you can beat them. It's that simple.
CINCINNATI rolls if.... This is a veteran club that has had a ton of success throughout the years. Despite not having a proven interior, the Bearcats have shown that they will play hard on both ends of the floor night in and night out. If it becomes a matter of wills, Cincinnati would have the edge at this point.
TRANSFER U UNLV used to be the destination for high-profile transfers but Iowa State has overtaken that role. When Cyclones' legend, Fred Hoiberg, took over as coach it is apparent that wanted to make his alma mater a contender overnight by bringing in as many quality transfers as possible. This year's roster has seven players that have competed collegiately at another school. The most familiar to Rebel fans will be former Utah forward, Will Clyburn, who was dynamic in his only outing at the Thomas & Mack Center, torching the Rebels for 17 points and 12 rebounds.
IOWA STATE will falter if.... The Cyclones are simply blowing teams out at this point with an average margin of victory over 32 points. The key will be getting Iowa State to play out of its comfort zone, which could be difficult with former Michigan State standout point guard, Korie Lucious, running the team. Getting Lucious to get away from distributing the ball and instead looking to score could be vital for opposing teams. In his career, Lucious has never averaged over seven points a game and is shooting a woeful 28% from the field this season against weaker competition.
IOWA STATE will roll if.... It's asking a lot for this many transfers to come together in a short period of time. Iowa State had a breakout season last year behind the stellar play of Royce White. Clyburn has looked early on as if he has picked up right where White left off. The Cyclones had victories against Kansas and Baylor at home last season. If they can take their strong play on the road, Iowa State may just leave Las Vegas still unblemished in the loss column.
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