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Our big 2018 Ole Miss basketball preview and predictions

A new coach, a new style. Who’s ready for hoops?

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Get out your nicest red t-shirt.

Basketball season is here.

The frustrations of football season are going to slowly melt away into a glorious celebration of gentlemen jumping high and raining down holy thunder via an orange spheroid through a metal hoop.

Some of y’all undoubtedly are just waiting until baseball season and are going to go to a few games just to yell terrible things at opposing players. You do you, I fully endorse yelling at people who deserve it.

But I know there are some of you who have been waiting months to see what Kermit Davis has in store for the Ole Miss basketball program. All we have really gotten a chance to see so far is some exhibition games where new and veteran players are finding their place in a new offense and defense.

Many question marks remain for the 2018-2019 season and this preview will attempt to answer them based on minutes of research and thought.

This is Terence Davis’ team.

This is 100 percent Davis’ team, and its success will directly rely on his ability to score, defend and pull this squad together over the next 31 games.

Only five returning SEC players logged a higher percentage of their team’s minutes last year, and only three took a higher percentage of their team’s total shots.

“I definitely feel a responsibility with this team,” Davis told Ben Garrett of 247Sports last month. “I feel like with this team I’ve got to take on more of a leadership role and get these guys to do things to the best of their ability.”

The Southaven, Miss. product has blossomed from what was once a raw, athletic talent with sporadic handles into a more complete player. He’s developed a more consistent outside shot and has focused on improving his defense over the offseason. Davis, who posted 14.9 and 13.8 points per game during his sophomore and junior seasons, respectively, could pull himself into one of Ole Miss’ top-10 career scorers with a big senior season.

It’s hard to say T.D. can take the Rebels to the NCAA tournament, but you can’t doubt he will be extremely motivated this season to take this team as far as he possibly can.

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi at Middle Tennessee State Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Who will rip 40-foot three-pointers this year?

One of the penchants of Andy Kennedy’s up-tempo offense was the volume-scoring guard with the ultimate green light.

Marshall Henderson. Stefan Moody.

You won’t find that player on Kermit Davis’ team. It’s not that this team won’t shoot threes— they attempted 23 in their final exhibition last week, which is in line with the per game average from the last three seasons—but ball movement, paint points and dribble penetration are terms that will become part of the lexicon of the Ole Miss program this season. The bigs Bruce Stevens and Dominik Olejniczak seemed more involved last week than they did last season, with both scoring double digits.

Davis’ last two teams at MTSU had an average national rank of 285 in adjusted tempo and 282 in average possession length. Compare that to AK’s last two squads, which averaged ranks of 55 in adjusted tempo and 54 in average possession length.

This is a transition year, but the Rebs could still be dangerous.

The new system will take some getting used to and its fair to wonder whether a roster compiled of Kennedy recruits will mesh with Davis’ philosophy. Among the many concerns is whether Davis possesses the athletic big men to effectively run his 1-3-1 zone defense.

From Red Cup’s Juco All-American...

The middle of the zone needs a big dude who can jockey for position with players who are entering the zone. His job is to take away entrance passes and keep the post secured. This will be Bruce Stevens or Dom when they’re not both on the court. Neither is ideal, given Dom is pretty slow and Stevens was (and maybe still is) out of shape.

The bottom of the zone (the player closest to his own basket) needs someone who can run non-stop and really pay attention to where the ball might be headed. This player has to cover both sides of the court, and his ability to switch quickly dictates just how susceptible the 1-3-1 is the corner threes (its kryptonite).

The media certainly isn’t high on a quick turnaround, picking the Rebels to finish dead last in the SEC.

Still, this team could score some upsets, particularly as the season progresses. Ole Miss could potentially knock off Baylor in Destin during non-con play and home SEC games against LSU (Jan. 15) and Mississippi State (Feb. 2) will have plenty of extra juice and focus. If you really want to dream, Terence Davis’ senior night will be against the Kentucky Wildcats in the Pavilion.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Basketball Tipoff Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

So how good can this team be?

It’s always tough to mark down a season win total, especially in basketball, where one or two injuries could completely change the make-up of a team that seems to lack depth.

In the 13 non-conference games, I see Ole Miss winning eight or nine games. In SEC play, I think the Rebels will defend home court pretty well and improve as the season goes, on winning six or seven conference games.

I’m a believer in our new tea-sippin’ coach and think this team is going to pull together to finish 17-14 for the regular season, which would be a five game improvement over last year. Given the competitiveness of the SEC this season, this could potentially be enough for Ole Miss to sneak into the NIT.

Here are the predictions from the rest of the RCR team.

Jim Lohmar: 15-16, “or a .500 record if possible.”

Zach Berry: 16-15, “with some highs and some lows.”

Mrs. One Man to Beat: 18-13, “because I’m feeling positive about this team.”

Juco All-American: 15-16. “I’m excited for the future but this team will be pretty bad.”

Nicholas Carr: 16-15. “The team may not be great, but there’s a lot of intrigue this year.”

Bob Lynch: 17-14. “Can’t wait ‘til baseball season.”

Jeff Gray: 15-16, “with a shit ton of Terence Davis dunks.”

Alex McDaniel: 17-14. “I can’t decide between 16 and 18.”

Ben Woodhouse: 17-14, “because OPTIMISM BABY.”

So what do you think about this upcoming season? Is it just a placeholder until baseball season arrives in February? Or has the new coach vibe and buzz around recruiting got your attention?