USA TODAY Sports
Tonight at 7:00 PM CT in Tennessee's Thompson-Boling Arena, the Ole Miss Rebels and the Volunteers will begin SEC play.
The Tennessee Volunteers (8-4, 0-0) play host to the Rebels (11-2, 0-0) tonight in the first SEC game for each team. This game is pretty pivotal for the Rebels, as it gives them a chance to head to Missouri 1-0 with nothing to prove. If they're 0-1 after a loss to a mediocre Tennessee team, that game becomes much more important. The same goes for Vanderbilt, the third team the Rebels face. That's all interesting, but let's talk about tonight's game.
The Volunteers are an intriguing team so far this year. Their paltry 64.5 ppg ranks them 11th in the SEC. Their defense, however, is only allowing 58.8, placing them at second in the conference. Junior guard Trae Golden leads the Vols in scoring at 11.8 ppg with a 4.3:1.9 assist to turnover ratio. He's a volume scorer who will likely shoot the ball a lot, similar to Ole Miss' Derrick Millinghaus (or Marshall Henderson of course, though Elston isn't a three point shooter). I'd hope that we stop inexplicably limiting Martavious Newby to four minutes per game. I want to see him help try to lock up Elston.
Jordan McRae, a junior shooting guard, averages 11.6 ppg and is their only real three point threat. McRae averages 4.6 attempts per game from three, and he's likely to shoot many more than that against the Rebels. That's just what teams do against us (even though we technically lead the SEC in 3-pt field-goal percentage).
As for other pertinent team stats, it looks like we won't have to worry with too many turnovers since Tennessee is last in the league in steals and tenth in blocks. Their turnover margin ranks them twelfth in the conference, and that's with an offense that doesn't turn it over much. They're strong on the boards, ranking fifth in rebounding margin, and the Rebels cannot be outrebounded by this team. If they do, Tennessee will slow the game down too much for Rebel shooters to get the sheer volume they need to seemingly put up points.
When it's all over, I expect it to come down to who shoots better at the free throw line. If this season so far is an indication, the Rebels will win that matchup.... by less than a point. We rank eighth in the conference (.678), and Tennessee (.673) ranks ninth. Of course, it's unlikely to play out exactly that way, so I'll throw out a relatively random score.
Ole Miss 72
What do you think?