Ole Miss basketball using unique approach to schedule release
Beginning on May 17th, Ole Miss basketball began revealing, one-by-one, its non-conference opponents for the 2016-17 season. On Tuesdays and Thursdays through June 28th, the names of the opponents will continue to be released. There will be a total of 13 non-conference games announced, but a few headliners are already known.
On July 1st season tickets will go on sale, and The Pavilion is sure to be rocking this season, especially after the Rebels went 7-2 in their nine games in the brand new building earlier this year. The home atmosphere was electric when Andy Kennedy’s team was doing well, and The Pavilion was a fairly challenging environment for opponents. Alabama, Georgia, Vanderbilt, Arkansas and Mississippi State, all fell victim in the building’s first run through conference play.
The first non-conference game to be played in the new palace is set for November 11th when the Rebels play host to Tennessee Martin. Kennedy and company will face a challenging slate early this season before SEC play cranks up in January.
Then in late January Big XII foe, Baylor, will come to town on the heels of three straight appearances in the NCAA tournament. Here is an overview of each announced non-conference opponent to date:
UT Martin – November 11, 2016
There are two Mississippi natives on the Skyhawks’s roster in senior forward Twymond Howard of Pearl and junior guard Jacolby Mobley from Starkville. Alex Anderson, also a senior, is a native of Memphis, Tennessee, but played for Itawamba Community College in Fulton, Mississipi. Howard led the scoring charge in 2015-16 with 15.6 points per game; Anderson was right behind him at 12 points per game, and Mobley finished fourth on the team with 10.8 points per contest.
Tennessee Martin finished with 20 wins and 15 losses this past season, going 8-10 in road games. The Rebels will be looking to get their very first non-conference win inside The Pavilion on this night and there should be more history made in the new building. The Pavilion, as was planned, is taking the program to another level.
UMass – November 14, 2016
Ole Miss took down the Minutement last season 74-64 in Springfield, Massachusetts. UMass led by two points at the half, but Stefan Moody’s 30 points propelled the Rebels to victory. After going 14-18, 3-9 on the road, last season the Minutemen will be looking for a bounce back season this year.
Five players from last year’s team have moved on, including leading scorer Trey Davis, leading rebounder Antwan Space and third-leading score Jabarie Hinds. Second-leading scorer from last season Donte Clark, who averaged 16.1 points per game, will be a junior this season. Returning forward Zach Coleman, who averaged four points and 4.4 rebounds in just over 17 minutes per game last season, will be a junior as well. That pair of returning juniors will be heavily counted on by the Minutemen this season.
Paradise Jam – November 18-21, 2016
There will be three games played on this trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Ole Miss is guaranteed to play Oral Roberts on day one and could play Loyola-Chicago or St. Joe’s on day two. Other teams in the field include Montana, NC State, Washington State and Creighton.
Oral Roberts was 14-17 last year, while Loyola-Chicago finished 15-17. However, St. Joseph’s advanced to the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament last season before their season was ended at the hands of Oregon. However, the Hawks lose their best player from a season ago in Deadre Bembry.
Montana – November 24, 2016
The Grizzlies finished 21-12 in 2015-16, including two wins in the Big Sky tournament and a loss in the first round of the CBI postseason tournament. Montana will also make the trek to the Virgin Islands to compete in the Paradise Jam.
While the Grizzlies only lose one player from last year’s team, it was their leading scorer and rebounder Martin Breunig. Second-leading scorer Walter Wright returns after averaging 13.2 points per game last season.
Middle Tennesse – November 30, 2016
The Blue Raiders have defeated the Rebels in two of their three previous meetings, though Ole Miss won the most recent matchup in the 2013-14 season. The Kermit Davis-led team will be a difficult challenge.
Last season MTSU advanced to the round of 32 of the NCAA tournament after pulling off a miraculous upset over Michigan State. The Blue Raiders made the Big Dance after winning the Conference USA Tournament. After finishing 25-10, Middle Tennessee was 8-5 away from home. The two-leading scorers from 2015-16–Giddy Potts and Reggie Upshaw–who averaged 14.9 and 13.7 points per game, respectively, both return this season.
Memphis – December 3, 2016
It has been a busy offseason for the Memphis Tigers basketball program. Head coach Josh Pastner left for the same role at Georgia Tech and the Tigers hired Tubby Smith away from Texas Tech. Smith is known for his ability to win with any sort of talent level, as shown in his stops at Tulsa, Minnesota and in Lubbock, Texas.
Last season Ole Miss defeated Memphis 85-79 in the FedEx Forum. Though the roster turnover is significant, you would still expect Smith to field a competitive team. It could be a beneficial win in regards to the Rebels’ tournament hopes.
Virginia Tech (away game) – December 11, 2016
Last season Virginia Tech tallied a 20-15 record, 10-8 in the ACC, and won a game in the NIT against Princeton before being eliminated by BYU. The Hokies were 14-5 at home and will provide a tough matchup for the Rebels in Cassell Coliseum.
Buzz Williams, who is entering his third season in Blacksburg, Virginia, returns a host of experienced and talented players, unlike Kennedy’s program. The Hokies return their top nine scorers and top two rebounders from a season ago. Key players are Zach LeDay, Seth Allen, Justin Bibbs, Chris Clarke and Kerry Blackshear Jr.
Baylor – January 28, 2017
This is the marquee non-conference matchup so far for the Rebels, unquestionably, and the Bears will be a challenge. Baylor is 3-0, with wins over Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Georgia, in the three years of the SEC/Big XII challenge. This will be just the second time the two programs have ever met on the hardwood, with Baylor having won the previous matchup in 1970, 132-113.
Six of the top nine scorers from a Baylor team that went 22-12, making the NCAA Tournament for a third straight year in 2015-16, are coming back. Three of Baylor’s six newcomers in 2016-17 will be guys who sat this year waiting on eligibility. They will be a veteran bunch this season.
It should be an exciting first full season of home games in The Pavilion, after a program record seven sellouts last season, which helped to also set a school record for attendance with 7,993 fans in seats per game.
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)
John Luke covers all sports for The Rebel Walk and also writes about high school football for the Southern Elite Sports network, most frequently for SES Mississippi. John Luke is from Tupelo and is the Host of The Buzz on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2-3 p.m. on 95.1 FM in Tupelo. He is also a frequent co-host of Mississippi Sports Today with Craig Horton on ESPN 96.3 FM, The Ticket, from 7-9 a.m. in Tupelo.