Las Vegas – The Runnin’ Rebels have been 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.
The media panel 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. The Rebels claimed the remaining first-place vote and 214 points to tie with Boise State for second place.
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.
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 Rebels will hold their annual free fan event on Thursday, Oct. 17, at 7:30 p.m. at the Thomas & Mack Center. Fans are invited to the Runnin’ Rebel Scarlet/Gray Showcase, which will celebrate the start of the 2013-14 season and include a 3-point contest, the Scarlet & Gray Scrimmage, Legends game and the opportunity to get autographs.