The grueling stretch of college basketball season has arrived in full force. Gone are the blow-out wins over small conference directional schools.
The excitement of conference play has ceded to the tumultuous long days of late January and February. March seems like it is a thousand years away.
Ole Miss sits at No. 20 in the latest Associated Press poll with a 14-3 (4-1 SEC) record in coach Kermit Davis’ first year at the helm. Clearly, expectations were low in the preseason, but early conference wins over ranked Auburn and Mississippi State have brought attention and exuberance to the program for the first time in years.
So let’s look at last week first, as the Rebels compiled a 1-1 record.
Seriously, LSU? You gotta waltz in during a historic win streak, first top-25 ranking in six years and just lay a Tony Chachere sized turd in our punch bowl?
The Tigers are clearly a very talented team, as they stacked up a 14-point win on the road, but the loss could be centered around the Rebels’ inability to make shots as they barely cracked 40 percent from the floor.
Additionally, the sellout crowd seemed to be waiting for a big play to get loud and get behind the team compared to the Auburn crowd that was loud from the tip.
As a program, these are the games that will define our season and postseason. Can the team take that next step and win as a top-25 team on our home floor against great talent?
There is one thing we do know however ...
Arkansas Got Boat-raced
Maybe Arkansas just had a bad week, and they weren’t prepared for a sold out Pavilion on Saturday.
But to lose wire-to-wire against Ole Miss and to drop to 1-4 in the SEC is not the Arkansas we are used to seeing every year.
Terence Davis dropped in 18 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists in his most complete game of the season. Breein Tyree poured in 22 points to lead the team in scoring and was perfect from the free throw line at 6-6.
Ole Miss logged a +9 rebounding margin and a +4 turnover margin. Everything just went right for the Rebels on Saturday including giving out student section shirts with “I HEART BACON” on them. Truly a shirt for any occasion IYAM.
Tuscaloosa: The Land of Misery
Alabama showed it can clearly play with anyone on Saturday with a three-point loss to No. 3 Tennessee IN KNOXVILLE YOU GUYS.
The Crimson Tide have been baffling to me this year. Home losses to Northeastern (??) and Texas A&M are as surprising as their close loss to the Vols and upset win in Tuscaloosa over top 25 Kentucky.
So which Tide team will Ole Miss face on Tuesday? I’m afraid to say this game could be an extremely difficult environment for our team. The Rebels will walk into Coleman Coliseum with a massive target on its back, and Tide fans will definitely show up for a game against a top 25 team.
What Ole Miss has to do to win is see solid outings from Dominic Olejniczak and Bruce Stevens. Dom and Bruce combined for 27 points against Arkansas, who has one of the best big men in the conference in Daniel Gafford.
The guards for each team will be the strong point with a slight edge to Ole Miss, but the big men for Bama are led by 6’9 senior forward Donta Hall who can log a double-double any given night.
Ole Miss has to keep Hall in check like they did Gafford, who scored only 9 on Saturday.
Big 12 blues
Ole Miss will again represent the conference in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge when it faces Iowa State in Oxford on Saturday.
The Rebels are 0-5 in previous SEC-Big 12 Challenge games so take that to Tunica and place your bets. Additionally, Iowa State is 2-3 in SEC-Big 12 games.
Here’s what is in Ole Miss’ favor: the Cyclones will be coming off a road trip in mid-week against Kansas. They may win that game and be on cloud nine, or they may be downtrodden after a beating on the road.
Either way, I feel like the two-game road stretch on any given week against top 25 competition usually spells doom for almost any team.
It’s a Saturday basketball game with two top 25 teams playing in the state of the art Pavilion complete with Raisin’ Canes chicken. What more can you ask for in the glorious sport of college basketball?
So how do you think the Rebels will fare this week? Is a 2-0 week enough to fully cement a real opportunity for postseason play? Comment or tweet @RedCupRebellion and give us your thoughts and snark.