It’s the heart of winter and baseball may never get here. So I thought I would predict, game by game, the Basket(bear)sharks upcoming conference slate. It might be a long season in Oxford so this won’t be for the faint of heart. At least the Pavilion is a fun place to watch games now and the concessions are affordable.
KenPom has the Rebels favored in just four conference games and projects a final record of 6-12(!). And entering SEC play Ole Miss is already 0-4 against teams currently ranked in the KenPom top 100, so when I say every Southeastern Conference team is in the top 81, that should be cause for concern.
Let’s see how that compares to the Cup’s official projection.
at Texas A&M, at Tennessee, at Kentucky, at Arkansas
These four teams all rank in the top 21 on KenPom and three of them are in the top 20 defensively. They are each bad matchups for Ole Miss and the Rebels have exactly one win in 400 tries inside Kentucky’s Rupp Arena and Convention Center for NBA Combine and Draft Preparation. Mark these down as losses and move on.
at Auburn, at Missouri, Arkansas, at Georgia
The Hogs defense doesn’t compare to the teams mentioned above, but their offense is elite. Ole Miss might can score with them at home, but winning would be a tall task. Georgia and Missouri won’t overmatch the Rebs on paper but winning on the road in the SEC is hard so let’s count these as losses too. Oh and consensus top-two recruit Michael Porter Jr. has mentioned returning for Missouri this year and late February when the Rebels visit Columbia seems like as good a time as any to snag an L.
Tennessee, at Mississippi State, at LSU
The good news here is Ole Miss can win each of these games. The bad news is with eight losses already penciled in the only way to save the season is to win every remaining game. Then win the SEC tournament.
The Tigers feature a top 25 adjusted offense and Baton Rouge seems like the perfect place for Ole Miss to get shot out of the gym. I am probably being too nice including Tennessee here, but like I said winning on the road in the SEC is hard.
Florida, Alabama, Auburn
Hey. Remember that coach that everyone wants and begs to come back because he’s an alum and a good, good Rebel who will certainly leave a great job and a great university just to come back for his dear old Rebels?
Well, Mike White’s Gators aren’t really all that good this year. Since losing a big lead over Duke in the PK80 Tournament earlier this year, Florida has fallen outside of the top 35 in KenPom and would be squarely on the bubble. Kennedy beating Mike White in Oxford would be a nice bit of poetic justice. But, you all would probably still vacuum out his car, wouldn’t you?
Win these games
Missouri, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Mississippi State
If the Rebels lose more than one of these games, it may be too late for Andy Kennedy. Each of these four games is winnable, and they are all at home.
Good news: Michael Porter Jr. likely won’t be back in time for the Tigers trip to Oxford.
Bad news: MSU is 31st and USC is 16th in adjusted defense so there aren’t going to be any easy baskets.
All things considered, the Rebels will only face the top four teams—Texas A&M, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas—five total times. That four of these five games come on the road is a blessing in disguise. This team isn’t built to beat Kentucky and it sure can’t stop Texas A&M’s NBA front-court. Not having to waste an important home game on these teams bodes well.
Let’s assume the first two columns are all losses, and the last column is all wins. That’s 4-8. If you split the next two columns you arrive at 7-11. That may be optimistic, so I’ll go with 6-12.