Our beloved, but beleaguered Ole Miss Rebel basketball program has set up a rather nice and competitive non-conference schedule for the 2018-19 season.
The highlight is clearly game number two at the Butler Bulldogs. Butler has become a household name through Brad Stevens’ success in back-to-back national title game appearances after years of tournament upsets. This is going to be a great measuring stick for where the team is early on under new coach Kermit Davis. And they’ve been hard at work, no doubt about it.
First day of summer workouts, we got after it! pic.twitter.com/TLURCB8un2— Ole Miss Basketball (@OleMissMBB) June 5, 2018
Another oddity of this non-conference slate is multiple neutral site games — Destin, Fla., Jackson, Miss. and Nashville, Tenn. Certainly, we’ve seen the Rebels play in these early season tournaments, but they have not played in Jackson since the 2007-08 season.
The December 12th match-up against Southeastern Louisiana in Jackson will give Davis an opportunity to play in the media market with the largest density of Ole Miss alums and perform well in front of several in-state targets who play in the capital city. Whether they show or not is left to be seen (update: they prolly won’t).
The Emerald Coast Classic games in Destin, Fla. against Baylor and Cincinnati/George Mason will also provide RPI boosts since they have regularly made the NCAA tournament as of late. And the Rebels will make the return trip to Illinois State this year after an overtime loss in Oxford late in 2017.
Behind Baylor, I’m most looking forward to Davis’ first game against his previous team, Middle Tennessee State, in Nashville, Tenn. The Rebels struggled last season against a talented MTSU program, and it will be extremely interesting to see how the game has changed in a year’s time on a neutral floor after snagging the Blue Raiders’ head coach.
And, hey, Dunk City is on there, too!
Ole Miss will also play Iowa State for its 6th appearance in the Big 12-SEC Challenge. The Rebs are 0-5 so far in the mini-tourney, but you know it’s college basketball and records don’t really matter.
Only five players will return from last year’s underwhelming squad — Terence Davis, Bruce Stevens, Breein Tyree, Dominik Olejniczak and Devontae Shuler, but Kermit and Co. have been busy on the recruiting trail, signing several immediate impact players in the 2018 class.
The non-conference schedule is below: