Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
|Ole Miss O||UGA D||UGA O||Ole Miss D|
|eFG%||46.9% (8)||46.2% (5)||48.4% (4)||49.5% (11)|
|TO%||15.7% (1)||18.2% (11)||25% (13)||18.8% (9)|
|OR%||34% (5)||30.1% (5)||28.4% (10)||33.7% (12)|
|FTR||41.7 (3)||40.8 (9)||44.8 (2)||31.1 (5)|
Of the 7 games left on the Rebels’ schedule, the only one that KenPom.com doesn’t give the Rebels a 76%+ chance of winning is the season finale at LSU. The question is, can the Rebels shake what’s been ailing them and get back to playing with the swagger they had 4 weeks ago?
Before you answer that, there are two disturbing facts you should know heading into Saturday’s game against Georgia:
- Mark Fox is a helluva gameday coach and will likely coach circles around Kennedy for 40 minutes and overtime if need be
- Georgia will have the best player on the floor anytime Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (17.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 55.8% eFG%) is in the game
Certainly, neither of these by itself guarantees a Bulldog win, mind you, but it is worth noting. AK is inferior to the majority of his peers in conference when it comes to game management. The latest example being the waning minutes of Wednesday’s inexplicable loss to the Fightin’ Elston Turner Jrs. Even the most rudimentary basketball strategies were eschewed in lieu of terrible basketball. I coach my 7 year old son’s team and we run a more clearly defined offense than the Rebels did late in that game. They also have a much better understanding of how to play in a 2-3 zone.
And that’s the most frustrating thing about this team is the inability to guard anyone lately. The offense, for all its struggles, has still been (for the most part) fairly reliable. The Rebels overcome a poor eFG% by getting to the line and crashing the offensive glass. They’ve averaged at least one point per possession in all but 2 conference games – home wins over Mizzou and Tennessee. While that’s not an explosive offense per se, it should be enough to win with a competent defense.
Georgia, on the other hand, is one of the better shooting teams in conference. They also get to the FT line frequently and convert when they get there. When their offense struggles, it’s because they turn the ball over on ¼ of their possessions. Like TAMU, the Bulldogs prefer a much slower pace than the Rebels, which puts a higher premium on each possession. I’ll never understand why we didn’t press the Aggies more than we did, particularly since it was effective when we did. The same concept applies here: a slow-paced team that struggles with turnovers is the perfect team to press. Speed them up outside their comfort zone and make them make quick decisions. If they burn you for a layup, make them do it again, don’t give up and settle into their pace. Nearly 14% of their possessions end in a steal, which should create some fast break opportunities.
Also like TAMU, they only have one scoring threat in Caldwell Pope. He averages 10 more points/game than 2nd leading scorer Nemanja Djurisic. Perhaps AK and staff will think it wise to actually step out on Pope instead of daring him to hit open jump shots for 40 minutes like we did against Elston Turner, Jr. 37 points and a bad road loss later, my hope is that strategy will be scrapped against UGA.
The Bulldogs don’t rebound the ball particularly well, and that has to be exploited Saturday night. Reginald Buckner manned up Wednesday night and had a solid game down low and he needs to do it again. Marshall Henderson was held in check the last two games, and you can see him pressing. This is a game that he can excel in as UGA has struggled guarding the perimeter this year, but he’s got to be patient and wait for his shot. Even with the inherent disadvantage of AK coaching this team, this is a game the Rebels should win.
(Sure to be terribly, terribly wrong) Predictions:
Ole Miss 70 Georgia 61
Marshall Henderson’s insistence on gambling on defense actually pays off in this one with 5 steals. He’ll match that total in 3 pointers
Jarvis Summers realizes that the team’s recent funk is (not coincidentally) tied to his struggles, has best floor game since mid-January
(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)