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Here’s our 2022-23 Ole Miss men’s basketball preview: Is it NCAA Tourney or bust?

Yeah, this season crept up on us

NCAA Basketball: SEC Basketball Tipoff ‘23 Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

While Ole Miss Baseball is busy winning National Championships and the football team is experiencing unprecedented success, the Rebel basketball team is stuck searching for anything that might put them on a similar path.

With the season set to begin on November 7th against Alcorn State in Oxford, we thought it prudent we introduce you to the 2022-23 version of the Rebels:

Back on the Grind

Most importantly Matthew Murrell and Daeshun Ruffin are back to lead a potentially lethal backcourt. Murrell is likely headed for the NBA next year while Ruffin is working his way back from injury. This team will go as these two go and that means the duo are gonna need to combine for like 50 a night.

Rejoining Murrell and Ruffin are Jaemyn Brakefield (JR.), James White (SO.), Tye Fagan (SR.) and Robert Allen (SR). I thought Fagan might follow Jarkel Joiner out the door via the transfer portal, but he has stuck around to be a senior leader in the rotation this season. The absence of Robert Allen last season was severely missed, but paved the way for Jaemyn Brakefield to gain some valuable experience. Look for the two of them to share minutes at the 4.

The enigma of the returning group is James White. Personally, I think he can straight up hoop and have no idea why he barely saw the floor last season. Obviously the coaching staff has its reasons, which is often loyalty/trust in the older guys, but I think White could snag the starting 3 spot and have a breakout season as teams focus on Murrell and Ruffin.

Welcome to Oxford

With only six returnees, there is an abundance of newcomers on campus this winter. Coach Davis snagged THREE ESPN Top 100 players in this recruiting cycle albeit all were after the Top 80, but still it’s a solid influx of talent.

Amaree Abram and TJ Caldwell are both 6’4 guards that could push for minutes early on, and if they can shoot, halfway defend and not turn the ball over, should supplant Tye Fagan by season’s end.

Malique Ewin was the highest rated recruit of the Rebel class and the 6’10 big man has a shot to start from day one. He’s athletic for his size with a nose for the ball. If he rebounds and defends his freshman year, the scoring will be a bonus.

The fourth freshman of the group is 4-star guard Robert Cowherd. The 6’5 guard from Grayson, GA (sound familiar?) will likely get the James White freshman year treatment as there is suddenly a logjam in the backcourt.

Then there are the transfers. Just like Lane Kiffin, Coach Kermit Davis scoured the transfer portal for immediate impact guys. Theo Akwuba (Louisiana), Myles Burns (Loyola New Orleans), Jayveous McKinnis (Jackson State) and Josh Mballa (Buffalo) all join the fold for Coach Davis.

ALL four of these dudes have one thing in common: They have won at least one Defensive Player of the Year in their respective conferences before coming to Ole Miss. Seems like Kermit has a type. It also seems like with the transfers, his emphasis was defense while the freshman were about scoring.

The Rebels are going to be able to defend, leading to another season of low scoring contests, but will they be able to shoot? We are about to find out how the pieces of the puzzle fit together for the 2022-23 NCAA season.