The Rebels face easily the most talented opponent of the season tonight in the championship game of the Puerto Rico Tip Off in Villanova.
The WiLdCATs have faced more adversity already early this season. A one-point win over George Mason and a six-point victory over #18 Dayton has the team battle tested to face a more athletic Ole Miss team.
Ole Miss has won handily over Indiana and slowly stretched out a lead over Kansas State to win by a dozen. Terrico White and Chris Warren led the Rebels Friday against the purple varietied Wildcats of KSU.
Here's a few things to know about Villanova and Ole Miss(see: if you say Ole Piss, you're an idiot and not funny).
Turn your TV to ESPN2 at 7 p.m. CST to watch this game. If you don't, we'll find out and come egg your house and fork your yard. Possibly even leave pieces of bologna on your car(apparently, it eats the paint off? What has it done to my insides then?). Anyway, be there or be a bad Rebel.
Villanova comes from the Big East(see: Big East is to basketball as SEC is to football). They seem to have scheduled a decent non-conference line-up with games against Maryland, the Puerto Rico Tip Off and at Temple. For some reason, teams from the northeast region just seem to be better or more difficult to beat in basketball in general. These players will have no fear coming into this game. They may have worries about winning or losing, but they will not be intimidated by any of our players.
Terrico White and Chris Warren led the team in scoring against Kansas State. This is the recipe for season success for the Rebels. Let the guys who have led the team in the past lead them in the big games. Warren and White aren't afraid to take the big shot, so they should have the ball in their hands for much of the offensive sets.
I don't think anyone expected much out of the big men for Ole Miss this season. There was so much focus on the guards especially with Trevor Gaskins, Eniel Polynice and Warren coming back from season ending injuries. Reginald Buckner, Deaundre Cranston and Murphy Holloway continue to show up and impact games. Buckner and Holloway are the better defensive players, but Holloway is the best all-around big man on our team right now. He needs to be in double digits every game.
Ole Miss is shooting over 50 percent from the field through four games, but the percentage drops to under 35 percent behind the arc. Villanova shoots threes at a higher clip than the Rebels but allows them to drop at a higher rate also. I'd like to see some of our players get a more consistent stroke back as three pointers are usually significant in upset bids.
Villanova passes the eye test meaning that their players won't look like Indiana did for those of you who watched that game. Literally, Indiana had six guys on their team that couldn't have ridden roller coasters at Six Flags. The Wildcats have 6'10'' forward/center Mouphtaou Yarou and 6'11'' forward/center Maurice Sutton on the roster getting roughly 15 minutes per game. Depending on their athleticism, it could be a challenge for the Rebels to rebound in this game.
Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher, Antonio Pena and Corey Stokes round out the players who are leading the Wildcats in scoring. Stokes seems to be the sharp shooter out of the bunch while Reynolds previous success precedes him. Pena seems to be an up and comer for the team after only averaging 5 points per game last season.
Jay Wright is Villanova's coach. He's got two Big East coach of the year awards, a Final Four appearance(2009) and although he is 48, looks like he's in his late 30's. If the games were about tradition of winning, Villanova wins easily.
However, there's a reason they play the games. The Rebels won't be able to flat out run the Wildcats out of the gym like the Kansas State or Indiana games. They're going to have to go shot-for-shot against the 'Cats and hope to get some defensive stands late in the game.
Ball handling has been a little sloppy(not surprising, it's November), but in a game against a top 5 opponent, possession is a valuable commodity that can't be wasted. I love you, EP, but I'd rather you being moving without the ball to get in a good position to score. Again, Warren and White need to handle the ball first and foremost.
I hate doing predictions, but I do them every time. Villanova has more past success, and I would imagine the experts are picking them to win. Unfortunately, I'm not an expert...I'm a fan. Also, I'm hungover and just watched the Blind Side(they should sell Ole Miss apparel and season tickets outside the doors of the theaters, they would clean up). I've got Ole Miss on the brain, and I'm not ready to pick against this team. They've won a regular season tournament in the past by defeating a 15th ranked Clemson team. I want to see it again to get this team the press they deserve.
Ole Miss 87
PUT YO DAMN PREDICKSHUNDS DOWN HURRRRRR