Ah, the holidays. Bowl games the Rebs aren’t participating in, alcohol, and winter basketball. It’s the final week or so of most every college basketball team’s OOC schedule, and the Basketbears host relative pushovers Bradley and South Alabama before duking it out with one of the country’s premier teams. Ole Miss dives into the deep end of its SEC slate next Thursday against Kentucky, though a standalone non-con game against Baylor still awaits in late January.
That South Alabama and Bradley are ranked respectively Nos. 211 and 236 by Kenpom offers Andy Kennedy’s men little more than a pair of practice sessions before John Calipari and company come calling. Still, this year’s Rebels have provided some rather inconsistent basketball to date, so that 20-point leads against Murray State are never guaranteed to last. Viewed another way, Ole Miss basketball is the perfect holiday gift, insofar as every game is a nail-biting surprise.
Anyway, Monday night’s boondoggle with Bradley tips off at 8 p.m. CT on SEC Network+. It justifiably won’t be aired on television, since sports networks have FCC regulations to worry about.
Bradley ranks outside the top 150 in most every basketball statistic that matters.
The Braves are in the bottom 100 in points per game.
They’re also scoring at a rate of 98.9 points per 100 possessions and allowing 104.8 points per 100 defensive sets. At 4-5, the Braves have failed to string together two straight wins this season, and in their most recent W they held Chicago State to 48 points. CSU is No. 332 in KenPom’s rankings.
All of which is to say: if the Rebs can’t handle business on Monday, they have far larger problems than Malik Monk’s 47 points against North Carolina.
Ole Miss closes out the non-conference schedule against South Alabama on Thursday.
The Jaguars are 6-5, and their team profile rates down near Bradley’s statistical output, especially in scoring rate.
This game tips off Thursday at 8 p.m. CT on SEC Network+, and it’s an unfortunate scheduling circumstance that USA is the last team Ole Miss plays before the SEC schedule starts up. Kentucky will have played UCLA, Valparaiso, Hofstra, North Carolina and Louisville before coming to Oxford, a significantly more trying run than Montana, Middle Tennessee, Memphis, Virginia Tech and Murray State.
Importantly, however, the Rebs perhaps need a couple of walk-throughs to get their defense right. They toughened up for stretches against Murray State, but four fast fouls in the opening minutes of the second half yielded free throw after free throw for the Racers in the closing run. Murray didn’t score a field goal from the floor in the final six minutes of that game, but still managed to pull within four thanks to free throws.
These then are the stakes this week: win, and no one bats an eye; lose, and that postseason resume takes a significant blow.