The Rebels (8-6, 0-2 SEC) have lost six of its last eight after starting the season 6-0 sending the season into a tailspin that head coach Kermit Davis is desperately trying to correct to save his job at Ole Miss. The Bulldogs (11-3, 0-2 SEC) started its season 11-0 and climbed into the top 15 nationally before its three game skid gave the program a collective kick to the groin.
Both teams have played Tennessee and Alabama and could not overcome two of the best teams not only in the SEC but the nation. MSU was demolished in Knoxville by 34 points most recently while the Rebels lost by 22 to the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa earlier this week.
Furthermore, this in-state series has been deadlocked the past few seasons, and this tweet from the sports editor at the Columbus Dispatch sums it up succinctly.
Results from the last six men's basketball games between Mississippi State and Ole Miss:— Theo DeRosa (@Theo_DeRosa) January 5, 2023
State by 18
Ole Miss by 10
State by 10
Ole Miss by 18
State by 25
Ole Miss by 25
That's a 3-3 split and a point differential of exactly 0. Something's gotta give Saturday at The Hump.
Everyone who follows this series knows Davis’ history with MSU as a player and his father as the coach there for seven seasons. His background is tied up in maroon and white though he does have a 4-4 overall record against the Bulldogs.
So yeah, this series has been tight since Davis’ arrival to Oxford, though I think both of these squads are struggling offensively of late in SEC play. It very well could be a very ugly basketball game that will be hard to watch if you enjoy up tempo offensive sets. More than likely, this game is going to be close simply out of the slower tempo both teams play with MSU ranked No. 334 nationally in offensive tempo while Ole Miss sits at No. 259 - based on total possessions per 40 minutes.
Now the all important NET rankings have Ole Miss sitting at No. 93 currently while MSU ranks No. 43, which makes this a Quad 1 game for the Rebels. Winning would be pretty huge, and it would also be a black mark on MSU’s resume for the postseason.
I’m not confident at all of this team’s ability to go on the road and post a win. MSU’s strength of schedule is among the worst in the country, so the Bulldogs may end up being a pretty mediocre or even bad team. But Ole Miss has not shown the ability to even play well against a decent team outside of Oxford. The return of guard Daeshun Ruffin has been slowly working the Jackson native into the mix coming back from an ACL injury rather than being 100 percent and ready to lead the team.
Because of the lack of a consistent threat from the guard position, the most talented offensive threat on the team, Matthew Murrell, has disappeared in SEC play. Murrell scored a combined 14 points against Tennessee and Alabama, and if that trend continues, its likely Ole Miss will continue to struggle in conference games. There’s just not a second go-to option on the offensive end right now, so scoring more than 70 points is not happening without some miraculous output from Jaemyn Brakefield, Amaree Abram or the rest of the team.
But, hey, it’s college basketball. Anything is possible, and maybe Ole Miss puts the rivalry first on Saturday and starts the long turnaround for the season.
How to watch
Where: Humphrey Coliseum, Starkville, Miss.
When: 1:00 pm CT
Online streaming: Check out SlingTV!