Ole Miss is set to face the Fayetteville State Somethings at 6 p.m. CT on Friday, marking Kermit Davis’ fifth exhibition as head coach.
This is our first chance to see what this team might actually look like a week from now in real, live, American, D-1 college basketball.
To recap, the Rebels played four games in Canada in early August, but that was so long before the season it was hard to really see what rotations and assignments might be like. With the season starting for real in just seven days, tonight’s game should give a glimpse of what’s to come.
We previewed the roster last week, and that’s an important read if you aren’t familiar with the personnel changes since l last season. Suffice it to say that a lot has happened.
So why not take a few minutes to talk about what to watch for tonight as the Rebels take the court and are nearing games that actually mean something?
Who starts at power forward, and how are the minutes distributed early?
Kermit Davis has raved about freshman Blake Hinson since signing him, and Hinson started the Canada exhibition games. Hinson was Davis’ highest rated signee in the offseason, coming in as the #145 high school player in the country. He’s slightly undersized at 6’7”, but Davis’ system calls for more athleticism at this spot, and Hinson has that.
This week, Davis said he’s not ready to name a starting five yet and alluded to the idea that fellow freshman KJ Buffen is challenging Hinson for the starting job. That’s a mild surprise, but Buffen is widely regarded as the second best signee in the class anyway. While I’d still guess Hinson will start, it’s encouraging that Davis and staff are talking Buffen up this early.
But what about Dom and Bruce Stevens?
Well, they’re competing to start at center this season. There will obviously be times when both are on the court, but neither have proven good enough at this point to force the coaches’ hand in not wanting to keep them off the court.
I’m especially interested to see how they work in the 1-3-1 zone. They’ll likely be manning the middle, but whichever one is able to play motivated defense likely wins more minutes than the other.
Are the backup guards and wings ready to contribute?
There’s nothing proven behind Devontae Shuler, Breein Tyree, and Terence Davis (and you could argue they’re not all that proven either). I’m looking forward to seeing who the first couple of guards off the bench are. I’m especially interested to see what G Luis Rodriguez is able to do coming off an injury that kept him out of practice for the past few weeks. Rodriguez is a 6’6” SF who had offers from Illinois and UMass but chose the Rebels. He’s behind TD, so I’m not counting on too much this season, but Rodriguez’s defensive prowess (combined with a tremendous lack of depth at the guard spot) will push him into duty earlier in his career than might have been expected.
Other guards worth watching are juco transfer Brian Halums and senior former walk-on DC Davis. Kermit Davis has talked a bit about them this offseason, and it’s worth noting how early each is involved. Again, there’s not much guard help on the roster, so everyone’s going to have to play.