What a time to be an Ole Miss Rebel fan.
The football team just finished off its best regular season in the history of the school and announced an extension for beloved head coach Lane Kiffin, the volleyball team made the post season and the baseball team is poised for another deep run in the spring.
In the midst of all that, early signing period for football and finals week, both the men’s and women’s basketball teams are working on something special themselves. Coach Yo and the ladies just rattled off its 8th straight win defeating Cincinnati on the road while the men took down No. 18 Memphis in Oxford on Saturday.
Finals week is this week, therefore fans must wait until Saturday for both teams to return to action, so here is a short study guide for both teams as we prepare for the next stretch of hoops.
The NCAA NET Rankings dropped and is great barometer of how well teams are playing and the chances of making the NCAA Tournament in March. After a scorching start to the season, the Lady Rebels are 46th in NET. The lone loss came against Belmont in the opener and the Bruins are currently ranked 80th in NET, so not terrible but you would love that to rise as the season progresses.
There are four games remaining before conference play kicks off on December 30th:
- December 11 @ Hofstra (286th NET)
- December 17 vs Samford (248th NET)
- December 20 vs Texas Tech (90th NET) West Palm Beach Invitational
- December 21 vs USF (32nd NET) West Palm Beach Invitational
Ole Miss is poised to be 10-1 heading into its Christmas Tournament in Florida with the toughest test so far this season in USF to close it out.
The biggest news of note is the return of Donnetta Johnson, last season’s second leading scorer, to an already stacked team. In the NBA and WNBA midseason trades often provide a spark that can lead to something special, in this is somewhat similar. Johnson gets a few game to return to form before this veteran team attempts to come out of the SEC gauntlet in position to play postseason basketball.
Despite being 6-2 with a big win over a ranked Memphis team, the Rebels find themselves ranked 126th in the NET rankings, indicating there is a lot of work to be done. That work begins with taking care of business in the rest of its non conference matchups:
- December 11 vs Western Kentucky (185th NET) Atlanta, GA
- December 15 vs Middle Tenn. (116th NET)
- December 18 vs Dayton (95th NET)
- December 21 vs Samford (195th NET)
The Rebels desperately need to finish this run with a record of 10-2 before starting conference play at the end of the month. Three of the four games are at home and none of the opponents are good teams. Dayton has wins over Miami and Kansas, so they should not be overlooked by any means, but if the Rebs can take down Memphis, they can compete with just about any team on the schedule.
The opportunities will be there for Ole Miss to put together a resume as only 4 remaining opponents are ranked lower than them in NET — WKU, Samford, Georgia and Mizzou.
The current challenge? Overcoming the injury to Robert Allen.
Allen was essentially the 7th man in the rotation averaging 6.5 points 5.4 rebounds and was second on the team in blocked shots with seven. While Kermit has raved about his team’s depth, there is no one behind Allen that plays his position that can be trusted. Sammy Hunter has often proved D1 basketball might too much for him to handle.
So what is the solution? The Rebels are awaiting the return of Daeshun Ruffin and while he does not play in the front court like Allen, he immediately would be thrust into a major rotation role, pushing someone like Luis Rodriguez to fill Allen’s front court minutes. Hopefully Ruffin gets a few chances of game action before the Rebs take on a brutal opening stretch in conference play against Florida, Tennessee, MSU, Texas A&M and Auburn, all top 60 NET teams currently.
Study up. Ole Miss Basketball is trying to make the tournament with both the Men and Women’s teams for the first time in school history.