The most highly anticipated basketball season in recent memory has turned out to be an overwhelming disappointment for Kermit Davis and the Ole Miss Rebels.
The Rebels have lost six straight games and dipped to 9-9 this season with no league wins after a series of lackluster performances on both ends of the floor from the whole team.
This squad was supposed to be in the tournament conversation, but that appears to be out of the question unless the Rebels can pull out a historic run in the second half of the season.
So how has this team gone from surprise tournament team last year to the bottom of the SEC standings so quickly?
“We’re in a position where some of the young guys that we thought — and I still think are going to be good players — just haven’t made a very big impact in any P5 games,” head coach Kermit Davis said last week.
This Ole Miss team is full of raw potential that hasn’t been realized, causing the team to depend almost solely on the veteran shot-making abilities of Breein Tyree.
Tyree has been the bright spot for the Rebels as the scoring leader in conference games scoring 26, 27 and 36 points in three of their four SEC loses. However, it’s obvious that having him run and gun Damian Lillard-style is not sustainable for 40 minutes of collegiate basketball.
The senior guard’s offense has allowed the Rebels to stay in games and even develop leads into the second half but the lack of depth across the roster puts Davis’ team in a bind.
Shuler hasn’t made the expected step up into his junior year. K.J. Buffen’s knack for scoring around the rim that showed at the beginning of the season has vanished as the competition improved. Blake Hinson’s battle with illness during the preseason put him behind the needle this season, but he continues to improve offensively.
Khadim Sy has shown what he can contribute, but he hasn’t been dependable and was suspended by Davis for the Florida game where the lack of depth down low really showed through Sammy Hunter and Carlos Curry.
Austin Crowley and Bryce Williams simply haven’t had time to develop.
“The biggest thing is trying to gain consistency in your roster and the depth in your roster,” Davis said. “And as you go along, I don’t call them mistakes, but maybe guys aren’t where you thought they’d be right now.”
“We’re disappointed that we’re where we’re at, but it is growth, and we’ve just got to stay upbeat and keep trying to get these guys better,” he added.
Not much has gone right for the Rebels in 2020, but they’ve managed to keep these games close losing to both Arkansas and LSU by only four.
“We’re having problems finishing halves,” Hinson said. “We’re having problems with a lot of things, so we just need to keep practicing and figure out what we need to do to fix these things.”
The Rebels have much to fix if they don’t want to find themselves stuck with the likes of Vanderbilt and Missouri at the bottom of the conference table, but it won’t be easy. The SEC is still relatively strong despite a few subpar outings from top teams. Still, the Rebels feel confident about turning the season around.
“It hasn’t been down. Our practices have been good. When I walk in the gym, those guys are upbeat and laughing. You’ve just got to find ways to win games.”