It's strange to see Martavious Newby on the bench when a game tips off, but that's where the bullish guard found himself on Sunday afternoon to begin the Rebs' final game in 2015's Charleston Classic. When the dust settled in TD Arena, Ole Miss' men found themselves on the losing end of a foul-laden 75-63 loss, which kicks them down to 3-2 on the year five weeks before SEC play commences.
Not that Newby's sixth man offerings were anything remarkable: in just 14 minutes of work, dude went 0-4 from the floor and 2-4 from the gimme stripe with an assist and a steal. One could sense his frustration, mirrored as it was in Andy Kennedy's head-shaking and Stefan Moody's glowering. Moody too pulled a disappearing act of sorts, withering away with 13 points and six turnovers to a Seton Hall squad that moved well in transition and maintained a 49.1 percent shooting night (the Pirates shot a staggering 40 percent from beyond the arc).
The Basketbears' starting five of Moody, Marcanvis Hymon, Sebastian Saiz, Anthony Perez and Rasheed Brooks was the second such platoon to begin things this weekend, which is somewhat expected after Hymon's career night on Friday. On Sunday, however, and despite nine rather crucial rebounds, Hymon missed all four of his attempts and Brooks' five points might just as well have been lost to the sands of time. The Rebs' lone bright spot shown in the form of Tomasz Gielo, who pulled 29 minutes and contributed 15 points and five rebounds.
So, if you're keeping score here: Moody and Hymon both posted career scoring nights Friday only to return Sunday for some really uninspired basketball.
Can Andy Kennedy work out the personnel kinks?
After Sunday's debacle it's hard to justify keeping Hymon and Brooks in the top five rotation. Hymon's length and inside presence probably argue for more minutes than Brooks, who appears to still be a work in progress as he learns AK's system. Sam Finley pulled equal weight with Brooks at the two-man spot to Moody's one, but that's just the problem. Moody plays better off the ball, and last year's twin luxuries of Jarvis Summers and Terence Smith have left. In this way, then, Stefan's number is called to do too much, frankly, and that over-reliance got exposed against Seton Hall.
Further, with so many guys lacking in experience -- and with Kennedy having to dive deep into the bench -- very little consistency among platoons has the Rebs in a bit of bind. On Sunday the hoopmen played almost exclusively man defense, which tires people out in a hell of a hurry and often falls prey to passing traps against teams that do it well. Which Seton Hall does very, very well. To be sure, last year's Rebels thrived on the high 1-3-1 trap, often with Perez at dagger's tip, and that just can't be done yet with the players under AK's command right now. They don't communicate well enough to play it and Perez carries more of the inside burden now that M.J. Rhett ain't around.
It's obvious to everyone that Moody dislikes playing the point, and he can't be called upon to drive to the goal, since his size makes him susceptible to six turnover nights. But until J.T. Escobar or Finley or someone distinguishes himself as a viable field marshall, Stefan's beloved shooting guard role remains unsatisfactorily hybrid.
Perez and Gielo are still question marks.
There's no question that Anthony Perez has bought in wholesale to AK's system, but we're still waiting for him to assert himself as a true offensive weapon. His size is certainly appreciated in the lane when bodies are needed, but he just hasn't put the study and skillset together yet. Tomasz Gielo is talented as all hell, but control issues are still lurking, and anyway it's too early still to form an opinion on where his place is here. Running free and shooting 13-footers in a turnover-heavy, physical matchup is one thing; facing down the stringent rigor of a Kentucky or LSU is wholly another. Time will tell on Tomasz, but he showed flashes of brilliance on Sunday.
What we're left with here are the requisite growing pains of a squad unevenly full of experience and youth. Veterans have had to perform new duties and underclassmen have had to learn the college game. It's a long season, though, and there's still a lot of work to be done.