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6 reasons to watch Ole Miss basketball this season

Rebel hoops gets underway this weekend.

Middle Tennessee v Iowa State Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Ole Miss basketball is picked by the SEC coaching staffs (or SIDs) to finish last in the conference this year. That comes on the heels of a 12-20 finish last season. Woo.... how exciting, right?

Somehow though, there are a lot of reasons to watch Ole Miss basketball this season. A lot of these reasons are based around newness, a honeymoon period, and..... Ole Miss football. Still, the basketball team packs a lot of intrigue even if it won’t be all that good.

Of course there’s Kermit Davis and all he brings, but there are also a few more nuanced things that might produce some storylines worth monitoring this season. Some good and some bad.

If nothing else, something has to get us to baseball season, right? Then the baseball team can be good enough before the postseason to get us all the way to the summer. Rinse and repeat after that.

The team is not coached by Matt Luke

I don’t think I really need to expand on this. It just needed to be said.

Kermit Davis is not Andy Kennedy

I still kinda like Andy Kennedy, though I do think his shortcomings became more evident in his final 365 days at Ole Miss.

Because Ross Bjork was smart and didn’t hire a good Ole Miss alum who was on Kennedy’s staff (Todd Abernethy), this is entirely new blood. That means that unlike the Luke hire, Kermit Davis gets a honeymoon period. He might be good. He might be bad. We don’t know yet. We can fantasize about what he did at MTSU translating to success at Ole Miss, but it’s awfully early for any thoughts like that to be confirmed or denied.

And that’s awesome! That’s what’s supposed to happen for new coaches. They’re supposed to get some fan buy-in before coaching a game. Davis seems to have it so far. Now he just has to win a few more games than last season to keep it going.

The 1-3-1 defense will be fun

Kermit Davis brings with him a defensive style that can really perplex opposing offenses when it’s run well. I wrote extensively about the 1-3-1 in this piece. There’s no need to rehash that with great depth, but the 1-3-1 can generate lots of turnovers and can suffocate guards, especially if they’re not experienced or talented enough to pick it apart. The question, of course, is how the pieces Davis inherited and signed will fit within the scheme. I attempted to answer that, but again there’s no way to know until we see real games that matter.

The Pavilion is still pretty nice

Like, wow. That place is fantastic.

Terence Davis is wildly entertaining, even if it is sometimes for the wrong reasons

Kermit Davis recently said in a press conference that Terence Davis led all scorers in Fall scrimmages and it wasn’t even close. That’s the athletic, fun, TD we all know who slashes to the basket and can dominate in transition.

Unfortunately, the other TD we all know, the one who plays with low effort on defense, turns the ball over inexplicably, and fouls too much also reared his ugly head. Either way, he’ll inspire emotions in you! Isn’t that what you want?

There are two freshmen who might start

KJ Buffen and Blake Hinson started in the exhibition game at small forward and power forward respectively. Hinson is a true stretch power forward who will attempt a couple of threes a game but isn’t a wing. He’s a little undersized as a true power forward (6’7”), but that’s often not a big issue in college. His quick rise to starting status wasn’t unexpected, given he was relatively highly rated coming out of high school (top 150).

Buffen on the other hand has been a bit of a surprise to me. I didn’t realize what his role would be until Davis said it in the exhibition postgame. Buffen is a “point forward,” which is my favorite role in basketball (even if it’s not all that common). A point forward is essentially a forward who is so good at facilitating offensively that he often replaces the primary role of the point guard. He brings the ball past half court. He generally passes up contested shots for teammates with better looks. A player filling this role is especially helpful on a team with guards who can shoot threes, as it allows for more of them to play off the ball and set up for quick shots.

I’m not comparing Buffen to any of these players — far from it. But just to give you some context around what I’m talking about, some famous point forwards in the NBA are Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Lebron James. While known for their scoring ability, what truly made most of those players great is the ability to be a distributor at a position that rarely sees that.

While we only have one game against very bad competition to go by so far, Buffen passed the early test. In just 24 minutes on the court, he collected nine assists to just two turnovers. That’s not bad for a 6’7” freshman who weighs 220 pounds.