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Ole Miss vs. Utah basketball 2017 preview: Rebs will need a big game down low


NCAA Basketball: SEC Tournament-Mississippi vs Missouri Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s assume anyone reading this has just finished their second cup of coffee after 6 p.m. and is just hoping UNLV-Rice doesn’t go to overtime so that Ole Miss-Utah will start on time.

Why a game would start at 9:30 local time to not even be on normal human television east of the Rockies is beyond us. But, you’re here. You’re ready for Ole Miss to get a big neutral site win over a team currently rated 49th in KenPom (and top 30 in RPI). More importantly, you’re wondering if Terence Davis can keep you awake, and if someone over 6’6 can start scoring for Ole Miss.

Utah will spread the ball around, with five players averaging double figures, but they are led by David Collette, a 24-year old transfer from Utah State with old man strength on the block. Collette leads a defense ranking 10th in effective field goal percentage at just 37.8 percent. By comparison, Ole Miss is 166th nationally at 49.7 percent. The Rebels are middle of the pack when it comes to 3-point percentage, but they will struggle to get open looks as the Utes allow opponents to shoot just 21.2 percent from deep.

Ole Miss will need their guards to continue attacking the basket, using their athleticism to force Utah to send them to the line. The Runnin’ Utes rank 242nd in free throws against per game, making Davis’ quick drives a huge part of the game. Utah ranks in the bottom 10 in steal percentage, again meaning Ole Miss’ quickness could be a large factor if the Utes are a lumbering at guard.

The key stat of the night comes down to blocks. Both Utah and Ole Miss rank in the top 62 nationally in block rate, but Ole Miss gets far fewer of their shots blocked on the offensive end compared to Utah. The ability to drive and get shots off unimpeded will be important, especially if the Rebels struggle from three-point range like they did early against Georgia State.

Ole Miss struggled with D’Marcus Simonds’ ability to get to the bucket on Friday, giving up 29 points on 9-18 shooting and 8-11 from the charity stripe. Utah doesn’t have anyone as quick or skilled as Simonds, a potential Sun Belt player of the year, but the Rebels’ ability to disrupt a dominant guard is certainly something to watch going forward.

Here’s your tale of the tape: