Kermit Davis and the Ole Miss Rebel basketball team have got to be frustrated with the last five outcomes of the season.
Five straight losses, four conference losses, and zero momentum heading into a two-game road trip against SEC East opponents Tennessee and Georgia. The Vols (11-6, 3-2 SEC) are up first tonight with a 8pm(!) local time tip at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The Rebels (9-8, 0-4 SEC) are in peril with three of its next four games on the road, and the only home game against top-10 Auburn. There is a very real likelihood we look up on February 1st to see an 0-8 SEC basketball team despite having one of the best scorers in the league.
Tennessee, meanwhile, has had a fairly uneven year compared to last year’s top-25 squad that looked pretty unstoppable. But players go to the NBA and suddenly things kind of take a tailspin, SOUND FAMILIAR? Yes, Tennessee had a couple close home losses to Memphis and Florida state earlier in the year, but it seems like the team has lost its mojo more of late with a 20-point embarrassment in Knoxville to Wisconsin followed by another home loss to LSU by 14 points.
The Vols do not have that signature win so far this year and rank No. 64 in the latest NET rankings, which would most likely leave them outside of the NCAA Tournament. Clearly, they are in need of wins no matter the level of competition, and with the Rebels coming in at a mind boggling No. 113 in the NET, Tennessee needs to win handily.
Ole Miss has come so close to finally breaking through in the SEC, but a W remains just out of reach. Leads at Texas A&M, Arkansas and LSU weren’t sustainable in the second half despite the efforts of Breein Tyree who is averaging nearly 19 points per game. Tyree went off for 36 against LSU to have his third straight SEC game with 25 or more points. He’s a senior guard, and he’s acting like it.
But unfortunately, it hasn’t been enough to just have Tyree lead the way. Junior guard Devontae Shuler has almost disappeared in conference play, only averaging only 8.25 points per game in the last four. And while sophomore forward Blake Hinson has stepped up to score in double digits in three of the last four games, the impact from transfer Khadim Sy has not been as significant as needed. Sy was held out of the road trip to Florida as a coach’s decision, but he’s only averaging seven points per game in SEC games after looking like he was really shaping up late in non-conference play.
Tyree looks visibly frustrated during games and reporters have commented on it as well in post-game interviews. The games still have to be played, but right now, it looks like this team is on the edge of letting go if it can’t find a win somewhere. Remember, most of this roster was turned over from last year, so there were several new guys who were going to be leaned on for production this year. With 14 conference games to play, the hopes for a second consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament seem like a pipe dream.
The one other bright spot for this team moving forward is the return of Luis Rodriguez from a foot injury in late November that has kept him out for more than six weeks. If LuRod can come in to provide productive minutes, it should take some of the burden off the bench and freshmen to make things happen when they get their chance. There has not been an update on his return, but it was initially expected between six to eight weeks.
Line: Tennessee -7.5
How to watch
Where: Thompson-Boling Arena, Knoxville, Tenn.
When: 8:00pm CST
TV: SEC Network
Online streaming: WatchESPN