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Hoops Preview: Ole Miss and Missouri are fighting for relevance

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Both programs are looking toward the future as the 2019-2020 season comes to a close.

NCAA Basketball: Vanderbilt at Mississippi Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Come Wednesday, March 11, four teams will be playing in Nashville to determine who will pack their bags first in the 2019-2020 offseason. It’s a guarantee that one of Missouri and Ole Miss will play that day. There’s a decent likelihood that they both play.

With only one non-play-in spot up for grabs in the SEC, both the Tigers and the Rebels are scratching and clawing to stay away from that dreaded Wednesday. The Tigers are in slightly better position, owning a one-game lead and several helpful tie-breakers. They’ve also got (arguably) the easiest remaining schedule, their only other game coming at home against a good, but flawed, Alabama team.

If Mississippi wants a shot at that 10th seed, tonight is a must-win. They’ll still face an uphill battle even if they get it — they take on Mississippi State in Starkville later this week. But for teams like these, teams whose seasons have long ago been punted by casual fans and are currently being decried by die-hards, you just try to take things one step at a time.

The title of this article implies that Ole Miss and Missouri are fighting for relevance in the present. That’s not technically true — no one would argue that the Rebels or the Tigers matter much on the national scale.

When you reach this point in the college basketball season — struggling to hit .500 and the possibility of an NIT bid — you’re inarguably looking toward the future. You only do so, however, by taking steps in the present. While one could argue about the net positivity difference between playing on Wednesday vs. not playing on Wednesday in the SEC Tournament, getting a bye is something you can hold onto. Hell, it’s something Missouri hasn’t had in four of their past five seasons.

So in the meantime, scrapping for the 10th seed in the SEC is something worth fighting for. While you’d be hard-pressed to call it, “progress,” in the sense that we’d all like to see it, it would undoubtedly be progress of a sort. At this point, that’s all you an hope for.

Whew, that was bleak! It’s just basketball. We’ll be fine!


The Scout

The Starters

Position Missouri (14-15) Mississippi (14-15)
Position Missouri (14-15) Mississippi (14-15)
PG Xavier Pinson (So., 6'2", 170) Devontae Shuler (Jr., 6'2", 192)
CG Dru Smith (Rs. Jr., 6'3", 203) Breein Tyree (Sr., 6'2", 195)
WING Javon Pickett (So., 6'5", 220) Blake Hinson (So. 6'7", 229)
PF Kobe Brown (Fr., 6'7", 240) KJ Buffen (So., 6'7", 220)
POST Reed Nikko (Sr., 6'10", 240) Khadim Sy (Jr. 6'10", 244)

Note: These starting lineups are projected.

Here’s a comprehensive preview of the Ole Miss Rebels from the last time the two teams faced off.

Since their last meeting, the Rebels are 1-2, with the only win coming against Vanderbilt (sound familiar?). Tyree has been consistently good, as usual, but no other Rebels have flashed much consistency.

One notable stat: All five Rebel starters scored in double-digits against the Commodores, with Tyree taking the least amount of shots and scoring the least amount of points. Perhaps the Rebels are taking a more offense-by-committee approach in the home stretch? It’s doubtful, but certainly worth knowing headed into tonight’s tilt.

When Missouri has the ball...

Missouri Offense vs. Ole Miss Defense

Team Adj. Eff. Poss. Length eFG% TO% OR% FTA/FGA 3P% 2P% FT% Blk% Stl%
Team Adj. Eff. Poss. Length eFG% TO% OR% FTA/FGA 3P% 2P% FT% Blk% Stl%
Missouri 104.3 (150) 17.9 (224) 47.3 (277) 20.8 (289) 30.8 (83) 35.3 (107) 30 (320) 48.9 (201) 77.8 (13) 10.7 (313) 8.6 (127)
Mississippi 96.6 (69) 17.3 (132) 47.4 (83) 19.9 (108) 27.6 (157) 40.7 (317) 29.2 (14) 49.5 (180) 73.6 (315) 7.8 (219) 10.4 (73)
NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Vanderbilt
Missouri needs a standout Javon Pickett performance to better their chances of coming away with another conference road win.
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | Xavier, Dru and... who?

When Missouri toppled Mississippi on February 18, they did it largely on the backs of the two-headed guard monster of Xavier Pinson and Dru Smith. The two scored 49 of the Tigers’ 71 points, with Pinson scoring 32 on 9-13 shooting from the field (including a 4-4 performance from deep.) It’s well and good that the two have become reliable scorers for Missouri, but they can’t buoy the Tigers alone. If Missouri wants another road win, someone else will have to step up and fill the role of third scorer. Prime candidates include Javon Pickett and Reed Nikko, who scored 7 and 6 points, respectively, against the Rebels last time around.

When Ole Miss has the ball...

Ole Miss Offense vs. Missouri Defense

Team Adj. Eff. Poss. Length eFG% TO% OR% FTA/FGA 3P% 2P% FT% Blk% Stl%
Team Adj. Eff. Poss. Length eFG% TO% OR% FTA/FGA 3P% 2P% FT% Blk% Stl%
Mississippi 104.7 (142) 17.6 (187) 49.2 (189) 19 (189) 26.8 (217) 36.3 (80) 33 (188) 49.1 (192) 73.1 (94) 10.2 (287) 8.7 (132)
Missouri 97.9 (81) 18 (279) 46.5 (49) 20.9 (62) 28 (171) 46.8 (345) 29.1 (13) 48.2 (127) 72.7 (278) 9.9 (116) 9.9 (110)
NCAA Basketball: Mississippi at Auburn
Breein Tyree is one of the SEC’s best scorers, and he torched Missouri for 29 last time around. Can Missouri force him to commit other mistakes to mitigate his offensive power?
John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | Breein Tyree... again!

The Tigers knew coming into the last matchup that Breein Tyree would be the focal point of the Rebel offense, and I argued that they should focus less on stopping him and more on making sure he didn’t get much support. They weren’t quite successful in either (enough so to get the win, though), as Tyree put up 29 points on 8-17 shooting from the field and 11-12 shooting from the line. While those numbers are good, Tyree also coughed up 6 turnovers in his Columbia performance, bringing his overall Offensive Rating to a 108. Tyree will score in bunches tonight — there’s no doubt about it. How the Tigers force him into making other mistakes will factor heavily into their chances.


KenPom predicts...

Ole Miss 68, Missouri 64 | We’ve only seen Missouri pull out one win on the road in conference play, and it was against the worst team in the SEC. Even then, the Tigers had to grind out an ugly performance. It’s hard to count on Mississippi being absolutely awful at home, especially with a player like Tyree in the mix. But if the Tigers can find enough points from players not named Dru Smith or Xavier Pinson, they’ve got a fighting chance.