Category Archives: Ole Miss Basketball

Mar 10, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Mississippi Rebels head coach Andy Kennedy during the first half of the fourth game of the SEC tournament against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

ANDY KENNEDY AT THE MISSISSIPPI CROSSROADS

For Ole Miss basketball, the number 20 has been a charm.

Andy Kennedy became Ole Miss’ 20th basketball coach in 2006 in the middle of the “glory years” of Ole Miss basketball.  Rob Evans and Rod Barnes started the modern day Ole Miss basketball program and it didn’t happen until the late 1990’s.

Ole Miss basketball coaching records through the years are rather abysmal if you have never actually looked them up. If you haven’t researched Ole Miss basketball coaches records you will see a whole lot of losing records and a lot of barely break even records.  Rod Barnes (141 – 109) at 32 games to the positive over seven years and a 56% win record is the best we have ever had.

So even if Andy Kennedy ended his career at Ole Miss today you are looking at amazing success, relatively.  225 wins in 11 years, a SEC tournament win and a couple of NCAA tournament appearances would easily eclipse anything Ole Miss has had in the past.

But success begets success. The aged CM “Tad” Smith Coliseum was replaced with a massive 90 million dollar, dazzling facility.  Andy Kennedy has outlasted a fleet of amazing SEC coaches and is now the gray beard of the bunch.  Everything Ole Miss basketball fans and Ole Miss basketball coaches could have wished for is now here.

Andy Kennedy has to be asking himself, ‘What do I do now?’

The Ole Miss basketball program is at the edge of the known world. Ole Miss was in a small little box for so long.  It was understood that you can’t recruit at Ole Miss.  It was understood that we didn’t have a nice facility.  It was understood that we didn’t have a legacy of winning, and that was ok.

But now, Ole Miss basketball is all grown up and about to drive on the interstate for the first time with a learners permit.

Kennedy has the opportunity of a lifetime. There are fewer and fewer excuses available for losing games and more and more advantages to being at Ole Miss

What does the next step look like and how can we get there?

Coach Kennedy is poised to have a breakout season and there are some specific reasons why.

WHY HE WILL

1) Oxford has the luxury of being close to Memphis and Jackson. While Jackson is not quite the deep pool of basketball talent it was in the 80’s and 90’s, there are still a few NBA players to speak of that Ole Miss could get on the court for a year or two.  The Memphis metro area is over 1.5 million people and is still a basketball recruiting hotspot.

While several schools fight over Memphis area talent, Ole Miss has an advantage over most of the other SEC schools in proximity, except Kentucky for the very elite players.

2) The Pavilion. I can’t explain how great this arena turned out.  Every coach or team that plays here is just amazed, and so are recruits and fans.  It’s not too big, seating is not too cramped, restrooms, concessions, all the little extras are just perfect.  Just a great facility.  The best in the nation right now.

We all know having a new building is nice and is a must, but a building does not recruit. Players don’t care about the building if you can’t win or you don’t have a good fan base or a good coach.  The Pavilion will however get some kids to visit that might not have considered Ole Miss in the past.

3) Coach Kennedy’s offense is a national championship offense.  Kennedy can run and gun with the best of them.  With the right players, Oxford could take over Las Vegas as the new home of the Running Rebels, and in college basketball you don’t need 10 great players, you only really need two or three to make some noise and build that excitement that fuels itself.

His offense has drawn some ire from fans because without very athletic players it is a rather mistake prone offense.

4) Ole Miss owns the state of Mississippi. For the first time in decades, Ole Miss is the premier basketball school in the state.  MSU has always had a little more success in the past and typically got a few more kids from Jackson.

With the loss of Coach Stansbury, MSU has been in a multi-year tailspin and has shown no signs of recovering soon. Andy Kennedy has won 6 of the last 7 games over the bulldogs.

Ben Howland is a great recruiter and he will get his share of players; but for the moment, Ole Miss has the upper hand and must take advantage where they can.

WHY HE WON’T

Of course, there are a lot of efforts working against Andy Kennedy and there is no guarantee Ole Miss can capitalize on the momentary advantages.

1) Ole Miss is not a basketball school.  I can’t imagine a scenario where Ole Miss fans will embrace basketball over football.  Football is king in the SEC and elite national basketball players are going to focus on East coast basketball schools and basketball friendly leagues.

This is a major problem for the SEC, and don’t forget about beating Kentucky. You basically have to be a final four team to win the SEC against Calipari.

2) Emergence of other SEC coaches. Avery Johnson at Alabama, Mike Anderson at Arkansas, Bruce Pearl at Auburn and Ben Howland at MSU are all emerging and could quickly eclipse Andy Kennedy’s opportunity.  Kennedy must find a way to stand out and lead the SEC West.

3) Recruiting. While Coach Kennedy has only recently had a basketball court he was willing to show a recruit he hasn’t recruited very well, or well enough.  He has lived off juco re-treads, second chance players and international transfers.

Coach Kennedy’s recruiting must take the next step if he expects on-the-court results to take another step. He has a good start on recruiting for 2017 but currently he only has 3 commits and is in the top 40 of recruiting rankings (247 rankings).

This is a great time to be a basketball fan at Ole Miss! The next couple of years will be exciting.  We have the best place to watch a game, the best coach we have ever had and next year will possibly be the most talented team Ole Miss has even put on a court.

As fans let’s turn out and do our part and push this program to the top!

 

 

Photo via Dak Dillon - USA Today

Ole Miss at LSU: Do or Die?

Ole Miss is on the “back turn” of the SEC basketball season and despite having 19 wins, they still have some work to do to make sure they get that NCAA at-large bid.

Today the Rebels face the imaginary Tigers, native to the State of Louisiana, for a game that could very well be a “do-or-die” game.

It would give Ole Miss 9 top 100 RPI wins and a potential 5th top 50 RPI if LSU can finish strong.  A loss on the road to a quality LSU team is not devastating but with the home loss to Georgia, they are running out of time to impress the tournament committee.

Unlike Georgia, LSU has two quality scoring threats.  Forwards Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey average 16.5 points per game, the same as Ole Miss’ Stefan Moody.

This team will put even more pressure on the Ole Miss front court who was beat up a little late against Georgia.

Ole Miss was within two points of Georgia with two minutes left to play when Georgia took it down low and had their way with the Rebels, eeking out a four point victory.

Granted Ole Miss had a cold night shooting and could easily overcome their offensive struggles in the paint by trading three pointers for two.

Can Ole Miss get hot early and win a game they “should” win?  We shall see soon!

Andy Kennedy made a passionate case for his team to step up their emotion after the team looked like they were going through the motions Wednesday night.

This is not a do or die game but would remove most of the late season drama if the Rebels can pull it off.

OLEMISS AT LSU – BY THE NUMBERS

Pts per game: LSU 74, Ole Miss 73

Rebounds per game: LSU 39.6, Ole Miss 37.5

Field goal %: LSU 50.7, Ole Miss 48.6

Three pointers made: Ole Miss 6.5, LSU 5.6

 

 

Photo via Dak Dillon – USA Today
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MSU Basketball, Ole Miss game thoughts, and Malik Newman

 

First of all, we did not get any favors from the men in stripes Wednesday night. That was a ticky officiating crew, but I’m sure everyone that watched the game already knows that.

However, the refs aren’t the reason we lost the game. Unforced turnovers has killed MSU basketball all year, and last night was no different. That is a facet of the game that has got to be corrected, and corrected quickly.

The Rebels have a pretty decent basketball team. I’m not sure they will make it to the NCAA tournament because of some bad losses. However, they do have some good wins, but bad losses can often trump good wins.

I do not know how they have lost some of the games that they have managed to lose. They have decent inside play and fantastic guard play. They also have really good depth. They also have a “star” player in Stefan Moody.

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Moody is a very good player. Last night was my first opportunity to watch him play. I could tell that he wasn’t having his best game shooting, but its obvious he is at least as good as advertised… possibly better than advertised.

We have a player coming in next year, Tookie Brown, who reminds me a little bit of Moody. Watching Stefan has excited me about seeing Brown suit up in the maroon and white next year.

As far as the Bulldog basketball team is concerned, we have looked much better the last several games. It gives me a “ray” of hope that perhaps not all is lost.

Coach Rick Ray is learning as he goes and his improvements, though small steps, are apparent. This team is now competing on a fairly consistent basis – perhaps not always winning, but at least making a game of it. This team is in need of another experienced inside man as well as a “shooter”.

It is possible that we already had them on the roster, but then Johnny Zuppardo’s season ended before it started (of course) & Maurice Dunlap hasn’t been very healthy all season. Dunlap, however, probably needs another year before he contributes as expected. We will just have to wait and see.

N’doye and Oliver Black are still very raw. Both are very workable pieces and pretty doggone talented. They might very possibly be ready to contribute by next year.

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I wish Coach Ray would go out and find a college ready JUCO shooter or find a way to get Malik Newman in next season. If he can do that the 2015-2016 Bulldog basketball team will have an opportunity to take that next step and will be a great team.

If he can get Malik Newman, our shooting woes are over. The kid is better than any JUCO player in the Nation. In my opinion, he’s the best high school player in the nation. He could potentially leave Starkville with his own statue. Quite frankly, he’s just that good.

That said, things are starting to look positive for the future of our beloved Bulldogs. I hope that we give Rick Ray at least one more year if he continues competing on a high level for the remainder of this year. You can see that he’s learning from his mistakes, and that will certainly make him better. I have always believed in his potential as a coach and there has never been any question about his standards as a leader and disciplinarian of a team. If the improvement continues, then Coach Ray is the man for the job, because he is one very likable person who lives up to the decent, honest standards that we have for our athletic teams in Starkville.

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Malik Newman can be the savior of the bulldog program. Malik’s dad is one of my all time favorite Bulldogs, but he can build his own legacy as a Bulldog. He is the missing link and has the potential to bring our Mississippi State Bulldog basketball program back to prominence.

senior day

WHAT WILL BE MARSHALL HENDERSON’S LEGACY AT OLEMISS?

Marshall Henderson arrived in Oxford Mississippi last year as the 2011-2012 Junior College player of the year with hopes that he would be the missing piece on a team that was strong in the post.

Head coach Andy Kennedy was entering his seventh season as head coach at Ole Miss and even though he has only finished a season with less than 20 wins once in his tenure, he had failed to reach the NCAA tournament at Ole Miss.  Kennedy was desperate.

Kennedy parted ways with Ole Miss’ leading scorer Dundrecous Nelson in 2011 due to off-the-court legal issues and after dropping games, Kennedy knew he needed to find immediate help on the perimeter.

Henderson had already burned bridges at two schools previously.  He left the University of Utah to be closer to home at Texas Tech and then went the juco route after Pat Knight was fired for South Plains College.

During this time, his legal record was long and should have raised red flags.

Henderson was arrested in high school in 2009 for buying drugs with counterfeit money. During his two year probation, he tested positive for alcohol, marijuana and cocaine. He served 25 days in jail for violating his probation during the summer before arriving in Oxford.

Marshall’s Father Willie Henderson says, “Marshall has owned up to his actions and dealt with the consequences.” He was 18 years old and he made a mistake. He’s paid for that.  He’s realized that.  He’s certainly come to terms with that.  What I’ve seen is a success story.”

Marshall Henderson gets second chances because of his play on the court, it certainly makes his play off the court more palatable.

When Billy Gillispie was coaching at Texas Tech, he set up a drill for Henderson where he made 71 of 74 three pointers.  A similar drill at South Plains resulted in 88 of 100 made three point shots.  He averaged nearly 20 points a game at South Plains, leading his team to a 36-0 record and a NJCAA national championship.

Sometimes the passion he brings with his game, becomes unbridled emotion, and it continues to push the limits of his team and himself.  There is a constant ying and yang with Marshall Henderson as there is with most people.

Head Coach Andy Kennedy was quoted last year regarding Marshall Henderson’s passion, “What he is, is passionate, and I think that’s a good thing.  What you see is something that is not made up.  You see a kid who cares.  He’s a competitor.  What we try to do is channel it in a positive way.  I don’t want the passion to become emotional, where it becomes a negative.”

At times he can be a virtual shooting machine beating his chest and inviting anyone to stop him.  Sometimes all you get is the bravado.  He is a complex individual that is not easy to trust but hard to keep off the court.

At Ole Miss, there are no other options.  The emergence of Jarvis Summers this year has been an unexpected suprise but Jarvis likely would not have gotten as many shots without Henderson attracting so much attention from defenses.  No one on the bench can match Marshall’s energy and scoring potential.

So, for better or for worse, Kennedy made his bed with Henderson and had to lie in it come what may.

What came for the Rebels was “Marshall Mania” which put Olemiss in the national media spotlight.  A position, Ole Miss basketball has never honestly never been before.  The 2012-2013 season saw Henderson become a Media darling after making a half court shot against Vanderbilt on the road to send the Rebels to overtime.  A game they went on to win.

In late January, “Marshall Mania” went to Auburn and he helped the Rebels outlast a determined Auburn team and proceeded to bait the entire Auburn student section with a prominent jersey “pop.”

henderson auburn

After struggling down the stretch of 2013, Henderson had a prominent role in helping his team run through the SEC tournament beating Missouri, Vanderbilt and #13 Florida in successive days. His trolling of Gator fans by using their own “Gator chomp” against them was both satisfying and fearsome if you are an Ole Miss fan.  It was akin to taunting a lion with a stick.  Ole Miss basketball fans are not used to this type of success.

marshall florida

For all the wins in his career at OleMiss, there were just as many games where he was cold from behind the arc.  If he didn’t shoot so much could this team play better overall?  There are many questions we will never answer.

This season, the Rebels are without the Senior big men, Reginald Buckner and Murphy Holloway.  A decided youth movement has resulted in growing pains that Andy Kennedy has not been able to overcome.

Without the complement of a potent front court, it tends to nulify Marshall Henderson’s prolific scoring. Even with very similar results from year one to year two, Henderson’s long shot misses are rarely rebounded by Ole Miss players this year.

Henderson’s average man to man defense is more of a liability in year two.  His tendancy to shoot more when he is missing shots takes shots away from other players that might take a higher percentage shot.

It is also possible that his ball-hogging type of play prevents the team from improving.  Set plays are not very important to Henderson and the team is unlikely to get in a rhythm and younger players tend to stand around and watch Henderson shoot.

henderson dunk

But you can’t discuss Marshall Henderson without acknowledging Ole Miss’ apperance in the 2013 NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002.  Ole Miss fans will no doubt only remember the good times about their beloved players.  Henderson struggled in the first half against Wisconsin but hit enough shots near the end to help pull away and get an NCAA win pouring in 19 points.

The fact that Henderson took the Rebels back to SEC championships and the NCAA tournament will be his lasting legacy.

Whether you love him or hate him, he brought a skill set to Ole Miss that has never been seen.  A player that is a vocal leader as well as a player that can win a game all by himself.

Marshall has the SEC record in making a three point shot in every game he has played for the Rebs so far (now 64 straight games).  Marshall is the fourth Rebel ever to score over 1,000 points in two years (1,235).  He has the school record with 10 three pointers in a game.  Currently, he is second in the nation with 4.37 three pointers made per game.  He is fourth in the SEC in overall scoring this year with 19.2 points per game.

Senior day resulted in a 65-62 win in a game Vanderbilt led for all but two minutes.  If you watched the game, the only reason Ole Miss won was because of effort, initiated by Marshall.  He finished his last game in Oxford with 18 points on 5-19 shooting.  Not his best game but Rebel fans will miss this guy next year, and this team could have a big drop off if someone doesn’t step into the leadership role Henderson leaves.

Post game Marshall had this to say about being the only Senior on Senior day, “The fans at Ole Miss always encourage me, through the good times and even when they went whatever – Ole Miss is a family.”

Today as Ole Miss’ only Senior we should recognize his talent as a player and his faults as a human, but Rebel fans should always be glad he chose the University of Mississippi.

 

olemiss bubble watch

OLEMISS REBELS BASKETBALL: NCAA TOURNAMENT BUBBLE WATCH

The Rebels escaped with a 91-88 home win over the Missouri Tigers, giving Andy Kennedy’s club their first top 50 RPI win and puts Ole Miss in contention for an NCAA tournament at large bid. (Game Recap from Olemisssports.com)

In the RPI era, the bullseye teams have to hit to make the tournament is ever elusive and changes each week.  Especially in the SEC conference where teams are so evenly matched.

Missouri (16-7, 4-6) is one of those teams that gets the benefit of the doubt by national media and has played a harder SEC schedule to date than Ole Miss.  Going forward, Missouri’s toughest game will be at home next week against Tennessee.  This team could honestly win the final seven games on their schedule, giving them 23 wins before the SEC tournament.  So yes, this win by the Rebels Saturday was huge and should only get better if Missouri continues to win.

The Tigers currently only have a UCLA home win to point to and will be haunted by loses to Georgia and Vanderbilt, so a Missouri NCAA bid is not automatic.

Ole Miss defeated LSU on January 15th in Oxford 88-74 in an exciting overtime game.  Since that game, LSU has beaten Kentucky, but has also lost to Georgia and Alabama.  Currently standing at 15-7, 6-4 in SEC, LSU still has to play Kentucky and Florida on the road.  They could possibly win 6 (or more) games and stand at 21+ wins with quality wins against Missouri and Kentucky before the SEC tourney.

The Rebels lost to Tennessee  in Knoxville on January 29th and looked pretty bad doing so.  Tennessee (15-8, 6-4) has a chance to take down Florida at home this week and will face Missouri twice in the next eight games.  An eight game sweep will certainly put them in the tournament but like the Rebels they have four road games left as well.  It’s more likely Tennessee finishes with 21-22 wins.

At least, Ole Miss controls their own destiny.  They will get Kentucky and Florida in Oxford soon and if they win one of those games they should cement themselves as one of the top 4 teams in the SEC.

At the same time the Rebels don’t have any room for error either.  They have to play Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M and Arkansas on the road.  Any road loss would be a bad loss at this point.  If they get to the end of the season with only an early MSU loss, that could be forgiven with wins over Missouri, LSU and Kentucky or Florida.

(Photo credit to @olemisspix)