Ole Miss basketball announced that they will play a home and home series with the Oregon Ducks starting with a matchup in Oxford next season.
Ole Miss was looking to beef up their nonconference schedule after last season when the Rebels had a strength schedule of 110 according to Warren Nolan of warrennolan.com. The Ducks will look to be a major improvement to the schedule, after winning the Pac 12 tournament and advancing to the Sweet 16 before losing to eventual national champion Louisville last season.
However, Oregon will be replacing a lot of their core from last season. Four of their top five scorers graduated and those four accounted for 41.1 points and 22.8 rebounds per game.
Oregon will bring in some replacements for the departed. Mike Moser has transferred to Oregon from UNLV and is expected to step in and be one of the better players in the Pac 12. Moser will be eligible immediately at Oregon as he will have completed his undergraduate degree at UNLV, according to The Oregonian. Moser averaged 14 points and 10.5 rebounds in the 2011-12 season. Last year he missed time with an injury and took a step back averaging 7.1 points and 6.1 rebounds. Oregon will also get a transfer in Elgin Cook, who averaged 14.9 points and six rebounds at Northwest Florida State last season.
Dan Hanner of Real GM Basketball doesn’t project Oregon to return to the NCAA Tournament. Hanner uses offensive and defensive ratings to project the college basketball season.
“It will take a special season for all those players to replace what was lost,” Hanner said in his Pac 12 preview. “In expectation, Oregon looks a little worse on offense, and meaningfully worse on defense, which should make them a fringe bubble team.”
However Matt Norlander of CBS Sports has a lot of optimism for the Ducks.
“(Head coach) Dana Altman was the league coach of the year after a 28-9 record. He then made a Sweet 16. Guess what: the team will be better next year,” Norlander said in his Pac 12 preview.
Even if Oregon is just a bubble team next season, they will help improve the strength of schedule for Ole Miss. Last season Ole Miss played just one team with a top 50 RPI, Middle Tennessee State. With the exception of Middle Tennessee State, all of the Rebels’ nonconference opponents finished no better than two games over .500.
Ole Miss will also play at Kansas State on Dec. 5 next season as a part of the Big 12-SEC Challenge. Kansas State was a four seed in the NCAA Tournament but fell to La Salle in their opening game, finishing 26-8 last season.
Ole Miss will also host Dayton of the Atlantic 10 who missed the NCAA Tournament after a 17-15 season.
The Barclay’s Classic will host Ole Miss on Nov. 29 and 30 and the Rebels will play Georgia Tech on the first day and either St. John’s or Penn State on the second. None of those three teams made it to the NCAA Tournament. Georgia Tech and St. John’s posted winning records, while Penn State was just 10-21 last year.
Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said that the rest of the schedule has been completed but not yet announced.
With the two 25-plus win teams from last year, and some other power conference opponents, the schedule is shaping up to be much more difficult than last year. Ole Miss may not have a legitimate title contender in nonconference play, but they should play a handful of quality teams throughout the first half of the season.