Published on December 15th, 2016 | by TLV News0
With Conference Play Looming, Rebel Basketball Looks to Move Past Mediocrity
by Marcus Williams
The University of Mississippi may not have the most prestigious men’s basketball program in the country, but they have had an extremely consistent team since Andy Kennedy became the coach in 2006. The Ole Miss Rebels have won at least 19 games in nine out of the ten seasons under coach Kennedy. While that is usually enough wins to get an appearance in the NCAA tournament, the Rebels always seem to be overlooked by the selection committee. Despite their solid record almost every season, Ole Miss has only made the prestigious postseason tournament twice in the last 10 years.
The Ole Miss Rebels know that they have to put together an impressive resumé if they want to play in the postseason, and that urgency was evident at the beginning of the season. Key wins over the Massachusetts Minutemen and St. Joseph’s Hawks helped the Rebels win their first four games of the season. Ole Miss took a six-point lead into halftime against the 12th ranked Creighton Bluejays, but they struggled throughout the second half on the way to a 86–77 loss.
The Ole Miss Rebels have alternated wins and losses since the game with Creighton to get a 6-3 record through the first nine games of the season. While Ole Miss would have loved to go on an extended winning streak after the Creighton game, they are still having a solid season. The losses against Virginia Tech and Middle Tennessee State will not hurt their chances at postseason play because they are both great teams. The Rebels also added another key win to their resumé when they defeated the Memphis Tigers. With three wins over good teams and no bad losses, the Ole Miss Rebels are in excellent shape heading into conference play. Andy Kennedy has forced his team to play a lot of great teams in the early portion of the season, and it should play off over the next few months.
The excellent play of guard Deandre Burnett has propelled the Ole Miss Rebels to their solid start this year. Burnett is in his first year at the University of Mississippi after transferring from the University of Miami. The Ole Miss coaching staff has to be pleasantly surprised by Burnett’s play this season, because he did not look capable of averaging 20 points a game during his limited time with the Miami Hurricanes. The only complaint about Deandre Burnett is that he is still a very inefficient scorer despite his high point totals on a nightly basis. A small improvement in his shot selection will set up the Rebels for an excellent finish to the season.
The improvement of Terence Davis and Sebastian Saiz also has to make the Ole Miss coaching staff very happy. The development of these two players gives the Rebels four players in the starting lineup that can lead the team in scoring on any given night. The duo is going to have to consistently play at a high level if the Rebels are going to stay competitive come conference play when they will face the top of the SEC. Based on everything we have seen so far this year, the Ole Miss Rebels looked poised to have another 20-win season.