Last month, the Rebels fell to Florida, losing the third of their first four conference competitions, and I dissected what was going wrong for head coach Kermit Davis’s third-year basketball team. I was frustrated; you were frustrated; we all were frustrated, and it was justified. However, right when we all almost sold out on the season, the team reeled us right back in.
The Ole Miss basketball team is hot, winning its last four games, two of which were back-to-back home wins against top-11 SEC opponents. With those wins, instead of harping on what’s wrong, let’s talk about what’s going right with the team and the Kermit system. If you remember the column I wrote a month ago, this list will sound familiar.
Shot selection, shot selection, shot selection:
The Rebels finally found their shooting identity. They know they are not toward the top in conference shooting, whether it’s beyond the arc or from free throw land, and that’s okay. In fact, they know they don’t need to shoot lights out in order to win.
The Kermit system relies on transition buckets and offensive schemes that primarily look for the lay-in. The team still isn’t fantastic at shooting the rock, but when the Kermit system is working, they don’t necessarily need to be. If the Rebels are shooting well, like in the game against Missouri, it’s the icing on the cake.
Knees bent, butt down and play defense:
Back in January, I wrote: “The Kermit system hinges on getting down and playing defense that is fierce, stout and forced turnovers.” Now, that’s exactly what they are doing. Take the overtime win against Auburn on Feb. 6, for example. With grit, the team was tied late in the game and needed some momentum. In a series of events, the team played defense and forced a turnover that led to a quick transition lay-up.
In the very next series, the defense forced another turnover as junior guard Jarkel Joiner dribbled the ball down the floor and shot a quick 6-footer that swished into the basket. Those are exactly the kind of points on which Davis has built his teams to capitalize.
The team is one of the top in the conference in forcing turnovers, and this has made watching them play defense one of the more fun aspects to watch.
Shuler or Joiner — whose team is it?
I raised the point that there was an identity crisis as to who gets the last say with the rock: Shuler or Joiner. Well, Ole Miss figured that out, too. Shuler might have gotten the spotlight against Auburn, but in the very next game against Missouri, Joiner was the go-to guy. Both guards have figured out their give and take.
Not only are they sharing the ball more, proving to be unselfish and playing to each other’s advantages, but I also raised the point that at the end of the day, maybe the answer was neither of them. Maybe the offense should revolve around forward Romello White.
Against Auburn, White went off with a 30-point, 10-rebound game. He’s finally figuring out how to be the dominant force he’s meant to be in the paint.
Just like the basketball team’s offensive scheme, as fans, it takes patience for the Kermit system to develop. Once it does like it is currently doing now, hang tight because the Rebels could keep dancing their way right into March.