Breein Tyree is the best player in the Southeastern conference.
There are a litany of arguments in Tyree’s favor, but the strongest is addition by subtraction.
Tyree, the 6-foot-2 senior guard from Somerset, New Jersey, has never had this opportunity before. Last season, Tyree was the leading scorer, but it was Terence Davis’ team. His sophomore season, Deandre Burnett was the lead scoring guard. In Tyree’s freshman season, he only averaged 19 minutes per game. In high school, Tyree shared the court with Karl Anthony Towns (first overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft), Wade Baldwin (17th pick in the 2016 NBA draft) and Tyus Battle (an all-ACC guard for Syracuse and member of the Minnesota Timberwolves system).
Tyree is also the only remaining player in the SEC from last season’s all-conference teams. At SEC media days, Tyree was selected to the preseason first team but not picked as the preseason favorite for player of the year. That honor was bestowed upon Kerry Blackshear of Florida, who Tyree will have the chance to play against in January.
Simply put: in over seven years, this is Tyree’s best opportunity to take the reins of a program and prove to the country that he is one of college basketball’s premiere guards.
Don’t take my word for it. Let the numbers do the talking.
Tyree is the unquestioned leader of the team and the Rebels’ most lethal scoring threat. Kermit Davis’ team will be tasked with replacing Terence Davis and his 15.2 points per game, and it’s not a stretch to imagine that Tyree will assume the lionshare of Terence Davis’ workload.
Last season, following Burnett’s departure, Tyree increased his shots per game from 9.7 to 13, his minutes from 25.2 to 33.8 and free throws from 2.5 to 4.7. All of his percentages increased as well. On shots inside the arc, Tyree shot 46% (39% in 2017-18). He increased his three-point percentage from 35.6% to 37.5% and increased his free throw percentage from 70% to 81% on nearly double the amount of attempts.
Tyree is also the most efficient player returning to the SEC, according to KenPom. Last season, Tyree logged an offensive rating of 111.7, meaning that per every 100 possessions of basketball, Tyree generated 25.2 points for Ole Miss. He also was third in the SEC in minutes played, appearing in 84.3% of available minutes. That number will only increase as Kermit Davis can’t stagger the minutes of Tyree and Terence Davis anymore.
But it’s not all roses for Tyree. With Terence Davis’ departure comes the departure of his shot creation, something Tyree has struggled with since becoming a fixture in Ole Miss’ backcourt. In three seasons in Oxford, Tyree has never averaged over three assists per game. Last season, he averaged 2.8 assists per game despite having a 25.2 usage rate (good for 12th in the SEC). In fact, in 99 games played, Tyree has logged over five assists only four times and has never logged more than six.
At Ole Miss media day in September, Tyree said that he definitely needs to improve his playmaking this season.
“My assists were 2.9-3 last season, (and) I want to bring it to at least five,” he said.
He was one of 24 invitees to Chris Paul’s point guard camp this summer, where offensive distribution was emphasized. After all, CP3 is the point god.
Tyree is not a point guard, though. He’s a combo guard who will occasionally initiate the offense in the halfcourt, so a low-ish assist rate is expected. However, as teams begin to cater defensive schemes to stopping Tyree offensively, he must become a more potent distributor if this team projects any success later in the season. It’s also necessary if Tyree has any hopes of being drafted.
He tested the NBA waters this offseason, entering his name into the draft without signing an agent, which allowed him to return to school for his senior season. Right now, Tyree doesn’t project as an NBA-caliber shooting guard.
He’s undersized for the position, doesn’t shoot the three ball at a high enough percentage to make up for his passing woes and is only an average to above-average defender. However, he’s a violent leaper and excels in the open court. His shot selection has rapidly improved over three seasons in Oxford and is a strong finisher around the rim. Terence Davis wasn’t a pro-prospect at this time last season, and now he’s logging legitimate minutes for the defending-champion Toronto Raptors.
This is Tyree’s moment. He’s on the watchlist for the Jerry West Award, an all-SEC preseason player and will likely be named to the Naismith Player of the Year watchlist come December. However, with expectations come responsibilities. As the face of a burgeoning program, Tyree must improve his play to an All-American level, not just all-SEC. The good news? The numbers say he will.