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Ole Miss basketball’s KJ Buffen opts out, Devontae Shuler unlikely to play in NIT

One entered the transfer portal and one is out for a family medical issue.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Mississippi Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The roster for Ole Miss basketball has become filled with holes in the last month, leading up to the National Invitational Tournament tip-off as a one-seed.

KJ Buffen announced his intentions to enter the transfer portal this week after the Rebels fell short of making the NCAA Tournament. Buffen, a junior, has been with the program all three of coach Kermit Davis’ tenure and was one of his first recruits.

Buffen joined transfer Dimencio Vaughn and Khadim Sy in walking away from the Ole Miss program. Vaughn and Sy did not see significant time on the court as the season went on, but the depth loss in the frontcourt is very serious.

Additionally, fans have undoubtedly seen reports that All-SEC guard Devontae Shuler may miss the opening NIT game vs. Louisiana Tech today. Shuler’s availability hinges on a family medical issue, which is certainly where he needs to be and takes precedence over basketball.

So, what does the starting five look like as the Rebels take the floor later today? Jarkel Joiner, Romello White, and Luis Rodriguez make up a potentially decent core, but from there, things get dicey in terms of consistent play this season. Freshman Matthew Murrell or sophomore Austin Crowley may have to play significant minutes with Crowley the more inconsistent of the two and Murrell showing flashes at times this season.

In the post, Samford transfer Robert Allen, Sammy Hunter and Dude Collum will be on a rotation to help White. Allen leads that trio with 3.7 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, which is not great, but he has had limited minutes.

Most fans probably would not be excited about an NIT championship to begin with, but it is something that can be built upon as a program. But for right now, Ole Miss’ departures and dismissals seem more of a program about to trend in the wrong direction headed into a 2021-2022 season where an NCAA Tournament berth seems like a must to change the atmosphere in Oxford.