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Mizzou Hoops Preview: Ole Miss

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Missouri will take on a limping Rebels team, hoping to exorcise their Oxford demons and earn their first road win of the season.

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi at Texas A&M Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

The date was February 6, 2018.

Cuonzo Martin hadn’t yet been in Columbia, Mo. for a full year. Kermit Davis, Jr. was in the middle of a run where his Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders were one of the nation’s premiere mid-major outfits. Michael Porter Jr. was an injured college player, not yet the millionaire he is today.

On this day, Kassius Robertson poured in 5 three-pointers as part of a 27-point outing. Jontay Porter stuffed the stat sheet with 18 points, 13 rebounds, 5 blocks and 4 assists. Cullen VanLeer started and played 21 minutes.

This was the last time Missouri won in Oxford, Mississippi, the only time they’ve done so since joining the SEC in 2012. The Pavilion has been a veritable nightmare alley for Missouri in their first decade of SEC membership. Most recently, a trip to Oxford coincided with last year’s massive slide to end a once-promising campaign, a 21-point road loss that led to the Tigers losing 7 of their final 10 games.

Truly no place has been more cursed for Mizzou Hoops over the past 10 years.

What’s strange is that Ole Miss hasn’t been all that formidable a program over that time frame. To any Rebel fans reading this, please don’t misconstrue what I’m saying there — Missouri has been far less formidable in the same span. I’m just saying that it’s odd that the place and team that has given Missouri — a mostly middling program with one steep foray into misery and woe — the most trouble has been Ole Miss.

The Rebels have made the same amount of NCAA Tournament’s since the Tigers since they joined the SEC, and the Rebels haven’t been to the dance since Kermit Davis’ first year at the helm in 2018-2019. Both programs have been the definition of ordinary for much of the past decade with the extraordinary fact that Missouri has been abysmal in Oxford.

Will that change on Tuesday night, when the two teams meet for a battle of sub-100 KenPom outfits? It’s statistically unlikely. Missouri hasn’t been this lowly thought of by KP’s efficiency matrix since the first year of Kim Anderson. There are slight signs of improvement — after all, Anderson’s teams never beat a top 15 opponent — but nothing to suggest there’s a turnaround imminent.

But perhaps throwing away another potential upset against Texas A&M will be enough to get the juices flowing for this Tiger team. Maybe this year, of all years, will be the one where they finally stack another win in Oxford. After all, as you’re about to find out, the conditions are strangely favorable!


The Scout

The Starters

Position Missouri (7-9) Ole Miss (9-7)
Position Missouri (7-9) Ole Miss (9-7)
PG Jarron Coleman (Jr., 6'5", 210) Daeshun Ruffin (Fr., 5'9", 160)
CG Javon Pickett (Sr., 6'5", 215) Matthew Murrell (So., 6'4", 200)
WING DaJuan Gordon (Jr., 6'3", 190) Luis Rodriguez (Jr. 6'6", 210)
PF Kobe Brown (Jr., 6'8", 250) Jaemyn Brakefield (So., 6'8", 220)
POST Trevon Brazile (Fr., 6'9", 215) Nysier Brooks (Sr., 7'0", 245)

Note: These starting lineups are projected.

Players to Watch

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

Right off the top, it should be noted that the Rebels are dealing with some injury issues to start their calendar year. Leading scorer and lead guard Jarkel Joiner is out for another month or so, senior reserve forward Robert Allen has been out for a few weeks now and the team lost reserve guard Austin Crowley last weekend against Auburn. The Rebels only had serious minutes for six men against the Tigers on Saturday.

As they deal with their depth issues, Ole Miss will rely heavily sophomore Matthew Murrell and senior Nysier Brooks, both of whom are mentioned below. Murrell is a sharp-shooting guard who loves to get to the line and Brooks is a prototypical tank manning the interior, putting up double digit rebounding percentages on both ends of the floor, blocking shots and shooting over 60 percent. They’ll be a tough duo to handle for Missouri’s struggling defense.

Sophomore Jaemyn Brakefield is another hot hand from the outside (38.3 percent), but if the Tigers can put a physical body him, he’ll struggle to get his shots and may even turn it over a bit. Junior Luis Rodriguez is a defensive menace, but struggles with the ball in his hands. Tye Fagan is a well-rounded offensive guard who may be called upon to get more minutes with Joiner on the sidelines. He’s a decent enough passer and shoots well from all over the floor but, again, he’s not going to draw contact at the rim.

Role Players

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi at Texas A&M Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Without Joiner and Crawley, Kermit Davis will likely put more minutes in the hands of freshman Daeshun Ruffin, who has performed admirably in a backup point guard role. He may be the team’s best distributor and he loves draw fouls at the rim, but he doesn’t have much of an offensive game outside of those two elements... yet. The only other player who’s played real minutes this year is 6’9” junior Sammy Hunter, who only got 7 minutes against Auburn when Davis and Co. were down three players. Hunter has struggled to bring much to the table in his third season. He’s not a strong rebounder or scorer and doesn’t stand out on defense. Missouri may be in good shape if he’s getting a lot of run.

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 101.4 (212) 17 (131) 44.5 (331) 21.3 (314) 31.6 (84) 30.8 (146) 24.8 (357) 48.1 (238) 73.6 (87) 8.8 (157) 10.3 (277)
Ole Miss 96.4 (53) 17.2 (142) 47.8 (102) 20.8 (76) 26.1 (86) 26.7 (98) 28.9 (24) 50.4 (213) 69 (101) 8.1 (191) 11.3 (55)
NCAA Basketball: Texas A&M at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | Same as ever — get rebounds and make bunnies

I should just get this out of the way for the rest of the season, or however long this continues to be applicable: there are no easy answers when it comes to this Missouri offense. By KenPom, they don’t do anything particularly well aside from offensive rebounding, and even that has taken a downturn. And until they prove they can regress even slightly to the median in their shooting, the only way to dig themselves out is to hit the offensive glass hard. The formula is simple — rebound, make put-backs, repeat — and there’s no point in writing anything differently until they consistently prove otherwise.

Will I copy and paste this section of the preview every time until something changes? Check back on Saturday to find out!

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%
Ole Miss 103.6 (166) 17.3 (165) 49.2 (206) 18.3 (137) 27.7 (197) 28 (242) 32.7 (214) 49.3 (188) 71.4 (188) 8.8 (157) 10 (243)
Missouri 102 (144) 17.5 (208) 52.7 (289) 18.2 (217) 27.5 (143) 32.7 (242) 36.4 (309) 51.6 (254) 67.4 (51) 11.6 (71) 9.4 (169)
NCAA Basketball: Mississippi at Texas A&M Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | Limit Murrell and Brooks

It’s not often we get to say this but Mississippi’s offense is comparably bad to Missouri’s! I suppose there’s even an argument that, despite being more balanced overall, they’re kind of worse? While Missouri does a few things well (shoot free throws and rebound), Mississippi doesn’t do anything particularly well as a team... and that was before losing leading scorer Jarkel Joiner for the next month and a half.

In Joiner’s absence, the Rebels will look to a few key figures to fill bigger roles. The two Missouri needs to watch are Murrell and Brooks, both mentioned above. Murrell isn’t the creator that Joiner is, but he’s a better shooter from deep and likes to get to the line. Brooks, on the other hand, is a brusier capable of taking over a game in the paint. If Missouri can find ways to limit those two, the Rebels will have to find answers from somewhere else, and there aren’t many complete pieces to which they can turn.


KenPom predicts...

Ole Miss 71, Missouri 62 | The match up here, despite being in Oxford, isn’t all that unfavorable to Missouri. The Rebels are looking for answers without Joiner, are thin on bodies and have the type of offense that could keep Missouri in the game even if the Tigers get locked up. Exorcising the demons of The Pavilion wouldn’t be a bad way to get back on track for Missouri, who is trying to find a way to string together any sort of momentum in the second half of the season.