Ole Miss will play on the road for the final time this season as the Rebels take on one of the hottest teams in the Southeastern Conference, the Arkansas Razorbacks.
“Arkansas is playing as well as anybody in our league, having won five straight,” head coach Andy Kennedy said. “They are playing with a great deal of confidence and a real sense of urgency that you would expect as they are closing in on trying to get into the NCAA tournament, and we know we will have our hands full.”
Arkansas (20-9, 9-7 SEC) most recently dispatched of Georgia, 87-75, but the Razorbacks also beat Kentucky and LSU during their five-game run. Arkansas is tough to beat in Bud Walton Arena, as it is 17-2 this season at home and 66-11 over the past four seasons.
But Ole Miss (17-12, 8-8 SEC) has been the exception to that trend, as Kennedy’s Rebels have won four straight in Fayetteville and six in a row against Arkansas overall. That doesn’t carry any weight into this year’s meeting, however.
“I would like to tell you that those prior four games would have some influence on our game Wednesday night, but, unfortunately for us, they will not,” Kennedy said. “It’s a different set of circumstances, different players and different timing.”
Ole Miss is riding a five-game losing streak in road games and sits at 4-7 in road games this season. Beyond the road struggles, Ole Miss has just one win in the last six games.
“We’re not playing as well as I would have hoped,” Kennedy said. “We have struggled in a number of different areas. When we put our finger in one hole, another one opens up, whether it’s offensive inefficiency or our inability to rebound. We have really struggled, especially on the road, and that continued in our last outing against A&M.”
The recent slide has found Ole Miss completely out of any NCAA tournament discussion, meaning the Rebels will have to win the SEC tournament to secure a bid in the Big Dance.
Arkansas has played into the NCAA tournament, and with two games left in the regular season, the Razorbacks are on the right side of the bubble in most NCAA tournament talks.
A trio of Razorbacks are averaging just over 12 points, as Bobby Portis, Rashad Madden and Michael Qualls are all between 12.3 and 12.6 points per game. Portis also leads the team in rebounding at 6.7 per game, while Madden and Qualls shoot well from outside, at 40.4 and 38.1 percent on 3-pointers this season.
Arkansas has six players shooting at least six field goals per game, and all but one of them are shooting above 43 percent. Razorback head coach Mike Anderson has plenty of depth for his “40 Minutes of Hell” style of play, as 11 players average double digits in minutes.
The Razorbacks play at the fastest pace in the SEC, averaging 80.4 possessions per game; Ole Miss plays at 75.4 possessions per game. Arkansas’ defense, which presses the entire game, forces opponents into a turnover on 20 percent of their possessions, the highest mark in the SEC. They also have the third most efficient transition defense in the SEC.
The game will tip at 7 p.m. from Bud Walton Arena and can be seen online via WatchESPN.
For continuing coverage of Ole Miss men’s basketball, follow @DavidLCollier and @thedm_sports on Twitter.