Ole Miss hoops mounted a much-needed win streak last week, knocking off Texas A&M and Georgia to pull into the top half of the SEC standings and keep their NCAA Tourney hopes alive. The 80-64 W in Athens was particularly fun to watch, as the Rebels poured in nearly 50 percent of their first-half shots to run away.
This team has been far from flawless under first-year coach Kermit Davis, but it’s worth nothing how improved the offense is.
Among 353 Division I schools, Ole Miss’ offense sits at 26th at KenPom with an opponent-adjusted efficiency of 113.5, a mark that, when looking over the past decade of Rebel hoops, is topped only by the Stefan Moody-led tournament team of 2015. In Andy Kennedy’s last season, Ole Miss scored 80 points against just three SEC foes. Davis’ bunch has already done that six times in six weeks of conference play (one was in overtime against Florida, but hey, shut up).
This offense can spread the floor.
Ole Miss is shooting nearly 37 percent from three-point land, the best figure from any Rebel squad since 2008. If you’re thinking that might be because Davis has his guys being more selective with their long balls, think again. Since 1990, only seven Ole Miss teams have made threes at a higher rate, but on average, just 29 percent of their total shots came from deep, compared to this team’s three-point attempt rate of 38 percent. That threat from outside has in turn created some easy scoring opportunities in the paint; while the Rebels sit outside the top 300 in percent of shots inside the paint, they’ve converted over 68 percent of those looks near the rim (17th nationally).
To a certain extent, you could say they’ve lived and died by the three, shooting 39 percent from beyond the arc in wins and less than 33 percent in losses, but they’ve had a handful of victories in which they’ve overcome sub-par shooting. In their four wins where the Rebels made less than 35 percent of their threes, they made up for it with a free throw rate of 40 percent (their season average is 34).
The only complaint about this team’s shooting performance is that they may be a little too balanced in terms of where they take their shots, relying an uncomfortable amount on the mid-range game from time to time. Pulling up here has occasionally proven to be an efficient option against the zone, and at times, that’s the only thing open. But big-picture, the numbers don’t support shooting a ton from mid-range. More than 31 percent of their shots are two-point jumpers (top 50 nationally), and they’ve made less than 40 percent of them. Until the math changes, this is not good.
Davis’ team knows when to push the ball in transition.
There may never be a consensus in college basketball on how (or whether) teams should leverage tempo, but the general trend is an uptick in pace, as schools are averaging about three more possessions per game than they were a decade ago. Ole Miss is somewhere in the middle of the pack with 70 possessions, but the success they’ve had when deciding to speed things up has set them apart.
Just 19 percent of the Rebels’ shots have come in transition (292nd nationally), but they’ve been pretty opportunistic with shifting gears. Developing a habit of pouncing on turnovers and making quick passes across the court has resulted in an effective field goal percentage of 62 (29th) in transition, compared to just 48 percent a year ago. Of those shots, the selection has been much better—38 percent of them have come from three, and they’ve made just over 45 percent of them. You could make the case with little effort that they should probably be looking for more transition buckets.
Multiple guys on this team can step up.
Last season, Ole Miss had a player score 25 or more points on just five separate occasions, with only three coming against Power Five opponents. In Kermit’s debut year, an Ole Miss player has topped that point total eight times, seven of which were against Power Five teams (the other was against Butler). They’ve gone 5-3 in these games, with narrow losses to Florida, Mississippi State and Butler.
Seeing Terence Davis light up the scoreboard is nothing new, as he’s tallied up 10 different 25-point showings over his college career. For Breein Tyree, who’s benefited from playing off the ball more this year, his 31-point explosion to open SEC play at Vanderbilt was his first, and has been followed with three more games of 25-plus.
Freshman forward Blake Hinson provided glimpses of his offensive ceiling in Starkville with 26 points on five threes, and while sophomore Devontae Schuler is known more as a two-way player, his 24-point outing on 9-14 shooting at Cincinnati was the one positive of an ugly loss. For the most part, the big games are coming from two upperclassmen, but the occasional bursts from the younger pieces suggest they’ll be just fine when the current top scorers eventually move on.