After an unexpected home win for Ole Miss against Alabama on Tuesday night, the men will head back on the road to take on an undeniably talented, although unpredictable, team in the Texas Longhorns on Saturday afternoon. The game will be part of the “Big 12/SEC Challenge,” in which 10 teams from the SEC will square off against 10 teams from the Big 12, all within a four-hour span.
To date, Texas has been one of the least consistent teams in the Big 12. While its record stands at an impressive 13-7, it has not had consecutive wins or losses since Dec. 22, when its win at Alabama came on the heels of a home win against Tennessee State. At the same time, Ole Miss certainly cannot boast consistency, either. Both between and within games, head coach Andy Kennedy’s team has struggled to find any sort of rhythm or stable form.
The obvious threat for the Rebels will be stopping monster freshman center Mohamed Bamba. Standing at 7 feet tall and wielding a wingspan of 7 feet 9 inches, Bamba is an absolute weapon. His elite athleticism, size and skillset are a perfect concoction for what many consider to be a lock to be picked in the first round of the NBA draft at the end of this season.
To many, the Harlem, New York, native’s size and talent draw comparisons to Rudy Gobert, as his elite defending has resulted in him totaling 4.4 blocks per game. In comparison, Ole Miss as a team averages 4.9 blocks per game. Mo Bamba is, in large part, the reason the Longhorns sit at 21st in defensive efficiency rating among the entire NCAA. Meanwhile, the Rebels lag behind at a subpar 192nd.
The matchup of big men between these two teams is going to be an utter mismatch on both ends of the floor. While the outside scoring of the Rebels cannot be understated, the lack of production inside is only going to be heightened by the rim presence of Mo Bamba. On the opposite end of the court, the disaster that is Ole Miss’ inside defending will certainly be exploited by the 54 percent shooting numbers of the freshman big, as well as Texas’ leading scorer, junior forward Dylan Osetkowski.
While the underwhelming Rebel 7-footer Dominik Olejniczak attempts to match up with Mo Bamba on the frontcourt, the athletic guard play of Ole Miss will have to remain in form to limit other scoring options for the Longhorns. This season, perimeter defending, especially early in the shot clock, has been the sole defensive strong point for Ole Miss. Defensively strong guards like Devontae Shuler and Breein Tyree will have their hands full containing the Longhorns’ high-scoring point guard Kerwin Roach II.
Ole Miss’ inability to produce on the road aside, the matchups featured in this game will make it very difficult for this game to go in favor of the road team. While the guard play is certainly superior for the Rebels, the gap in class is not significant enough to make up for the massive mismatch between the bigs. The likes of Justas Furmanavicius and Dominik Olejniczak will simply be overwhelmed in what should be expected to be another road loss for Ole Miss before hosting a ranked Auburn squad at home on Tuesday.