The absolute best thing about Red Cup Rebellion has been and continues to be the regular interaction I am afforded with clever, well versed, and more levelheaded Ole Miss Rebel fans. While I more-or-less run the show around these parts, I do have no pretentions about my knowledge of Ole Miss sports or, really, anything in general. In that vein, and considering how personal and professional obligations have kept myself and the other usual suspects terribly busy this week, I opted to crowd source this year's 2012-13 Rebel basketball preview. Thankfully, the folks who reached out to me were very people who I hoped would be interested in helping.
User buster_bluth contributed his statistical expertise in reviewing who the Rebels return to this roster off of last season; friend of the Cup and Daily Mississippian despot Austin Miller looked at this team's newcomers; and bball1984 looked at the Rebels' season and implications it could have on RPI. Words typed on this little corner of the SB Nation network cannot sufficiently describe how thankful I am for their help and how happy it makes me to be a part of such an active and interesting online collection of Ole Miss fans, so I'll suffice it to say that I owe all three of these gentlemen a couple of beers or whatever it is they're drinking.
Seriously, job well done, gents.
So, on with the preview, yes?
We're going to look at these players with a statistical angle that isn't too commonly used, especially by the mainstream sports media. You're going to need some background information for these stats with which you may not be familiar. Here is that information:
- eFG%: Effective Field Goal Percentage; the formula is (FG + 0.5 * 3P) / FGA, recognizing the fact that a 3-point field goal is worth one more point than a 2-point field goal
- FTR: Free throw rate measures the player's ability to get to the FT line. The formula is FTA/FGA.
- ORtg: Offensive Rating: A measure of personal offensive efficiency developed by Dean Oliver. The formula is very complicated, but accurate. For a detailed explanation, buy Basketball on Paper.
- (%Poss): A measure of personal possessions used while the player is on the court. Simply assigns credit or blame to a player when his actions end a possession, either by making a shot, missing a shot that isn't rebounded by the offense, or committing a turnover.
- Block%: Blocked shots / Opp. 2PA
The Rebels return a lot of experienced talent for this season, especially down low. Coupled with returning youth in the back court, the Rebels are perhaps as deep as they've been during Andy Kennedy's tenure.
Jarvis Summers - 10.4 ppg, 3.4 apg, 45.1% eFG%, 96.2 ORtg
Last Season: Summers came into Oxford as a true freshman last year with the unenviable task of replacing Chris Warren as the primary ballhandler for the Rebs. While his numbers were not nearly as gaudy as Warren's were as a freshman, Summers is a true PG and a much better fit for a team offense than Warren. Plus, the talent level is higher than Warren's freshman year.
This Season: For the Rebs to have success this year, Summers will be called on not to be not a big-time scorer, just an effective one. Last year, the Rebels finished 20-14 overall (58.8%), but when Summers took 10+ shots, the record fell to 3-5 (37.5%). Look for Summers to improve across the board. There will always be bumps and bruises with a true freshman PG in any league, but Summers improved throughout the season and there's reason to believe he'll be a valuable commodity this year. Over the last 6 games of the season, he averaged 14.5 PPG and 4.0 APG with an eFG% of 50%, well above his season average of 45%. He also showed a knack for getting to the FT Line with a FTR of 57.8, good for 5th in the SEC. The two guys right in front of him were the top two picks in the 2012 NBA Draft.
Nick Williams - 10.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 47.1% eFG%, 101.4 ORtg
Last Season: Williams turned in a respectable season in his junior year - 10PPG, 3.4RPG - but inconsistency plagued him. He's a solid 2-guard who's not going to wow you with any individual skill, but has the ability to fill up the stat sheet. He's a big guard - 6'4, 210+ lbs - who rebounds and passes well, but disappears for long stretches, including full games. Three times last year, WIlliams failed to score in a game. Not coincidentally, the Rebs lost all three of those games.
This Season: Williams is entering his senior season, his 3rd at Ole Miss after playing as a true freshman at Indiana. This year though, he must become more consistent on offense, starting with getting to the FT line more often. He shot 76.7% on FTs last season, which is great, but attempted only 60 FTs in more than 1,000 minutes of game play (19.1 FTR). Williams won't be asked to shoulder as much of the scoring burden this year with Summers' maturity and newcomer Marshall Henderson's ability to light it up, but he will relied upon for leadership.
Ladarius "Snoop" White - 5.4 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 45.4% eFG%, 90.3 ORtg
Last Season: After missing the first 8 games, White was proclaimed a savior after his debut against Mississippi Valley after posting 16 points, 4-8 3Pointers, 6 Rebounds, 4 Assists and 2 Blocks. The Rebels were struggling to score in the early season and White's breakout game seemed to be just the panacea that the team needed. He then averaged just over 3 PPG over the next 3 months before busting out for 19 PPG over the last 2 games of the season.
This Season: Who knows what to expect from White this year? He's got a pure shooting stroke and shown explosiveness in scoring. Like Williams, he's a big guard who rebounds well, but he's got a better shooting touch than Williams. While the addition of Henderson may limit White's minutes some this season, there is no denying his ability to be a reliable contributor. Questions remain about his ability to be a reliable scorer.
Reggie Buckner - 6.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.2 bpg, 53.1% eFG%, 100.6 ORtg
Last Season: In 2011-12, Buckner solidified himself as one of the most feared defenders in the conference as well as the country. He ranked 39th nationally (5th in conference) in Block % at 8.9%. He also led the conference (15th nationally) in FTR with an astounding 75.0. Unfortunately once he made it to the line, the real struggles began. In an alarming trend, his FT% has fallen from 49.2% as a freshman, to 43.6% as a sophomore, all the way down to 41.7% as a junior.
This Season: Entering his final season in the Red and Blue, Buckner's name is already scattered throughout the Rebel record books. His 228 blocks rank 1st in school history and 6th in SEC history. He's the leader among returning SEC players in blocks, 2nd in rebounds (609), and 3rd in double-doubles (8). He spent much of the offseason working with Coach Pinkins on some back-to-the-basket moves. If Buckner can become a more reliable post scorer, he should have a good season.
Demarco Cox - 3.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 55.8% eFG%, 108.6 ORtg
Last Season: While his minutes last year were an increase over his freshman year, Cox struggled to find his place in the talented and deep frontcourt of the Rebels. His 7 points, 7 rebounds were key in knocking off Mississippi State last season in Oxford. He's got great footwork on offense and can score when given the opportunity, as indicated by his high ORtg number. He, like Buckner, showed a knack for getting to the FT Line - 55.8 FTR - but unfortunately, also like Buckner, he struggled to convert those chances, shooting just 44.8% from the line.
This Season: Entering 2012-13, Cox remains the best back-to-basket offensive player on the team. With the graduation of Terrance Henry, Cox should see a bump in minutes. How much of a bump will likely depend on his lateral movement on the defensive end as he comes off of a foot injury he is currently nursing. With another year of conditioning and another 15 lbs lost, expect Cox to hold his own this season. He brings a skill set and body type that none of our post players bring.
Murphy Holloway - 11.2 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 51.1% eFG%, 102.9 ORtg
Last Season: Without rehashing the travels of Holloway, let's just say that Big Murph was a welcome sight back in Oxford last year. Holloway led the Rebels in rebounding and posted 15 games with double figure rebounds. The Rebels finished 12-3 in those games. His infectious smile quickly reestablished him to the "crowd favorite" status he enjoyed his first years in Oxford.
This Season: The sky is the limit for Holloway. He has a seemingly endless supply of boisterous energy and plays with an intensity on the court that few can match. He is the leader among returning SEC players in career rebounds, double-doubles and steals. He spent a lot of time this summer working on an outside shot, and if that starts to fall consistently, the Rebels will be a very tough team to guard. One stat that Holloway must improve on is - stop me if you've heard this before - is his FT%. With a strong FTR - 43.6 - shooting 50.8% on FTs just won't cut it.
Aaron Jones - 1.4 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 51.6% eFG%, 106.0 ORtg
Last Season: Jones was something of an afterthought for much of last season, until the 2nd half of the conference season when he saw a precipitous spike in minutes. He wasn't called upon to score much (so little in fact, that he rates in Ken Pomeroy's "Nearly Invisible" category), but did so effectively when he did, posting 51.6% eFG% and 70% FT%.
This Season: Same situation, different year. With a slew of more talented big men on the roster in front of him, it will be tough to find meaningful minutes for Jones. He plays with a good energy when he's on the court and rebounds and defends pretty well, but not enough to push Holloway, Buckner, or Cox for minutes.
Marshall Henderson - I think he will he make the biggest immediate impact of the newcomers. The 6-foot-2, 175-pounder should start at one of the two wing spots from day one. He's a pure shooter, and opposing teams will have to adjust accordingly. That opens up driving lanes for Jarvis Summers, among others, and more room inside for Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner. The reigning NJCAA player of the year has a swagger about him, which Ole Miss fans will love and opposing fans will hate. He also Division I experience, which none of the other newcomers have.
Anthony Perez - He's Terrance Henry, but probably with better ball-handling skills. He played with the Venezuelan youth national team, and while he may not start this season he's going to play solid minutes in the rotation, whether at wing or maybe even at point guard. Yes, he's 6-foot-9 and 205 pounds, and he can play the point. He looks that comfortable with the ball in his hands, and Andy Kennedy has said as much. I can see him growing into a role, as Kennedy figures out how to best use him in the offense.
Martavious Newby - He's a physical specimen at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, who like Jarvis Summers, I think, can excel on the defensive end of the court. Those two guys, plus Nick Williams, and it's going to be difficult for opposing teams to drive and find open shots. And with so many other scorers in the rotation, there's a role in that. I think, like Williams, he can do the little things that might not show up in the stat sheet, but make a difference in winning and losing. I like the way he plays.
Jason Carter - Like Perez, he's not your prototypical forward. As far as role, I see him more closely to Henry than Perez. The one-time Alabama signee is a stretch-4 who has a nice touch from the perimeter. He also has the frame at 6-fooot-8, 238 pounds to bang inside and spell Holloway and Buckner in the frontcourt alongside Demarco Cox and Aaron Jones.
Derrick Millinghaus - If Kennedy want to push the tempo circa Chris Warren, this is the guy to make it happen. At 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, to use a football metaphor, he's a change-of-pace point guard that excels in the open floor. The concern is his size, both driving in the lane, as well as guarding bigger guards. I think the size of his role is dependent on the identity the team takes on.
Terry Brutus - At some point, there's a minutes crunch with 13 guys that makes sense to play in the rotation, and he's a guy that like Aaron Jones and LaDarius White last year might have to wait his time and take advantage of his opportunities. He has a good size at 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds and makes sense at both wing and forward. I think we'll have to wait and see.
Andy Kennedy usually does a masterful job at strengthening our schedule by playing games against mid and low-major teams that are favored to compete for their conference title. This tactic usually helps manipulate the RPI in our favor and this year's schedule is no exception.
There are plenty of games that should be automatic wins like MVSU, McNeese State, Lipscomb, etc. We also have some challenging games against solid mid-major teams. Coastal Carolina is our second home game of the season. They are coached by Cliff Ellis, former head coach at Auburn, and are picked to finish second in the Big South Conference. We'll also host Rutgers on December 1 in the Big East/SEC challenge. Rutgers is a young but very talented team that returns a lot of contributors from a squad that was able to knock off Florida last year. They also picked up transfer Wally Judge, a capable post player from Kansas State. They'll be an early test that should give us an idea about how ready we'll be to make a run at a tournament berth.
A week later, we'll play MTSU on the road in Murfreesboro. MTSU beat us in Southaven last season and is favored to win their conference this season.
Finally, the highlight of the nonconference schedule is the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii. We open play against Indiana State, a mid-tier Missouri Valley team that won't be a pushover. If we win against the Sycamores, we'll most likely face San Diego State, a team ranked 20th in both preseason polls. They would be a tremendous test for our Rebs and provide an opportunity to pick up a marquee win that would improve our RPI and enhance our resume heading into Selection Sunday. The other side of the bracket features Arizona vs. ETSU and Miami (FL) vs. Hwaii. Arizona is rated as the 11th/12th best team in the country in preseason polls, and Miami is expected to make a run at a tournament berth this season. A matchup against either would provide an opportunity to pick up another quality win.
Our SEC schedule this season is pretty daunting in spots. Also, with the addition of two new squads, the schedule is unbalanced and you no longer play every team in the West twice. I think most would agree that the conference will be a league of haves and have-nots this season. The top 6-7 teams are all potential tourney squads, while the remaining teams are probably going to be pretty weak. We open conference play on January 9th at Tennessee, another team that many consider a bubble team heading into the season. We'll play Missouri and Tennessee twice while traveling to Florida and hosting Kentucky and Alabama once. Plenty of opportunities for marquee wins there. We also get to play MSU and Auburn twice while facing UGA, USC, LSU, and Vandy once- all games that are very winnable this year. The wild card, in my mind, is Texas A&M. We play them home and away, and I know next to nothing about them. I expect them to struggle, but if they turn out to be competitive it will really make our schedule difficult.
Overall, our schedule is a pretty challenging one with many opportunities to pick up marquee wins. As with most seasons, our fate will be in our own hands. If AK can lead us to a few resume-enhancing wins and beat the teams we are clearly better than, I think we'll be very happy in March.