Ole Miss basketball heads to Tuscaloosa Tuesday, where they’ll face off with the Alabama Crimson Tide in their second road SEC contest of the season.
The Rebels are coming off of a week in which they split their two matchups, losing badly at home vs LSU, but returning the favor in a 17 point drubbing of Arkansas in which they never trailed. After opening up in last week’s AP Poll at No. 18, Ole Miss has now dropped to No. 20, marking the first time since 2009 that the Rebels were ranked in the top-20 for consecutive weeks.
The Crimson Tide are 2-3 in SEC play, with a loss on Saturday to now No. 1 ranked Tennessee in which the Tide shot 8-18 from the free throw line and squandered multiple opportunities down the stretch to pull off one of the most monumental road upsets in program history.
Alabama has been wildly inconsistent to this point in the season. The numbers indicate that they’re an average team; they’re virtually middle of the pack in every major statistical category, yet they’ve defeated Arizona, Wichita State and Kentucky this season. However, they’ve also lost to Northeastern, Georgia State and a bad Texas A&M team that’s 1-4 in SEC play and 7-9 for the season.
Alabama is led by their backcourt, Kira Lewis and John Petty. Lewis is the leading scorer at 14.2 points per game, but Petty offers the boom or bust potential that can put Alabama over the top, irrespective of opponent. Petty dropped 30 against Tennessee, almost willing the Tide on his own to the upset. But for each scoring outburst, there’s a dud to compound it. In 17 games, Petty has eight games that resulted in single-digit scoring nights.
For Ole Miss, the formula for victory is the same it has been all year long. The Rebels rank in the top-30 in 2-Point field goal percentage and opponent field goal percentage, an indicator that despite lacking a true rim protector, the combo of Dominik Olejniczak and a suffocating interior team defense are thwarting shots around the rim.
Additionally, despite giving up over 10 offensive rebounds per game, Ole Miss ranks 5th nationally in opponent defensive rebounds. They’ve won the rebounding battle in 15 of 17 games this season. Terence Davis is a major factor in controlling the glass, averaging 6.1 per game and leading the team while ratcheting up his efforts in conference play, averaging over 8 a game in five SEC contests.
It would be easy for Kermit Davis’ team to look past Alabama, a team that doesn’t project to make the NCAA tournament nor much noise in the SEC. But as they’ve proven against Tennessee and Kentucky, this team won’t be an easy out.
If Ole Miss can get past the Tide, they stare down a matchup Saturday with No. 24 ranked Iowa State who has wins over Kansas and Texas Tech this season. From this point forward, every week is a major week for the Rebels.