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Ole Miss vs. Memphis Preview: How the Rebels Can Make A Statement Against the No. 18 Tigers

Ole Miss vs. Memphis Preview: How the Rebels Can Make A Statement Against the No. 18 Tigers

OXFORD, Miss.Ole Miss and Memphis tip off this morning in what will be the biggest game of this season so far for the Rebels. And they’ll do so in front of a packed house in the Sandy and John Black Pavilion.

It’ll be sold out on Saturday, and so those are the games that your players want to play in and it’s a good rivalry game.

Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis

Coach Davis isn’t the only one excited about playing in front of a packed-out crowd Saturday morning. Multiple players have talked this week about the excitement of the game.

“The cliche is it’s another game, but this game is not another game. It’s a big game for us,” said Jarkel Joiner earlier this week. Ole Miss understands what this game means.

Memphis Preview

  • 2021-2022 Record: 5-2
  • 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)

OFF-SEASON IMPACT

Like many others, Memphis head 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 for the Tigers 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.

Game Preview

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. In the all time series the Tigers lead the Rebels 28-14.

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 the potential passing lane man.

On the offensive end we have seen what the Tigers can do. Larry Brown has been instrumental in the offensive game. The Tigers love to get out and attack, and they are aggressive and will try their best to get to the free throw line. Their 24.7 attempts per game is currently in the top-15 nationally. Ole Miss has to stay disciplined on the defense especially in the interior.

After watching the UGA game the Tigers lost, we saw a trend for Memphis. They shifted away from the free style of offense that they used early on. Coach Hardaway instilled some more motion based concepts for the team. Early on, they catered more to the talented freshmen phenoms in Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren. Now things are tightening up and we see a more blended attack that features more of  Nolley, Quinones, Williams and Lomax.

One thing I did notice was how Memphis uses their bigs screeners and does so in volume. Here’s a clip showing that:

Here we see Williams as the screener where he sets a screen for Lomax who cuts ball side. Then we see another for Bates who receives it back to work into the dribble pull-up.

Three Keys to the Game

This leads to point number one for what the Rebels need to accomplish

#1: 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. Jaemyn has been coming off the bench in recent games but he could have a major impact in this one.

#2 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 are Jarkel Joiner, Matthew Murrell, and Eric van der Heijden. Memphis not only will relax off to take away the lane but they also gamble in a 3/4 court press.

Look here at the tape against UGA.

In this, Memphis lines up in a 3/4 man press after a make. Once the Tigers commit to the trap, UGA recognizes and immediately pushes the ball down the court. From that moment you have a numbers advantage. In this situation its a 4-on-3 til the two trappers get back. Combining point #1 and #2 leads to an easy UGA three. This will be shots that Ole Miss not only has to take but ones they have to make.

#3 Don’t be Afraid to Mix Up your Defensive Looks

This Memphis team is still trying to figure itself out. It has some talented vets and high potential freshman. They’re going to be a very scary team come February and March, but for now they struggle to adapt to things. They turn the ball over the second-most in the NCAA with an average of 19.0 turnovers per game.

Ole Miss has a variety of defenses they can throw at Memphis. Don’t just rely on your man-to-man for multiple possessions in a row. Don’t just rely on your 1-3-1 for multiple possessions in a row. Keep changing and keep making them have to figure out what they are going against and waste their shot clock seconds.

Let’s take a look at the clip below.

Here UGA switched up to their own, more tame version of the 1-3-1. Memphis is bothered by the look. They probably haven’t seen much of it. Even when they get a good pass to Timberlake, he drives into traffic and fires an inaccurate pass to the opposite wing. He tries to save it and causes the out of bounds on the opposite end of the court.

Let’s get ready for a great game, Rebs!

Game info: 

Ole Miss and Memphis tip off at 11:00 a.m. today. The game will be televised on ESPN2 and also streaming on the WatchESPN app.

(Feature image: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss)

About The Author

TJ Oxley

TJ Oxley is a current MBA student at Ole Miss after having earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Toledo. He currently covers college hoops and the NBA Draft for the Basketball Society as well as all things Ole Miss for The Rebel Walk.

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