Published on November 22nd, 2016 | by Carver Rayburn0
A Fast Start has Ole Miss Leading the SEC in Scoring and Looking to Contend for a NCAA Bid in 2017
A strong performance in St. Thomas has Andy Kennedy and his developing squad off to a 4-1 start after splitting a pair of games with the then No.1 and No.3 RPI teams in Creighton and St. Joseph, respectively. The Rebels are currently ranked No. 24 in RPI with their strength of schedule hovering around 40 out of 351 teams.
The Rebels looked poised to defeat Creighton, leading most of the game – but fell victim to a parade of three pointers by the Blue Jays down the stretch and lost 86-77. Creighton finished the game 16 of 26 from beyond the arc.
In recent years, Ole Miss has depended on the emergence of guard play with that one consistent scorer from game one till the end of the season. Not so in 206-17.
A barrage of players capable of scoring 20+ points a game has taken the lead in The Pavilion and it should be interesting to watch how this team develops as the season moves closer to conference play. Expectations are low but the run-n-gun type of offense Ole Miss has displayed thus far has many wondering if Ole Miss can be a tournament team.
Replacing three starters is a challenge for any school, but it appears the Rebels have used new faces and old to fill the void. Three Ole Miss players rank in the top 15 of the SEC in scoring: No. 1 Deandre Burnett (23.6 ppg), No. 14 Sebastion Saiz (13.6 ppg) and No. 15 Rasheed Brooks (13.4 ppg). In fact, all five starters are ranked in the Top 25 of the SEC in scoring with double digits. No other team has as many.
Check out the current SEC Player Stats Here: MAKE OLE MISS BASKETBALL GREAT AGAIN
“Last year when we needed a basket, we were going to go through Stefan Moody,” Kennedy said. “Two or three years ago, we would run something for Marshall Henderson. This year, our first option is going to be Sebastian on the block. It’s a challenge I think he’s ready for.”
That may have been the goal at the beginning if the season, but Miami-transfer Burnett has taken the lead as proven in his current roll as the SEC’s leading scorer. Ole Miss is coming together as a unit faster than many expected, especially considering the new faces that joined the roster. Saiz is the only player to be with Ole Miss for four years.
“We’ve got 12 scholarship players,” Kennedy said. “Only six have been in the program, and only five have been in a game for Ole Miss. We’re dealing with half of our roster being brand new. We have guys on our team that represent five different countries.”
Kennedy has consistently won 20 games in each of his 10 seasons with the Rebels and has quietly led Ole Miss to one SEC Tournament Championship, two SEC West Crowns, eight 20-win seasons, seven post-season berths and two NCAA Tournament appearances. His is the all-time winning-est coach in school history and will most likely get the program above .500 overall for the first time in its 106 year history. Their all-time record is currently 1263-1269.
The Dean of SEC Basketball Coaches has produced a winning season every year since coming to Oxford, 10 total, which places the Rebs as one of two teams in the SEC and just 16 in the nation to currently have at least 10 straight winning seasons.
Ole Miss will face the likes of Memphis, Murray State and Virginia Tech – to name a few non-conference contenders in the next few weeks – before opening the SEC season against No. 1 Kentucky at home on December 29. If the Rebels can tighten up on defense, they may be able to make a run in January and position themselves for a NCAA bid.