The Media made a huge mistake, they chose to sleep on Andy Kennedy.
Ole Miss is being counted out again, when will people learn? Never count out an Andy Kennedy coached team. He is going to get his 20+ wins somehow and nobody will realize it. In his ten seasons in Oxford, Ole Miss had 20 wins or more in eight of them. Why would anyone pick against that track record?
Ole Miss’ Scholarship Depth Distribution
Andy Kennedy is one of the most underappreciated coaches in College Basketball. Ole Miss is rather consistent as far as the metrics are concerned, they are a up-tempo (above-average) team that is in the quartile as far as offensive efficiency and usually are in the upper third of the country in defensive efficiency. Ole Miss is not known for being a team that plays “tenacious” defense, but they do play good enough defense and their offensive firepower puts a lot of pressure on opponents.
Ole Miss is a primarily man-to-man defensive team that will employ various presses and traps when the opportunity arises. Andy Kennedy is a Bob Huggins disciple, but is not as keen to press. Ole Miss’ zone defenses are not as strong as their man-to-man and their decision to play zone at certain points in games has cost them dearly.
Ole Miss Roster, Lost Contributions and Featured Members of the Roster
The loss of Stefan Moody is obvious and Ole Miss will for the first time since 2011-12 season have a team that is going to be well diversified as far as production. No Marshall Henderson and Stefan Moody to lean on, this is a team that will be less predictable as far as who gets the shots. Those criticizing Ole Miss of playing “Hero Ball” for four years are about to get their wish. Ole Miss won 20 games in the season before Henderson. The 2010-11 season Chris Warren was in the Henderson or Moody sort of role for the Rebs for three seasons.
Production at the Point Guard spot and perimeter defense are going to be the key factors for Ole Miss’ success this season. Sebastian Saiz can handle himself quite well and Marcanvis Hymon is going to improve, but how much can Ole Miss get out of Deandre Burnett, Cullen Neal and Rasheed Brooks?
Most of the three point shots taken from last season are gone and the best shooters from last season exited as well. Andy Kennedy has never failed to get strong production from the perimeter during his ten seasons at Ole Miss and he will find a way to get perimeter shooting. Ole Miss was not even a very good three point shooting team in the first place!
Ole Miss will take more threes this season in rhythm mainly because Stefan Moody is not there to take the impromptu three point shots. Ole Miss really tried to take their shots in the money zones last season and should continue to do so. The only member of this season’s roster who is actually quite good in the mid-range is Rasheed Brooks. As a team, Ole Miss was less inclined than most to take shots in the mid-range. There was no difference last season between transition and non-transition effective Field Goal percentages and they were about as average as it gets as far as percentage of shots attempted in transition (20.7%). In fact, Georgia attempted a higher percentage of shots in transition than the typically rapid paced Rebels.
Ole Miss’ defense let opponents get out in transition at a higher rate than themselves (21.3%). Opponents were able to have a 55.3% effective Field Goal rate in transition, which found them in the bottom half of the country. Ole Miss was a rather average defense in the half court yielding a 48.1% field goal percentage. Ole Miss was able to let opponents get opportunities to score in the restricted arc, but did an above-average job denying them the points. Ole Miss did not do enough to keep opponents out of the money zones, 280th lowest in the country in percentage of shots allowed between 4 and 20 feet from the basket. Opponents were a bit free to fire at will from the perimeter and Ole Miss was a below average team as far as opponent three point shooting percentage (35.5%).
Featured Members of the Ole Miss Roster
Sebastian Saiz is a double-double machine and he should be able to get a double-double in almost every game. Last season, he had eight of them. This season, he should be able to double that figure. Saiz can score off the high and low posts. He has post-up moves and a mid-range game that is respectable. Saiz’s Field Goal percentages fell possible due to recovery from injury, his worst stretch was when he came back from injury in early February. Saiz was less efficient in the restricted arc and mid-range than his Sophomore Season.
Saiz’s defense has improved during his time at Ole Miss, he’s not going to blow anyone away as a shot blocker, but he does a serviceable job. Saiz is a valuable rebounder for Ole Miss, in fact, when he collected nine or more rebounds last season, Ole Miss was undefeated (12-0). Ole Miss was 5-9 in all of the other games.
Saiz should return to his efficiency from 2014-15 and remain healthy, which should make him a 15 point 10 rebound a game threat every game day/night. Saiz just needs to stay out of foul trouble.
Deandre Burnett should be the starting Point Guard for the Ole Miss Rebels. He will not need to be Stefan Moody or Chris Warren. If Burnett can just be Todd Abernethy (current assistant on the Ole Miss staff), Ole Miss is in good shape. Burnett will be playing in a different system than Miami, but the good news is that he has practiced for a full season during the season he sat out due to transfer rules. Being Stefan Moody’s sparring partner in practice was certainly helpful to his development.
Burnett showed a propensity to score during his time at Miami. He was able to put 19 on Illinois, 12 on Virginia, 13 on Alabama and 13 on Boston College. Burnett’s strength is not shooting the ball though, he’s actually a good dribble driver. He’s far too streaky from long range and it is possible that he improves upon his three point shooting this season.
Cullen Neal is a graduate transfer from New Mexico and if his name sounds familiar, he’s “Noodles” Neal’s son. Neal left New Mexico for Ole Miss and he’ll likely be starting for the Rebels. Neal is a slightly above average three point shooter who can play the role of a distributor. His field goal percentage and assist-to-turnover ratio are reasons for concern and help explain his rather poor offensive efficiency rating.
This ought to raise eyebrows. Neal was not strong at finishing at the basket, his mid-range game was poor and his three point shooting was slightly below average. Is it a function of the New Mexico offense and his teammates? Did the pressure of playing for his father and then of course there is his well-known brash personality that might remind people of the one and only Marshall Henderson. The thing is that Henderson was able to back up his passionately outlandish behavior on the court, Neal was much more disappointing and then things turned ugly. One publication called into question the death threats.
Regardless, Cullen Neal is getting a fresh start at Ole Miss and he does not have to be “the man” even though he thinks he is. That’s important to point out because he has not backed up the cockiness on the court.
Lost in the hype of the new faces on the court this season is a returning Senior, Rasheed Brooks. Brooks is at his best in the mid-range and he could improve from long range. Brooks can rebound well for a guard and may produce more with Stefan Moody’s departure.
If Brooks can become more consistent, he could easily be a double digit scorer. He’s the dark horse choice to lead the team in scoring.
Hymon gets his work done in the restricted arc and he is exceptionally good at making hustle plays inside the perimeter. Hymon is a high energy player who can set the tone for this Ole Miss team. Who is he similar to? He’s like Michael Carrera without the perimeter game. He’s an undersized post who will have more opportunities this season. His improvement from his first season to second season is indicative there is more to come from Hymon.
Hymon will likely get 20-25 minutes per game this upcoming season. He could put up 9 points, 7 rebounds per game this season. Watch his foul count though.
Expected Starting Lineup
PG: Deandre Burnett
SG: Cullen Neal
3G: Rasheed Brooks
PF: Marcanvis Hymon
PF: Sebastian Saiz
What to Expect from Ole Miss This Season
November 14 presents the first indicator of how this Ole Miss team will be in the non-conference slate when they take on UMass at The Pavilion at Ole Miss. The Virgin Islands Paradise Jam features a non-intimidating field for the Rebels. In all likelihood, the final game of this tournament will be the challenge for Ole Miss.
Ole Miss should end up facing the winner of Creighton/North Carolina State. A win over either program should likely be considered a quality win. Creighton should be an RPI Top 50 squad while North Carolina State should be an RPI Top 75 team at the end of the season.
The biggest challenge during the traditional non-conference slate will be the back-to-back games hosting Memphis and then visiting Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Splitting these two games should bode well for Ole Miss.
These 19 games (18 conference games + 1 Big XII program) should weigh heavily on Ole Miss’ resume. The first five games of Ole Miss’ schedule are not easy, but if Ole Miss can find a way to go 3-2 or 2-3, they would have survived. The only other notable stretch of concern is between January 25 and February 4, Ole Miss will have three straight home games against difficult/primed opponents and then a game at Memorial Gym. The rest of the schedule is rather manageable.
Ole Miss should be on the bubble with 20-21 wins this season, the problem is that they may not have enough quality non-conference victories to convince the NCAA Tournament Committee. Ole Miss should have some work to do in Nashville and may need to pull a few wins to get a berth.
Ole Miss’ starting lineup should be fine and the experience that they have is enough to ensure their competitiveness. The bench is unproven, but Andy Kennedy’s track record with maintaining quality depth indicates that all should be well. What could plague Ole Miss is their offensive efficiency and perimeter defense. After all, with a squad similar to this one in 2011-12, Ole Miss only had an adjusted offensive efficiency of 101.9.