Do you feel that? It feels good right? That's the feeling of not having to play Kentucky again for the forseeable future. After Mizzou's most recent game against the Wildcats the Tigers sit at 7-13 and 1-6 in conference, good enough for a share of last place with Vandy and South Carolina. And look who's coming to town, the kings of satire themselves, Ole Miss!
Presenting the Ole Miss Rebels
location: Oxford, Mississippi
By HHKB Chris: Since we've joined the SEC, we've not really cemented any really hardcore rivalries on the field of play (in the SB Nation world that's a little different) outside of our "Battle Line Rivalry with Arkansas brought to you by whatever!" But if I were to pick a real rival for basketball purposes I think most Mizzou fans would point to the two year relationship we have with Ole Miss as a budding rivalry. In our first season in the SEC we went down to Oxford, played particularly poorly and were serenaded with the chant of "Big 12 Rejects", because the Big 12 made us leave for the SEC...yeah...that's what happened. Then the Rebels came to Columbia and got Alex Oriakhi'ed and lost by a whole lot.
Finally both teams met again in the SEC tournament where the Tigers choked and got three pointed to death by the most famous chucker in the world, Marshall Henderson. Last year, the teams played only once down in Oxford, and despite Ernest Ross' best efforts, Mizzou was not the winner. So as it comes to basketball, there's a little heat to this matchup. This should be fun and hopefully messy, but let's get to know Ole Miss just a bit better shall we?
Ole Miss has I am happy to say just one mascot, congrats Ole Miss that makes you more sensible than almost every other school in the SEC to date. But, what compliments HHKB Chris giveth, he just as easily taketh away. See Ole Miss had a mascot, his name was good ol' Colonel Reb, and he was quite popular among an older population of the Ole Miss fans, but he's a bit dated, and a bit of a mess. Look at this guy, if there's ever been a poster for being over served it's this guy. He's a drunker version of Colonel Sanders! He's a Hobo! That cane for looks? No sir, that's so he doesn't fall into someone's tailgate in the grove. That cane is the only thing keeping him upright.
When this over served vagrant was retired back in 2010, Ole Miss gave their students a chance to choose a new mascot, and by god they made a choice that was pretty damn spectacular. They selected Admiral Ackbar since you know, he led the rebel alliance and those teenagers in that little kerfuffle with the Empire. Great idea right? But you know that legendary tight wad and HORRIBLE writer George Lucas was not having that.
So once that was nixed Ole Miss selected a bear for their mascot because apparently Teddy Roosevelt once didn't shoot a bear one time. With that rationale why not be the spaceships, or the refrigerators, I mean if Teddy Roosevelt not killing something is all it takes, why settle on this, a bear. His name is Rebel.
Honestly, it feels like Ole Miss put a lot of effort into getting Akbar and then once that failed just said f' it and chose a black bear that appears to be in a constant state of confusion, kind of like Ralph Wiggum, or that he's about to vomit. Effort thy name is not Mississippi.
So can we name some rebels of the non sporty variety? We sure as hell can! Ole Miss has got some alums you may have heard of. First off is some lady named Cynthia Geary. She was on a little show called Northern Exposure and if I recall correctly her whole thing was that she was married or with some older dude who ran a bar and boy did she challenge him! Or that's how the sitcom trop would go. The whole show was about some doctor who went to Alaska and just didn't like but then did! What a show...
Also on the list is Kate Jackson. Kate Jackson was an angel on Charlie's Angels back in the 70s. No, she's not the one with the poster, she's the one that looks like she would get you the purple stuff from the fridge and not the Sunny D.
Finally, John McCain SR went to Ole Miss and while he's famous for being John McCain, John McCain JR (really not very inventive with the names there) who ran for president a number of times is his son. His son is known for bringing the scourge that is Sarah Palin into our lives and consciousness. Damn you John McCain SR!
While we've talked about their mascots, our history and their alumni it bears (get it?) mentioning that the arena they play in, the TadPad has lost power multiple times this season in the middle of a basketball game...seriously. Pay your bills Rebels, your job's your credit! Be thankful that this game is at Mizzou arena where the lights are on and the plumbing is always working.
This game ends a nice little three game homestand that Mizzou has been enjoying and the crowds have been good, but let's make it great! So if you're in Missouri, or anywhere within a reasonable driving distance (that's 4 hrs for me, I hate driving) then you must go. Hell, go now! Get on the road and support the Tigers, they feed off your cheers. Because this game has got a 3:00 pm tip, it's a weird hour, clearly drinking and eating time, but not really either. So, what I say to you the Columbian or basketball game attender, go to brunch at Truman's and do the buffet, eat and drink, then head to the game. The things that look like bagels in the buffet are in fact, donuts, which is weird to me, but tasty! For those that can't attend the game, it's on Fox Sports Net, so check it out there and cheer hard with a bagel donut sandwich in one hand and a cold beer in the other.
About Their Basketball Team
By Sam Snelling: The Rebels enter Mizzou Arena boasting a 13-7 overall record, and a 4-3 mark in conference. After an up and down non-conference season that saw them chalk up #SECBasketballFever-like losses to Charleston Southern and Western Kentucky, the Rebels walked into Lexington and nearly took down the Kentucky Wildcats in OT. They went to Fayetteville and beat Arkansas by dropping 96 points on them. So, I don't think the Rebels are scared of road games.
Ole Miss is led by their coach, Andy Kennedy who has been at Ole Miss for-EVER. Or maybe nine years. But that's a long time for an SEC coach. Kennedy finally rid the Rebels of Marshall Henderson by way of graduation, or at least an expiration of eligibility, and are now led by senior guard Jarvis Summers. Summers struggled to start the year but is playing much better of late. After Summers, Stefan Moody has come in from Junior College and been a streaky but potent scorer and actually leads the team in that category. And while the Rebels seem to be pretty guard heavy in their scoring, they've got some solid bigs as well.
The Rebels sit at tied for 6th in the latest version of the SEC Power Rankings, and are tied for 6th in the regular standings as well.
Now for a closer look at their basketball team, let's chat with somebody who knows them best...
Q&A With RED CUP REBELLION
A big thanks to Michael Borkey at RedCupRebellion.com, for taking some time to answer our questions about Ole Miss. RCR has their satiric moments, but overall it's a good crew, and we thank them for having some fun with us here.
RockMNation: Andy Kennedy is in his 9th season at Ole Miss having reached the NCAAs once in that time, how much longer does he have at Ole Miss and what does he have to show this year to keep the fans and AD happy and in a job?
Mike Borkey: Barring something drastic to close the year Andy Kennedy will be given the opportunity to coach in, and recruit to, the new arena. Ole Miss fans tend to struggle struggle admitting how difficult it is to win here in basketball. The program is lacking any long-term historical success, has no current NBA presence and has little in its history, has the worst arena in the conference and probably the power-5 (It's reached the point where fans are expecting power outages or ANOTHER rain delay), and the majority of the fan base is far more interested in baseball than it is basketball. (Understandably so, the baseball atmosphere in Oxford is unique and spectacular)
Its a tough job. The way Kennedy has provided Ole Miss fans with a consistently competitive product is very impressive, and the fans understand that. However, as you mentioned, he's only been to the Big Dance one time. I think with the new arena, and the focus athletics director Ross Bjork is putting on improving the program, you SHOULD see an improvement in that regard.
Bjork and his staff understand what it takes to win and soon Kennedy will have a building he can recruit to and the fans can be proud of. (If you're like me and love stadium architecture, here's the link to the arena project) However, if things remain stagnant over the next couple of seasons, it might be time for a change.
RMN: Ole Miss sits at 4-3 in conference play without a bad loss to speak of, is this a question of a maturity or just not being able to get over the hump of putting back to back good games together?
Mike Borkey: I think you see the inconsistencies with Rebels because they have had to rely on their guards for the vast majority of their scoring. If Jarvis Summers or Stefan Moody had an off night they probably weren't going to win the game.
However, they've won 3 of their last 4 in large part because they're getting more of an inside presence. Dwight Colby, Sebastian Saiz (who looks like a Spanish pop star if you've never seen him), and M.J. Rhett all have given Ole Miss good quality minutes down low. You're rarely, if ever, going to get 20 and 10 out of one these guys but they seem to have taken some of the pressure off of the guards lately.
That improvement became clear in last Saturdays win over Florida. Moody had probably his worst game in a Rebel uniform, going 0-5 from 3 and 2-10 from the floor. They did, however, get 18 points out of Colby and Rhett. That, paired with outstanding free throw shooting, helped Ole Miss overcome Moody's off night. If Ole Miss wants to make a run they HAVE to continue seeing contributions from their bigs, especially when the guards struggle.
RMN: Stefan Moody and Jarvis Summers are the names most Mizzou fans are aware of when it comes to the Rebels, who else should we be concerned about to ruin our Saturday afternoon/evening?
Mike Borkey: "Snoop" White (#10) and Terence Smith (#3).
White is finally playing the type of basketball he was recruited to play. The senior is long and athletic who can create off the dribble as well as knock down big shots. He has a history of being a bit of a streaky shooter, but he does average almost 12 points per game this season. If teams get too caught up in stopping Summers and Moody he can be deadly.
Smith is important because he is Jarvis Summers' backup at point guard. Summers plays a very physical style of basketball, he's great at attacking the rim and isn't remotely scared of contact. He battled fatigue and injury at the end of last year because he played an insane amount of minutes which really took its toll on his body down the stretch.
Thankfully for Ole Miss fans, in steps the UT-Martin transfer. Although he struggled a little bit early on, Smith has been able to keep Ole Miss going when Jarvis needs a break or gets into foul trouble (shooting almost 59% in his last 4 games). He isn't going to score in huge volumes, but is extremely important for Ole Miss because his production allows Kennedy to keep Summers rested and healthy.
RMN: What's it going to take for Mizzou to beat Ole Miss on Saturday, something the Tigers do, or something the Rebels do to themselves?
Mike Borkey: Even though I just deserving praised the improvement of the big men, Ole Miss is still vulnerable down low. They're all pretty good mid-range jump shooters and very good free throw shooters, but they have been taken advantage of physically at times. If Missouri wants to win the game they need to feed Williams early and often. If they can control the paint they can make it interesting.
Also, they need to do their very best to play defense without fouling Ole Miss. Sounds dumb, right? I say that, though, because Ole Miss is the best free throw shooting team in the country. The guards attack the glass and beg teams to give them free points. The worst shooter in their regular rotation has a 65% average from the charity stripe.
RMN: What's your prediction for the game, and what do you think the score will be?
Mike Borkey: Ole Miss seems to play their best ball on the road. After doing extensive research as to why that is, I have come to this conclusion:
On a serious note, Jarvis Summers is playing really good basketball right now. Over the last two games he has 15 assists to only 2 turnovers. The combination of him, Moody, and White paired with the improvements in the post lead me to believe that Ole Miss should win this game. Missouri can keep it close if they control the paint, but I think Ole Miss pulls away late because of their offensive firepower.
Since you're making me pick, I'm thinking something like 75-65 in favor of Ole Miss.
Again, thanks to Mike for answering our questions. Please give him a follow to keep up on the goings on with Ole Miss sports.
With Ole Miss being a better road team than a home team, and frankly that's understandable when you see the TadPad, this is likely to be a very difficult game for the Tigers to pull out. Mizzou does play better at home, and they should help them out, but Ole Miss is still going to be favored, and KenPom has them at 71% to win. So how can Missouri pull out the win?
1) Keep Them Off the Line
Mississippi is a very good FT shooting team. And Missouri has made it a habit of fouling guys in the act of shooting a LOT. They need to get some clarity on this point and do what they can to prevent Ole Miss from getting to the line 20+ times, because they'll make 16 of them. And you simply cannot spot them 16 extra points when you're the home team.
2) Come Ready To Rebound
Outside of Moody, the Rebels have very good size, and they rebound very well. Sebastian Saiz, Dwight Coleby and M.J. Rhett all contribute on the interior and they are all effective on the glass. I think overall Missouri can find advantages there, because of Johnathan Williams III mostly, but also Keanau Post and if Rosburg can provide a similar effort that he did vs. Kentucky. It won't be easy, but they at least need to fight this to a draw in expected rebounds.
3) Work the ball on offense
Frankly, the Rebels just aren't a very good defensive team. They can score, and when guys are shooting well they can score a lot. Where they've often failed is their inability to get important stops. If Missouri can get good shots and make the Rebels work on that end of the floor, they'll be able to find success. But they'll need to value the ball and work inside out.
I feel confident that Wes Clark and Keith Shamburger should be able to get inside the Ole Miss defense and force them to collapse. So there should be open shots for Namon Wright, Montaque Gill-Caesar and others to knock down. It will be important for them to knock those shots down, particularly early.
The Rebels do have a tendency to start slow, and if they don't come out knocking in 3's and long jumpshots, their attention can wander a bit. So a tough hard-nosed start on defense, working the ball for good and easy looks on offense is Missouri's path to victory, or at least getting the Rebels playing a little bit of catchup. I do think that Missouri has improved on offense so they should find the easiest sledding on that end of the floor than they've seen in a while.
I still think it's going to be important for them to take their time with the ball and keep the score down. This is a game that Missouri can get to 70 points, but I also worry that a game at that pace may favor the team that can score more consistently. Still, I have to believe at some point that Missouri is going to get one of these games, and what better way to do it than against Ole Miss. So I'm going out on a limb and projecting a win. Don't ask me what I'm thinking, I don't quite know... why not? Missouri 71, Ole Miss 64.
As usual leave your predictions and trifecta in the comments below. I think our guy Wes Clark is gonna bring it again, MGC gets going, and JW3 has a big day.