In the last State-Ole Miss hardwood meeting, Ole Miss played lights out on both ends of the floor and Reginald Buckner's 19 points led them to a 75-68 victory in Oxford. State hopes to reverse those fortunes tonight when the latest edition of the Egg Ball rivalry tips off tonight in Starkville. The game tips at 6 p.m. Central time and will be televised on The Deuce (ESPN2 for you non-slang people).
But outside of the first meeting in Oxford, what do we know about Ole Miss this season? I know I don't know much, other than the fact that the Rebels are 3 tough losses away from having a record matching ours. The good news is our counterparts over at Red Cup Rebellion, the Ole Miss SBNation blog, have stopped by to answer some of our questions on the Rebel Roundballers in preparation for tonight's game.
Q1: With Ole Miss at 14-8 and 1st out in Joe Lunardi's latest Bracketology, would you say Ole Miss fans are surprised with the success so far this season?
I'd say that Ole Miss fans are largely disappointed and surprised with Lunardi's analysis thus far. Southern Miss turned out to be a much better team than expected, but many of our other losses have left fans scratching their heads. LSU and Auburn losses are nearly inexcusable, even if they were on the road, and the Alabama and Florida meltdowns left fans with sour tastes in their mouths.
Q2: With the loss of Dundrecous Nelson, who has stepped up for this team?
To fill his role? Nobody. A few have tried, but this team generally isn't a threat to score from a distance. Nelson, while streaky, was a legitimate threat from beyond the arc. The only other player who comes close to his production level in his role is Nick Williams.
Q3: Where would you say making the NCAA tournament ranks among Ole Miss fans amongst making a bowl game and making the NCAA baseball tournament?
Ole Miss missed the NCAA baseball tournament last year, but the last time the team missed it before then was 2003. So, while perhaps a bit much, Ole Miss fans rather expect the baseball team to make it to NCAA play. Bowl games are always exciting, but being a "bowl team" can mean so much. It can mean 6-6 or it can mean 13-0. Being invited to the NCAA tournament means you're clearly one of the better teams in the conference. Being that Ole Miss hasn't made the Dance in a decade, I'd say that fans would be exceptionally excited about that were it to happen this year.
Q4: What are the keys for Ole Miss to have a chance to win tonight?
Rebounds. Rebounds. Rebounds. Also, rebounds. Both State and Ole Miss have talented rebounders, so I think winning the game against the glass would go a long way for either team. Also, if Ole Miss can make some threes, it would give them a significant advantage. In the first half of the Florida game, we seemed unable to miss from beyond the arc. We led by 10 at the half. The second half, though, saw that lead dwindle and turn into a Florida victory due to both Ole Miss' defense breaking down and the team going cold from three.
Q5: In the last meeting in Oxford, Reginald Buckner had an outstanding game, finishing with 19 points and 15 rebounds. Do you expect more of the same from him tonight or was that simply an "On" night for Buckner?
That's the best game he has ever played, so don't expect him to duplicate that. Still though, he's really become a more polished shooter as of late, making him a more dangerous threat offensively. I think he'll have his hands full against Sidney and Moultrie, so if he can get double-digit rebounds that'd be pretty impressive.
Q6: Score/Game Outcome Predictions
Ole Miss 66 - Mississippi State 75
BONUS: If Ole Miss wins and goes 2-0 against State this year, what billboard would you place outside of Starkville if you were so inclined to do such things?
I think it'd have Andy Kennedy's face staring down Highway 82. In gigantic red letters, it'll say "hide your cabbies" and "this is OUR wildly inconsistent basketball program."