Here's how the Rebels (18-5, 7-3) match up with the Texas A&M Aggies (14-9, 4-6) using the Four Factors. (Conference Rank in Parentheses)
|Ole Miss O||aTm D||aTm O||Ole Miss D|
|eFG%||46.7% (7)||48.5% (7)||45.3% (12)||49.3% (10)|
|TO%||15.4% (1)||24.2% (2)||22.5% (11)||18.6% (11)|
|OR%||34.2% (3)||30.9% (5)||37.6% (1)||33.1% (11)|
|FTR||41.9 (4)||42.3 (11)||31.4 (11)||32.0 (5)|
It’s been a trying two weeks for the Rebels, having lost their top 2 reserves and 3 of their last 4 games. In their defense, 2 were road games and all three were against the top 3 teams in the preseason SEC polls. Neither Mizzou nor Florida has lost at home this season and Kentucky has really started to play well over the last few weeks. In my view of it, the losses weren’t nearly as disheartening as some of the surrounding distractions.
But the meat of the schedule has come and gone. The Rebels still sit nicely in the standings and stare at a remaining slate of 8 conference games that – on any given night – they should win, starting with tomorrow night’s game against Texas A&M.
The Rebels and Aggies provide some interesting matchups. The Rebels play the fastest pace of any SEC team in conference play – 70.7 possessions – while the Aggies plod along at the slowest pace – 61.9. Looking at the factors above, you can quickly figure out the Aggies don’t score easily as they rank near the bottom of the conference in eFG%, TO%, and FTR. What is troublesome for the Rebs, particularly after the Mizzou game, is the Aggies’ dominance crashing the offensive glass.
Missouri grabbed 53.7% of their misses. Think about that. Want to know how you get your ass kicked on the road in conference? Stand around and let a good team grab more offensive rebounds than you grab defensive rebounds. That story never ends well. For the game, the Tigers dominated the boards 50-32. A repeat lackadaisical performance tomorrow night could lead to another loss, only this one would be much more damaging that the one to Mizzou. Texas A&M’s best offense is getting an initial shot up and going and getting the rebound.
The Aggies score just 59.3 ppg in conference play, so this should be an opportunity for the Rebels’ D to get back on track. The Rebels have surrendered 75+ points for 4 straight games, after only twice all season, and it took Vanderbilt OT to get there. The Aggies have reached that number only 3 times all season, but only once since mid-November, albeit in a road win at Rupp.
They score 58.0% of their points on 2-pointers (2nd most in the league) 21.8% on 3s (13th) and the other 20.2% on FTs (10th).
Basically, this is a gut check game for the Rebels. My hope is that Anthony Perez gets the start over Buckner. Perez has been playing hard and with a real desire to win, which is more than Buckner can say after Saturday. While the SEC elected not to suspend Buckner, he doesn’t need to be rewarded with a start tomorrow night. I’m sure internal discipline was issued, but removal from the starting lineup would send the message that shenanigans like that won’t be tolerated.
There are a few things the Rebels must do to win this game. First off, get to the FT line and convert. The Aggies put opponents there at a very high clip and the Rebels have been adept at getting there either off post feeds or penetration this season. No time to stop now. There has got to be a renewed emphasis on defense and rebounding. I expect that Murphy Holloway’s 1 rebound(!) performance was an anomaly and he’ll be out to prove that. The Aggies have been very loose with the ball in SEC play and while the Rebels have struggled forcing TOs lately, this is a chance to get that ship righted as well.
(Sure to be terribly, terribly wrong) Predictions:
Ole Miss 68 Texas A&M 62
Murphy Holloway finishes with 14 points and 10 rebounds
Anthony Perez has a career high 11 points in his first career start
Nick Williams has a much better shooting night than he did against Mizzou, with an eFG% above 50%
(As always, the conference rankings pulled from kenpom.com, quite possibly the coolest site on the whole wide intertubes... Red Cup Rebellion excluded of course)