T.J. Otzelberger’s Roster Retooling Means Forthcoming Expectations In Vegas
Latest transfer commitment in Donnie Tillman means UNLV is aiming for promising present, future
UNLV is looking like a force for years to come
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Expectations are no stranger to UNLV basketball.
The proper pieces to achieve those lofty expectations, though, have eluded the program for quite some time.
With the latest bout of promising Rebel basketball news hitting Monday, it truly feels like the page is turning towards a prosperous future in the Sin City.
Utah transfer Donnie Tillman – the 2018-19 Pac-12 Sixth Man of the Year – is headed to UNLV for his final two years of collegiate eligibility, the latest commitment in what’s been a near-perfect offseason for newly-minted head coach T.J. Otzelberger.
He has yet to coach a second of regular season basketball in the Thomas & Mack Center, but it’s hard not to be excited about the rotation that is taking place for the upcoming season and beyond. Otzelberger has a clear plan in place to bring UNLV back to desperately-needed national relevance.
Again, he has yet to coach a game with the Runnin’ Rebels.
Acquiring talent is at least half the battle, though, and Coach Otz has thrived in that regard since being welcomed into the program in late March.
Here are UNLV’s roster additions since Otzelberger’s hiring:
- South Dakota State transfer David Jenkins Jr.
- Texas transfer Elijah Mitrou-Long
- Utah transfer Donnie Tillman
- JUCO transfer Jonah Antonio
- Tulane transfer Moses Wood
- Arizona State transfer Vitaliy Shibel
- Four-star 2020 recruit Nick Blake
- Three-star 2020 recruit Donovan Yap
- Unranked 2020 recruit Isaac Lindsey
Additionally, Otzelberger and his staff retained Amauri Hardy, Mbacke Diong, and Nick Blair after previously putting their names in the transfer portal. Hardy is an all-conference candidate while Diong and Blair combined to average 13.2 points and 12.1 rebounds per game last season.
Not only has Otzelberger put together a competitive roster for the first season of his tenure – something Marvin Menzies was incapable of accomplishing – the former South Dakota State head coach is piecing together competitive schedules to increase future NCAA Tournament likelihood.
The 2020-21 season figures to be UNLV’s target for a March Madness bid. With a number of quality non-conference contests already on the slate, Otzelberger’s squad will have the opportunity to cement quality wins on their team sheet.
The Runnin’ Rebels will participate in a loaded Maui Invitational field that features North Carolina, Indiana, Texas, Alabama, and others. UNLV will also take on UCLA, Kansas State, California, SMU, and embrace the first iteration of the Mountain West-Atlantic 10 Challenge in what should be a stellar non-conference schedule.
Assuming there aren’t any major bumps along the road, the Runnin’ Rebels should be expected to put an end to a lengthy NCAA Tournament drought come March 2021.
The roster and schedule are already in place. Now it’s time for Otzelberger’s group to come together as one cohesive unit and build a winning culture.
Eli Boettger is the lead basketball writer at Mountain West Wire. He’s covered Mountain West basketball since 2015 and his work has been featured on Bleacher Report, NBC Sports, SB Nation, Yahoo Sports, MSN, and other platforms. Boettger is a current USBWA member.