The 2022-2023 Ole Miss men’s basketball season ended in Nashville at the hands of the Tennessee Volunteers. The Rebels, who many did not even see getting past South Carolina, were playing with house money against the Vols. However, with no outside expectations of winning this game, Ole Miss forced Tennessee to prove it was the better team.
Ole Miss came out with some unmatchable energy. Similar to how they did against South Carolina, the Rebels forced a large number of early turnovers to bolster the offense. The Vols struggled in the early goings, especially without star sophomore guard Zakai Zeigler. Tennessee, quite frankly, got hit in the mouth early by the shot-making of the Rebels.
The truth for Ole Miss all season was that the offense played second fiddle to the defense, which is why it was surprising to see the Rebels come out guns blazing.
Thanks to Santiago Vescovi and Josiah-Jordan James, Tennessee finally started making its shots. Although they each did not shoot the best percentage from behind the arc, the threat they posed by just being on the floor opened the entire game up for the Vols.
Tennessee did, in fact, prove why they are one of the best teams in the nation. The Vols showed resolve and the ability to adjust in intense situations, which will greatly benefit them when the big dance starts.
The Rebels lost their footing at some point in the later part of the second half as Tennessee went on an insurmountable run to win the game 70-55. Despite the loss and the disappointing season as a whole, Ole Miss should be happy with its two postseason performances, as well as the future ahead.
The offense developed throughout the season as the defense remained phenomenal, and with the guys coming back and the potential guys the next head coach will bring, Ole Miss will look to reload while rebuilding.
A rebuild is something that any program tries to avoid, and Ole Miss has a chance to skip that part. No one has ever said that Ole Miss necessarily has severely less talent than the rest of the SEC, but the talent it did have never meshed correctly. A new coach and culture could be an easy, quick fix.
Whoever Ole Miss brings in will provide a sense of newness that the program has desperately needed. There will be a new lead voice in the Rebel locker room next season, and that is something to be excited about.
As previously mentioned, Ole Miss was not expected to make any noise after the regular season ended, but the fact that they did shows great promise and development from this team. As the university continues its search for a new head coach, it will become more and more important to get the hire right in order to get Ole Miss back to where it needs to be.