Ole Miss Hoops Preview: Non-Conference Edition
OXFORD, Miss. — We are officially one day away from the start of the men’s basketball season. In late June, the Rebels announced the home portion of their non-conference slate. On top of the nine home games set to take place in the newly named Sandy and John Black Pavilion, Ole Miss is also gearing up to play in the Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic from November 18-21.
The MTE (multi-team event) will be a 12 game event over three days. This, paired with the 18 scheduled SEC contests, sets the team at thirty games already.
The highlights from the announcement come in the form of a Kansas State visit in the Big XII/SEC challenge, along with Dayton and Memphis making trips to Oxford as the second part of a series from last year.
Coach Kermit Davis is excited about the matchups.
“I think this is the very best home non-conference schedule that we’ve had since we’ve been here… I think our season ticket holders and players will have a lot of fun seeing us play this schedule.“
Kermit Davis on the non-conference schedule
The rest of the listed opponents bring some notable storylines, such as the November 30th game against Rider which will see Dimencio Vaughn make a return to the Pavillion — this time suiting up for the Broncs.
In December, Coach Kermit Davis’s former team in Middle Tennessee State (Dec. 15th) will come to Oxford, and Robert Allen will have a run-in with his former Samford team as they arrive in Oxford on the 21st.
Other opponents include New Orleans, Charleston Southern, and Mississippi Valley State. The team will also host an exhibition match against Treveccca on November 5th.
SCHEDULE ANNOUNCEMENT | 9️⃣ non-conference games in the SJB Pavilion this season.
📰 https://t.co/bgp71yeLOO pic.twitter.com/RKlj9TN3Fz
— Ole Miss Men’s Basketball (@OleMissMBB) June 28, 2021
This Ole Miss team is different, and Coach Davis believes this is the most talented group he’s had from top to bottom. Last year the 2020-2021 Rebels finished with a first-round exit in the post-season NIT against Louisiana Tech. The team finished 16-12 following an impressive late-season run that had them placed firmly on the NCAA Tournament Bubble.
For 2021-2022, Ole Miss will be without two of last year’s stars in Devontae Shuler and Romello White. This team has turned to a large class of newcomers featuring a healthy mix of incoming high school talent and transfers from other programs. With the schedule now set, let’s take a look at some notable information on each team.
November 9th – vs New Orleans
- Coach: Mark Slessinger
- 2020-2021 Record: 10-15 (8-7)
- Final 2020-2021 NET Ranking: 288th
- Key Additions: Tyson Jackson (MTSU), Daniel Sackey (Valparaiso), Robby Robinson (Nevada), Simeon Kirkland (UAB), Jamond Vincent (HS)
- Key Losses: Damion Rosser (PRO), Lamont Berzart (Transfer), Ahren Freeman (Transfer), Isaiah Jones (Transfer), LaDarius Marshall (Transfer), Larry Robinson (Transfer), Jay Rodgers (Transfers)
Coach Slessinger has been at the helm of the Privateer program since 2011. Much like Ole Miss and a lot of other teams, the New Orleans program has had to navigate a great deal of roster turnover. Their leading scorer, Damion Rosser, decided to forgo his remaining college eligibility to find a career overseas. The Privateers have also had a handful of guys join the transfer portal including pieces like Lamont Berzart and Ahren Freeman.
New Orleans will look for big impact and leadership from their two returning guards Troy Green and Derek St. Hilare. Six-foot-ten-inch big man, Simeon Kirkland could see some early playing time and is a former JUCO recruit who spent time at IMG Academy as a prospect.
This, like a few others, is a buy game. For those who don’t know, that means it is a one-game deal where the home team (Ole Miss) paid for New Orleans to come and play. The talent and pedigree swing in Ole Miss’ favor, but there are also a couple of gameplay styles that give Coach Davis’ team a favorable matchup.
The first and most notable thing for this matchup is that the Privateers have been in the Top 25 in turnovers per game for every one season but one under Slessinger. The Ole Miss defense was stifling for a good majority of last season, and the different looks that Davis throws at opponents could stun a New Orleans team playing on the road.
Secondly, the New Orleans team is effective at taking twos. They ranked top-20 nationally in the past two seasons for two-point field goals attempted. They are better ranked at making them. The Rebel defense was very effective at limiting two-point field goals last season, and with them having versatile players on the wings and an athletic frontcourt the Rebels could be a force on that end again. Overall the Rebels should be heavy favorites in this one.
Nov. 12th – vs Charleston Southern
- Coach: Barclay Radebaugh
- 2020-2021 Record: 3-18 (2-15)
- Final 2020-2021 NET Ranking: 335th
- Key Additions: Cheikh Faye (EKY), Imajae Dodd (UNCW), Tahlik Chavez (Iona)
- Key Losses: Phlandrous Fleming Jr. (Transfer Florida), Melvin Edwards Jr (transfer), Malik Battle (transfer), Duncan LeXander (transfer)
Last season the Buccaneers were hit with the injury bug, but the biggest loss may be in the transfer of Phlandrous Fleming Jr. Does the name sound familiar because he was a part of the transfer portal tracker we did for potential Ole Miss targets?
Fleming Jr was the Big South Player of the Year last season and was back-to-back Big South Defender of the year. He did just about everything for Charleston Southern last year and was the ultimate leader. He marks the second big-time player that Coach Radebaugh has lost to the portal as Christian Keeling went to UNC a few years back.
Fleming Jr.’s loss wasn’t the only notable one, though, as Melvin Edwards Jr was a nice piece as a freshman who also decided to enter the portal. Duncan LeXander, Malik Battle, Ty Jones, and Terence Porter Jr all entered the portal as well. Coach Radebaugh will look to EKY transfer Cheikh Faye to help recreate an identity in Charleston. While there are still some unknowns, look for the CSU coaches to develop another impact guy.
Another buy-game for Ole Miss, Charleston Southern will give the Rebels an additional opportunity to gain some momentum early in the season. The Rebels should look to attack early and often in this one as it could give an opportunity for Kermit Davis to get deep into his rotation.
Charleston Southern is a team that will like to fire off some threes that if they are hitting can give teams some worry. This past season, despite their record, saw them finish the season taking the future Big South Champs down to the wire. An interesting thing to watch should be the rebounding matchup as, despite the lack of premier size, CSU attacked the glass well last year.
Nov. 18-21st Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic
This one is going to be a little tough to predict until we know the schedule. The field is set and includes West Virginia, Boise State, Clemson, Elon, Marquette, St. Bonaventure, Temple, and Ole Miss. Overall, the field includes some stiff competition with prior tournament teams in St. Bonaventure (9 seed), West Virginia (3 Seed), Clemson (7 seed) while both Boise State and Ole Miss just missed the bubble playing in the NIT.
November 18th vs Marquette
- Coach: Shaka Smart
- 2020-2021 Record: 13-14 (9-11)
- Final 2020-2021 NET Ranking: 93rd
- Key Additions: Olivier-Maxence Prosper (Clemson), Kur Kurath (Oklahoma), Tyler Kolek (George Mason), Stevie Mithcell (HS), Emarion Ellis (HS), David Joplin (HS)
- Key Losses: Dawson Garcia (UNC), DJ Carton (PRO), Koby McEwen (Weber St.), Jamal Cain (Oakland), Theo John (Duke)
Shaka Smart wasted little time assembling a top-20 recruiting class at Marquette. The class, headlined by Stevie Mitchell, features three guys inside the top-115 and five guys inside the top-200. Smart then went out and got two P5 transfers in Kur Kuath and Olivier-Maxence Prosper.
The downside to all this is that the Golden Eagles lost their top five returning scorers to the pros or to the transfer market. The Rebels drew Marquette in the opening round, so expect a contest where Smart’s team plays with extraordinary pace and looks to add pressure that can turn into easy buckets on the other end.
This is a good test for each team. Marquette and Ole Miss fall into that “talented but need to figure out some things” group. Both are going to be tinkering with lineups and how certain players gel together. Ole Miss will still be working into playing with pace, and Marquette is going to be throwing it right back at them. It could end up being a high 70s-80s game with tons of shots.
The big match-up I think is how Ole Miss handles the size of Marquette, especially on the wings. Luis Rodriquez strikes me as a big-time player in this one because he likely will have to guard either Olivier-Maxence Prosper or Justin Lewis. The latter figures to be Marquette’s best scorer.
Could this be a game where Ole Miss brings in Eric van der Heijden to combat some size on the wing, or do we see a healthy dose of Robert Allen off the bench? The depth of Ole Miss makes me give the Rebels a slight edge, but a lot of this could be which team has better chemistry with each other as both teams will be adapting to a new style of play.
West Virginia (Potential Nov 19th)
- Coach: Bob Huggins
- 2020-2021 Record: 19-10 (11-6)
- Final 2020-2021 NET Ranking: 22nd
- Key Additions: Malik Curry (Transfer), Dimon Carrigan (Transfer), Pauly Paulicap (Transfer), Jamel King (HS), Seth Wilson (HS), Kobe Johnson (HS)
- Key Losses: Miles McBride (PRO), Derek Culver (PRO), Oscar Tshiebwe (Transfer/UK), Emmit Matthews Jr (Transfer), Jordan McCabe (Transfer)
Two years ago, the duo of Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe made for one of the more bruising front-court duos in recent college basketball memory. After coming back from Covid-19 they weren’t as much, and that led to the early departure of Tshiebwe. But as Coach Huggins tends to do, he rallied his team and led them to an impressive season and a three-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Now the Mountaineers will have to rebuild an identity as now Culver has decided to go the professional route and star guard Deuce McBride is looking towards an NBA career.
WVU will lean heavily on the tandem duo of shotmaker Taz Sherman and snipe shooter Sean McNeil this season. Jalen Bridges and Isaiah Cottrell could also look to take some major strides with assistance from the incoming transfers.
A few years ago it was Press Virginia, then it was the Bruising Bigs, and we don’t quite know what the identity will be this season. What we do know, however, is that Huggins’ team will be ready to play. They remind me a lot of a better-looking South Carolina. Overall, this could be a big game for Ole Miss that could give the Rebels a chance to add a Q1 opportunity against a team who will likely be a lot better later in the season than earlier.
Elon (Potential Nov 19th)
- Coach: Mike Schrage
- 2020-2021 Record: 10-9 (4-7)
- Final 2020-2021 NET Ranking: 188th
- Key Additions: Torrence Washington (Transfer), Andrew Junkin (Transfer), R.J. Noord (HS), Sam Sherry (HS)
- Key Losses: Ikenna Ndugba (PRO) Simon Wright (Transfer), Brandon Harris (Transfer)
The Pheonix had some injury last year that makes them rather deceiving. A relatively small school in North Carolina, Elon still has a place in this event. The team returns leading scorer Hunter McIntosh, and Jerald Gillens-Butler should be returning after rupturing his Achilles last season. He and McIntosh formed a solid one-two punch for Coach Mike Schrage. Take that and add in two SEC transfers (Junkin – Mississippi State / Torrence Washington – Missouri) and Elon could be the team to cause some fits in the Colonial conference.
- Coach: Brad Brownell
- 2020-2021 Record: 16-8 (10-6)
- Final 2020-2021 NET Ranking: 45th
- Key Additions: David Collins (Transfer), Naz Bohannon (Transfer) Ian Schieffelin (HS), Joshua Beadle (HS)
- Key Losses: Aamir Simms (PRO), Clyde Trapp (Transfer), Olivier-Maxence Prosper (Transfer), John Newman (Transfer), Lynn Kidd (Transfer), Jonathan Baehre (PRO)
The Tigers lost the face of the program in Aamir Simms who is looking to hear his name called in the upcoming NBA Draft. But what they do have is their three next returning scorers in Al-Amir Dawes, Nick Honor, and Hunter Tyson.
The big-name to watch is sophomore PJ Hall who will look to take to a major step forward in Simms’ place. Similar to Ole Miss, Clemson is a defensive-oriented team that likes to keep teams in the 60s and thrives on three things: they hold teams to really poor shooting inside the arc, they are very aggressive on the offensive glass, and are solid at protecting the rim.
- Coach: Mark Schmidt
- 2020-2021 Record: 16-5 (11-4)
- Final 2020-2021 NET Ranking: 31
- Key Additions: Abdoul Karim Coulibaly (Transfer), Quadry Adams (Transfer), Joryam Saizonou (HS), Justin Ndjock-Tadjore (HS), Anouar Mellouck (HS)
- Key Losses: Alejandro Vasquez (Transfer) Josh Bell (Transfer), Eddie Creal (Transfer), Alpha Okoli (Transfer), Jalen Shaw (Transfer), Anthony Roberts (Transfer)
The Bonnies are scary; they are a team that was ranked in the top-35 of the NET last year who returns all five starters. They are a fringe top-15 team that added two ACC transfers in Karim Coulibaly (Pitt) and Quadry Adams (Wake Forest).
The team is ultimately led by its highly-decorated forward Osun Osunniyi. He looks to add a third All-A10 accolade to his resume. He could be a nightly double-double, while on the defensive end he is an absolute menace of a shot blocker. This team took its core, ran it back, and got better doing it. If things go as planned, this is a Q1 game for whomever they play.
- Coach: Leon Rice
- 2020-2021 Record: 19-9 (14-6)
- Final 2020-2021 NET Ranking: 53rd
- Key Additions: R.J. Keene (HS), Tyson Degenhart (HS), Kobe Young (HS)
- Key Losses: Derrick Alston Jr (PRO), Rayj Dennis (Transfer)
Losing versatile guard Derrick Alston Jr. will hurt, as he was a bit of a do-it-all player for the Broncos. But they bring back two COVID seniors in Abu Kigab and Marcus Shaver Jr. The latter looks poised to take a big leap in scoring following some impressive shooting splits over the last season. Freshman R.J. Keene may be one to keep an eye on as well.
Boise proves to be a rather interesting matchup for the Rebels because while Boise may not have the firepower of other Power Five teams, they play a very disciplined style of basketball. They are good at getting to the line, limiting others on the offensive glass, and forcing turnovers.
- Coach: Aaron McKie
- 2020-2021 Record: 5-11 (4-10)
- Final 2020-2021 NET Ranking: 160th
- Key Additions: Emmanuel Okpomo (Transfer), Hysier Miller (HS), Zach Hicks (HS)
- Key Losses: J.P. Moorman (Transfer), De’Vondre Perry (Transfer), Brendan Berry (Transfer)
Judging Temple on their record from last season simply isn’t fair. They started their season in mid-to-late December and then had multiple conference games canceled. It was almost impossible for the Owls to find any routine or rhythm last season and the result yielded an unfortunate record.
The big win for Temple is that this year they return their top four leading scorers from last season and the downside is that they lose two starters. Adding Wake Forest transfer Emmanuel Okpomo could round out the starting five for the Owls, giving them a solid core just needing to find out the role players that surround them. The big key for any team playing Temple is slowing down Khalif Battle who exploded for a 32-point performance last year.
November 12th vs Mississippi Valley State
- Coach: Lindsey Hunter
- 2020-2021 Record: 2-22 (2-13)
- Final 2020-2021 NET Ranking: 347th
- Key Additions: Jay Barnes (VC / HS), Khalil Turner (JUCO / VC)
- Key Losses: Kamron Cunningham (Transfer), Treylan Smith (Transfer), Alexander Perry (Transfer), Donaldson Fanord (Transfer)
The amount of turnover the MVSU program has had to deal with over the last few years is astonishing. This offseason didn’t help as they lost two very valuable players to the transfer market in Kamron Cunningham and Treylan Smith. They are still looking to fill out the rest of the roster but have a few commits on board to join Coach Hunter.
Last year’s MVSU team was ranked last in the country in NET Rankings. This is another buy game. Coach Lindsey Hunter has a nice coaching history, spending time in the NBA as an assistant and as an interim, while also getting the opportunity to learn from fellow SEC coach Nate Oats during his Buffalo tenure.
MVSU will take a lot of threes. They were 21st in the entire country on that mark last year. Overall, this is a game where one could expect to see Ole Miss use its entire roster if all goes as planned.
November. 30 vs Rider
- Coach: Kevin Baggett
- 2020-2021 Record: 6-17 (5-13)
- Final 2020-2021 NET Ranking: 280th
- Key Additions: Mervin James (Transfer), Dimencio Vaughn (Transfer- Ole Miss), Sedrick Altman (Transfer), Jeff Roesing (Transfer)
- Key Losses: Dontrell McQuarter (Transfer), Lawrence Foreman (Transfer), Christian Ings (Transfer)
Looking at the transfer market, we’ve seen an incredible amount of movement in the last couple of years — but rarely do we talk about a small team who’s gotten better through it. Normally, the best players on these smaller school teams may want to try their hand at a level up, but Rider is the exception to this.
Last year they were like one of those teams when they lost Dimencio to Ole Miss and Frederick Scott to Boston College. They also lost a few graduates, as well, and that had them turn around from being near the top of the MAAC to an 11th place finish last season.
They’ve added some good talent in bringing back Vaughn (a two-time First Team All-MAAC player) along with Mervin James who averaged well into double digits at North Alabama and a good defender in Sedrick Altman from Pepperdine.
Coach Kevin Baggett has praised Vaughn following his return.
“A guy who’s been developed by my coaches and I and been in our program — to have him back for another year, his final year, hopefully, he brings back to us a better player, having gotten experience playing at the highest level.”
Coach Baggett on the return of Dimencio Vaughn
This is going to be a game with an emotional appeal for the players, fans, and most importantly Dimencio Vaughn. The Broncos will be better than last season and should be back to winning 15+ games this season, but this Ole Miss team is going to be too tough to handle. Rider added some quality players, but Coach Davis’ team may be too deep and too talented for them to handle. It’ll be fun to see Vaughn back in Oxford.
December 4th vs Memphis
- Coach: Penny Hardaway
- 2020-2021 Record: 20-8 (11-4)
- Final 2020-2021 NET Ranking: 35th
- Key Additions: Earl Timberlake (Transfer- Miami), Tyler Harris (Transfer- Iowa State), Chandler Lawson (Transfer- Oregon), Josh Minot (HS), Jonathan Lawson (HS), Sam Ayomide (HS), John Camden (HS)
- Key Losses: Boogie Ellis (Transfer- USC), D.J. Jeffries (Transfer- Miss. St.), Moussa Cisse (Transfer- OK State), Damion Baugh (Transfer), Jordan Nesbitt (Transfer), Lance Thomas (Transfer), Ahmad Rand (Transfer)
Like many others, Coach Penny Hardaway was faced with the tough task of finding new players after the Tigers lost seven to the transfer portal. The good news is that the team’s leading scorer in Landers Nolley returns, along with valuable players Lester Quinones and Deandre Williams.
Hardaway has been able to find elite-level talent since returning to his alma mater and this year is no exception. He first landed six players in the top 150, four in the top 100, three in the top 50, and two in the top 5. The biggest names come in the form of Jalen Duren and Emoni Bates who both are ’22 reclassifications and will make a high-end impact.
On the transfer trail, Hardaway landed big-time Miami transfer Earl Timberlake who was a former top 50 player. Tyler Harris is there to assist Alex Lomax with some depth at the lead guard position (he originally played for Memphis before transferring to Iowa State), and (Chandler) Lawson will return back to his hometown after spending a year at Oregon.
With all the big names Hardaway has brought in, the biggest might be the ones sitting beside him. Hardaway’s hire of Larry Brown could be a major turning point for the Memphis program. His experience at both the NBA and NCAA levels should give the Tigers’ offense a jolt as he is the only coach to win a title at the NCAA and NBA levels.
On top of that, Hardaway hired Rasheed Wallace as an assistant. Wallace is a sixteen-year veteran of the NBA level and was an assistant with the Pistons for one season immediately after retiring. After a five-year hiatus, he took a position in North Carolina coaching the Charles E. Jordan High School team.
Long story short, Memphis should be a Q1 opponent all year long barring some drastic changes.
The two sides met two years ago in Memphis in what ended up being an 87-86 thriller that went Memphis’ way. Last year was supposed to be the return match in Oxford, but it was canceled in the wild season that was 2020-2021. Fast forward to this season, and we finally get the second match.
Memphis’ biggest strength lies in its defense. In the last two seasons, the Tigers have ranked second nationally in back-to-back years in defensive efficiency (per teamrankings.com). We can expect, even with the roster overturn, that the Tigers will still be ready on the defensive end.
So what makes that defense so special? Penny has certain qualities he looks for in players. He loves having athletes who also have some length. A guy who can be pesky on the ball is also a given. The Tigers are a team that likes to trap a lot and the genius of it is how they cover their tracks. When a help defender goes for the steal, another comes to guard his man on a kick-out as the weakside defender’s plan for where potential passing lane may be.
This leads to point number one for what the Rebels need to accomplish: have good decision-makers out on the perimeter. The Tigers are going to wait and pounce on a ball-handler, so having someone who can quickly realize the trap is coming and is able to adjust is important.
A big name to keep an eye on for me is Jaemyn Brakefield. He’s a forward, but Jaemyn has an adequate handle and can be out on the perimeter. Having a reliable guy who is taller to make some quick passes and be effective on potential short rolls could pay dividends.
The second thing Ole Miss can do to combat Memphis is to have plenty of shooters on the floor. Help side defenders will over-commit and neglect non-shooters on the perimeter. Having guys who can knock down open triples will keep those defenders honest, giving the Rebels a better opportunity to get to the rim. Big names for this become Jarkel Joiner, Matthew Murrell, Eric van der Heijden, and potentially Sammy Hunter if he can still pull the trigger as he did playing with the Bahamian national team.
It will be interesting to see how much of an effect Larry Brown will have on the Tigers’ offense. His teams always prided themselves on taking open shots. Only time will tell what the offense will look like and how the personnel will distribute, but this one could have some major upside.
Having Emoni Bates certainly changes the outlook of their offense as the 6’8″ guard brings the ability to pull up from anywhere. He can shoot and score on nearly all three levels, Ole Miss will have to get creative with how they try to force him into tougher looks. There are rumors he could be playing point, and it will likely be either Murrell or Rodriquez tasked with guarding the phenom.
A major matchup to watch is the battle in the post. Jalen Duren vs Nysier Brooks. Duren (6-10″, 230 lbs.) has an NBA body and is a very good low-post player. He may have to be double-teamed, but Brooks will have to hold his own defensively against the talented freshman.
Duren has an incredibly high motor, loves to get out and run, and will be a full-time responsibility for the Ole Miss big men. On our offensive end Brooks, Sammy Hunter, and Robert Allen will have to be able to finish. Duren is a good defensive player but he likes to block shots in the help position. Brooks and Allen will need to finish dump-offs while Hunter may help by stretching out a bit.
Best Case Scenario: Ole Miss Q1 Win
Worst Case Scenario: Ole Miss Q1 Loss
December 11th vs Western Kentucky
- Coach: Rick Stansbury
- 2020-2021 Record: 21-8 (11-3)
- Final 2020-2021 NET Ranking: 82nd
- Key Additions: Zion Harmon (HS), Jaylen Butz (Transfer – DePaul), Jarius Hamilton (Transfer – Maryland), Jamarion Sharp (JUCO), Darrius Miles (JUCO), Elijah Hughey (HS)
- Key Losses: Charles Bassey (PRO), Taveion Hollingsworth (PRO), Jordan Rawls (Transfer), Kylen Milton (Transfer), Kenneth Cooper (Transfer), Kevin Osawe (Transfer)
Losing two all-CUSA players in Charles Bassey and Taevion Hollingsworth is going to hurt the Hilltoppers. The latter was a former Kentucky Mr. Basketball and C-USA Second Team selection.
WKU also lost another starter in Carson Williams who is giving the NFL a shot with the LV Raiders, as well as their spark-plug scorer off the bench in Jordan Rawls. Bassey was a third-team All-America selection, Conference Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and Wooden Award finalist.
However, as we saw Rick Stansbury do during his tenure in the SEC, he has seemingly found more blue-chip prospects to head to Bowling Green. The class is headlined by Top-50 prospect Zion Harmon who will get plenty of opportunities to lead the offense next season. Jamarion Sharp is a 7’2″ Center who is a top JUCO recruit and will look to add to a talented frontcourt that also features DePaul Transfer Jaylon Butz and Darrius Miles.
A very good match-up for the Rebels, this one has the potential to be very interesting. Stansbury’s teams are always gifted rebounders who are good on the defensive end. Offensively, his Western Kentucky teams have had offensive ratings vary from a low of 215th up to 34th nationally per sportsreference.com.
The matchup of Zion Harmon vs Daeshun Ruffin will be as electric as it was back on the high school circuit. Both have some similarities as players, and now we get to see the next round on a bigger stage.
Josh Anderson is a good defender who earned conference honors and has the likelihood of expanding as a knockdown shooter. Luke Frampton is also a career 39% shooter from deep. Dayvion McKnight will be another good guard option who is also a former Mr. Basketball from Kentucky.
The forward match-up is where things get interesting. Jaylen Butz is an athletic above-the-rim finisher down low who has a good motor. Sharp averaged over 7 points per game, 7 rebounds per game, and over 6 blocks per game. Jarius Hamilton was a four-star player out of high school as well.
It’s early but both Ole Miss and Western Kentucky find themselves in similar situations. Each has a few returning starters and added to it with impressive pieces, either through high school or the recruiting ranks. Winning games like these can really boost a tournament resume — so have this date penciled.
Right now Ole Miss should look to a couple of things to increase their chances in this one:
1) Limit Harmon and McKnight’s playmaking. Letting those two create for themselves and others is a pathway for this game to being in the upper 70s and low 80s. We know that Davis wants to keep opponents from scoring now that this Ole Miss team should boast more offensive firepower, but taking them away will force secondary creators to make plays and will frustrate Stansbury and Co.
2) Win the frontcourt matchup. Jaemyn hopefully can find scoring opportunities on the perimeter to push out those Western forwards. This also allows for things to open up more in the mid-range game from Ruffin and Joiner. Brooks/Hunter/Allen and Brakefield also have the responsibility of winning the rebounding battle which Western’s teams have done very well under Stansbury.
This game has huge meaning for Ole Miss. The contest taking place at home pushes the Net Ranking importance that much further. Barring some outlier potential that can always happen, this game has two likely outcomes.
Best Case: Ole Miss win in Q2
Worst Case: Ole Miss loss in Q3
Bottom Line: This is one of the most important non-conference games on the schedule.
December 15th vs Middle Tennessee State
- Coach: Nick McDevitt
- 2020-2021 Record: 5-18 (3-13)
- Final 2020-2021 NET Ranking: 300th
- Key Additions: Joshua Jefferson (Transfer – UW Green Bay), Cameron Johnson (Transfer – SFA), Isaiah Turner (JUCO), Camryn Weston (JUCO), Teafale Lenard (HS)
- Key Losses: Dontrell Shuler (Transfer), Jo’Vante Millner-Criss (Grad), Jordan Davis (Transfer), Jayce Johnson (Transfer), Tyson Jackson (Transfer)
MTSU only had two guys score in double figures last season and both of them have left via the transfer portal. One of those is former Ole Miss great Devontae Shuler’s brother, Dontrell, and the other is Jordan Davis.
The good news is that Coach Nick McDevitt was able to bring in a couple of other players who averaged in double figures. Joshua Jefferson and Cameron Johnson both averaged around 15 points per game, respectively. Isaiah Tuner and Camryn Weston should give them a couple of ready-to-play guys.
Nice for Coach Davis to see his former school again, but this one has win written all over it. The Rebels won by 18 on the road last year and now have to play a team who still has to figure out its identity early this season. Rebels should win at home.
December 18th vs Dayton
- Coach: Anthony Grant
- 2020-2021 Record: 14-10 (9-7)
- Final 2020-2021 NET Ranking: 90th
- Key Additions: Toumani Camara (Transfer – UGA), Kobe Elvis (Transfer), DaRon Holmes (HS), Kaleb Washington (HS), Malachi Smith (HS), Lynn Greer III (HS), Richard Amaefule (Transfer)
- Key Losses: Jalen Crutcher (PRO), Ibi Watson (PRO), Jordy Tshimanga (PRO), Rodney Chatman (Transfer – Vanderbilt), Chase Johnson (Left Team), Dwayne Cohill (Transfer)
Similar to Western Kentucky, the top of the roster took a major hit. Jalen Crutcher joined Obi Toppin as the only Flyer to receive two First Team All-A10 selections. Ibi Watson made an incredible impact after transferring from Michigan and junior Chase Johnson averaged double digits before leaving the team in December. Jordy Tshimanga left for the PRO route and Rodney Chatman started every game before getting injured. Those are all guys who started a majority of games they played in last season.
Overall, the Flyers lost a ton of experience from last season, but there are a couple of bright spots for the Flyers that need to be brought up.
Number one, Anthony Grant has recruited on a national level and just brought in a top 25 class headlined by Top-50 player DaRon Holmes. The class features two more high-level players in the Top-150 and one in the Top-300 along with a few big-name transfers.
The most notable of those is Georiga transfer Toumani Camara. Number two, Dayton still has Mustapha Amzil who has shined in his first year at Dayton. Hailing from Finland, Amzil has a unique skill for a big man who can routinely step out and shoot on the perimeter multiple times a game. Number three, Elijah Weaver seems poised for a jump.
This might actually be the most fun non-conference game on the schedule, depending on how Charleston goes for the Rebels. The trio of Camara, Holmes, and Amzil provides a unique blend of spacing and athleticism.
The matchup of Nysier Brooks and Amzil may be the most intriguing as Brooks will have to use his plus athleticism to step out on the perimeter against Amzil. Luis Rodriquez/Robert Allen/Jaemyn Brakefield will have to deal with both Camara and Holmes. Camara is a high flyer who loves to get out in transition for easy buckets and highlight reel jams. In the halfcourt, he is capable of playing out on the wing but it’ll be interesting to see shades of how Grant used Obi (Toppin) with how he uses Camara. Expect a lot of rim running and a high pace. Holmes is a rather stout prospect with good strength and a solid ability to face up out of the post.
The advantage for Ole Miss comes from the guard positions. Ole Miss has security with Jarkel/Luis/Tye all having SEC starting experience. Dayton has a unique talent at the lead guard position but it still remains to be seen who will be in the lineup. Elijah Weaver is 6’6 and could slide off guard while one of Lynn Greer III (ESPN 4-Star) and Malachi Smith (ESPN 4-Star) battle for the starting point guard role.
So the question becomes what does Ole Miss have to focus on in this matchup? The biggest thing for right now is that the Rebels have to control the pace of the game by limiting turnovers and keeping Dayton from getting out in transition. Secondly, they need to take away drives to the inside and keep Dayton from getting easy paint touches.
Forcing Dayton to take more shots from the perimeter may be in Ole Miss’s favor as Crutcher was the clutch shot taker for the past few years. Lastly, the Rebels need to win the rebounding battle. Limit the Flyers’ second chances as the frontcourt trio mentioned earlier will be looking to gain opportunities.
This game, like Western Kentucky, is very important as an early-year resume builder. If Dayton can figure out its identity early on in the season, Anthony Grant can build some momentum as the Flyers try to get back into the top of the A-10 and back in the NCAA tournament.
Best Case Scenario: Ole Miss Q2 win (Slim chance of Q1)
Worst Case Scenario: Q3 loss
December 21st vs Samford
- Coach: Bucky McMillan
- 2020-2021 Record: 6-13 (2-9)
- Final 2020-2021 NET Ranking: 269th
- Key Additions: Konstantin Dotsenko (Transfer), Jacob Tryon (Transfer), Ques Glover (Transfer – UF), Angel Smith (Transfer), Jermaine Marshall (Transfer), Wesley Cardet Jr (Samford), Jaden Campbell (JUCO),
- Key Losses: Myron Gordon (Transfer), Christian Guess (Transfer), Jalen Dupree (Transfer), J.P. Robinson (Transfer), KJ Davis (Transfer), Luke Champion (Transfer), Triston Chambers (Grad)
Losing Myron Gordon and Christian Guess takes away almost 40% of the scoring production from last season, but Coach Bucky McMillan went out and found a good blend of transfers and newcomers to help solidify the roster.
Ques Glover is a former Florida player who has some experience in the SEC, and newcomer Wesley Cardet Jr is a top-75 recruit — the highest in school history — who held offers from plenty of high majors. Konstantin Dotsenko averaged double digits at Tarleton State and Jaden Campbell is a JUCO guard whose athleticism should help the bulldogs.
Year two for Coach McMillan should bring some more excitement for the Samford fan base. The Bulldogs play a very upbeat, take-a-lot-of-shots-quickly style of basketball. That same style is what helped lure Wesley Cardet Jr. to Samford.
Bringing in Cardet Jr and Glover to help man the point, along with Campbell and USM transfer Angel Smith, the Bulldogs can be exciting. Ole Miss will have to battle for second chances and really terrorize the glass to make sure the game is played at the Rebels’ pace. Samford should be a fun team to watch and can show how Ole Miss can adjust to a different style of play. It will also be fun for Robert Allen to play against some former teammates.
January 29th vs Kansas St. (Big XII vs SEC)
- Coach: Bruce Weber
- 2020-2021 Record: 9-20 (4-14)
- Final 2020-2021 NET Ranking: 176th
- Key Additions: Mark Smith (Transfer – Mizzou), Markquis Nowell (Transfer), Ismael Massoud (Transfer), Logan Landers (HS), Maximus Edwards (HS)
- Key Losses: Dajuan Gordon (Transfer – Mizzou), Rudi Williams (transfer), Antonio Gordon (Transfer)
Kansas State dipped a bit last season. Losing Carter Diarra in the transfer cycle before this made a significant impact, but the Wildcats were still not far off from the Kansas State team who won the Big XII regular season in 2018-2019.
The Wildcats mustered only a nine-win season last year, but — make no mistake — they played their best basketball at the end of the year. In the Big XII tournament, Kansas State pummeled TCU and then had a fairly deep second-half lead over the eventual national champion Baylor Bears.
The good news is that only one starter departed from last year’s team (Gordon), and they bring in an SEC starter in Mark Smith. Ismael Massoud also adds as a good piece, along with the bite-sized scorer in Markquis Nowell.
The Wildcats also saw three freshmen play significant minutes last season and had only one senior and one junior on the roster. The name to be on the lookout for is Nijel Pack. The 6’1″ guard is ready to take a huge leap heading into year two and is a prime breakout candidate. As a freshman, Pack scored in double figures, rebounded well for his size, and tallied a good amount of assists. He also shot 40% from three on over six attempts per game.
This Wildcat team is better than the last two years of Kansas State basketball suggests. Kansas State went out to the transfer portal and got three quality players who all can shoot the ball effectively. Both Nowell (UALR) and Massoud (Wake Forest) are career 36% shooters while Smith is a 35% shooter.
Massoud excels in the pick and pop opportunities, having the ability to drive or shoot. Those numbers may not thrill fans, but it’s the ways they can impact this team that matter. Nowell at 5’7″ had the green light at Little Rock and took some very deep pull-up jumpers, while Massoud is a good catch and shoot guy.
If you don’t know anything about Kansas State basketball (under Bruce Weber), they love to run a five-out motion set. If you’re fairly new to basketball, that is a formation where there are a lot of ball screens where all players are generally set out on the perimeter. It opens up driving lanes and kick-outs to attack potential closeouts. Players are generally cutting, screening, or rotating during this. What makes it tough is that it spaces the floor a lot, giving any player the ability to score at any given moment while taking away a lot of help defense or if the help comes freeing someone else on the floor.
Ole Miss needs to do a couple of things to be ready for this one. First, they need to be able to switch up their defensive looks frequently. This offense has to read and react a lot, so you could see them constantly switching up from Ole Miss man to 2-3 and then to their 1-3-1. This will change the areas of attack for Kansas State and could frustrate them as they try and find a rhythm.
Secondly, the Rebels need to rebound and protect the interior. While most consider the five out to be “positionless,” Kansas State does have some good size on its roster with two guys over 255 lbs. and four players over 6’10.” While they will space out, that doesn’t mean they won’t utilize the post as there can be plenty of action to get touches. Getting extra opportunities for the Rebels may help them separate themselves.
This game could be tough but should lean in Ole Miss’s favor. Having it at the Pavillion is a huge advantage as well.
Best Case: Ole Miss Q2 win
Worst Case: Ole Miss Q3 loss
Trying to figure out how good a team can be at this point is almost impossible. There are still so many unanswered questions that making guesses now on how successful a team could be is almost like trying to fill out a perfect March Madness bracket. Nonetheless, based on that, let’s try to predict who wins and loses each game here.
Nov 9th vs New Orleans: Ole Miss Win (1-0)
Nov 12th vs Charleston Southern: Ole Miss Win (2-0)
Nov 18th @ Marquette (Charleston SC): Ole Miss Win (3-0)
*Nov 19th @ WVU/ELON (Charleston SC): TBD
*Nov 21st @ TBD: TBD
Nov 26th vs Mississippi Valley State: Ole Miss Win (4-0)
Nov 30th vs Rider: Ole Miss Win (5-0)
December 4th @ Memphis: Ole Miss Loss (5-1)
December 11th @ Western Kentucky (Atlanta, GA): Ole Miss loss (5-2)
December 15h vs Middle Tennessee State: Ole Miss Win (6-2)
December 18th vs Dayton: Ole Miss Win (7-2)
December 21st vs Samford: Ole Miss Win (8-2)
**January 29th vs Kansas State: Ole Miss Win (9-2)
The multi-team event in Charleston could provide Ole Miss another win or two depending on how well they perform there. Given that we don’t know the teams, we can’t make that call yet. The game against Kansas State also comes in the middle of conference play, and teams have to adjust their schedule for it. Teams are normally set in a routine by then. Overall if they can win one of Dayton/Western Kentucky and beat Kansas State, I think Ole Miss may be in a good spot. Granted they then have to deliver in SEC play.
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss)