The Bracketology Gods have spoken, and they're sending the Rebel Roundballers to Dayton, Ohio, for a date with BYU in the newly-coined NCAA Tournament First Four round. With a win on Saint Patrick's Day, Ole Miss will earn an 11-seed and the opportunity to play the Xavier Musketeers in Jacksonville, Fla., on March 19th. This oughtta be a fun.
The Cougars (25-9; 13-5 WCC) were runners-up to Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference tournament this year and, like Ole Miss, traveled well with seven road wins. Looking over both teams' win-loss performances on the season, the Rebels have notched more quality wins, going 6-8 against the RPI top 50, while the Cougars are only 2-5 in that caste. In the 51-through-100 group, Ole Miss went 4-2 while BYU split theirs at 1-1. The Cougars heavily outrank the Rebs in the NCAA RPI, however, sitting at 36th to Ole Miss' 55th.
BYU is an offensive juggernaut, averaging close to 84 points per game, which ranks them second in the NCAA. Further, four Cougar ballers are averaging double-digits in points production, with senior guard Tyler Haws leading the way at nearly 22 points per game. The Rebs, by contrast, have three scorers averaging double figures, with Stefan Moody sitting on 16 points per game.
On paper, Ole Miss and BYU make a nice tango team. Both squads like to shoot the three -- the Rebs attempted 612 long balls to the Cougars' 734 -- they're each connecting from downtown about 39 percent of the time. Here's a side-by-side comparison of both teams' trends entering Tuesday's tussle:
|.426||Field Goal %||.467|
|.778||Free Throw %||.768|
The Rebels certainly have their work cut out for them, especially in light of how abysmally they've been shooting of late. Andy Kennedy should prepare for a Cougar team that likes to run and gun, so Anthony Perez' duties in the high 1-3-1 trap become tantamount to Ole Miss' success on Tuesday. Moreover, both teams' adjusted defense quotients are lurking around 100 in Ken Pomeroy's latest check-in, so we should perhaps expect a pretty high-scoring affair.
As a program, the Cougars plainly have more tournament experience with 28 trips to the Big Dance. The Rebels have only been invited seven times, and this year's bid is their first since Marshall Henderson and company boogied in 2013. BYU has become something of a tournament regular recently and ran as far as the Sweet Sixteen in 2011.
Whatever happens on Tuesday, the Rebs' invite to Dayton is somehow refreshingly welcome after the month they've had, and a late-night rumble on Saint Patrick's day with a tourney perennial nevertheless came hard-won. Let's do it, gentlemen.