Year two of the Kermit Davis era has generated a plethora of excitement in Oxford as of late.
After snapping a four-year NCAA Tournament drought and having a lot of those same pieces back for more, the Rebels enter the 2019-20 season with high expectations. However, the first two months of the season will tell a lot about this team moving forward.
The Rebels’ non-conference slate includes both familiar opponents and four teams that experienced postseason basketball last season.
To start the season on November 4, The Pavilion will play an exhibition host to the Mississippi College Choctaws out of the D-II Gulf South Conference. Four days later, the Rebels open the season on a four-game home stand and everything will count.
Ole Miss will host the Arkansas State Red Wolves on Nov. 8. The Wolves finished 13-19 overall and a 7-11 Sun Belt record with one of the worst scoring defenses in the country, allowing 77.3 points per game (311st in D-I).
On November 12, the Rebels welcome the MEAC Champs to town, the Norfolk State Spartans. NSU was one of the first teams to be eliminated in last year’s NIT.
That will be followed by matchup on November 15 with a familiar foe in Western Michigan from the MAC. The Rebels opened up last season against the Broncos and won 90-64. The last game of the home stand will be against Seattle on November 19.
Then things get tough.
Perhaps their biggest challenge of the non-conference slate will be traveling to the FedEx Forum to take on the rising Memphis Tigers on Nov. 23. The Tigers ranked No. 48 in last season’s NET rankings and finished with a 2nd round exit in the NIT. The Rebels have won the last two meetings, but this season’s team is considered by some to be a potential national title sleeper.
Head coach Penny Hardaway reeled in the No. 1 overall recruiting class in the offseason, including James Wiseman, the nation’s top recruit from nearby East High School.
The Rebels will then spend their Thanksgiving Holiday in Brooklyn to take part in the 2019 NIT Tip-Off. Ole Miss was chosen alongside perennial power Syracuse and two legit foes in Oklahoma State and Penn State.
In December, Ole Miss will face three familiar teams, most of which struggled last season. Butler comes to town on the 3rd, having beat the Rebels 83-76 last season in Indianapolis.
The CSU Road Runners and former Rebel head coach Rod Barnes come to Oxford on December 7. They will be without their leading scorer from a year ago in Jarkel Joiner, who transferred back home to Ole Miss in the offseason.
The Blue Raiders from MTSU travel to Oxford this season to play Davis’s new school on the 14th. Jackson will once against host a neutral site matchup between Ole Miss and SELA this season on the 21st.
To cap off the non-conference schedule, the Rebels will host Tennessee Tech and their new head coach Steve Payne to wrap up the month of December. Then Ole Miss will travel out west to face Wichita State, who finished No. 63 in last season’s NET.