Coming off of two close losses to No. 12 Kentucky and conference opponent Missouri, the Ole Miss men’s basketball team will take on the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Pavilion on Saturday night.
This game could be considered inconsequential during a normal college basketball year, but these teams are vying to keep their fading March Madness hopes alive.
The Rebels and the Tide have had what can only be described as rollercoaster seasons. The Rebels had a good start, but they faced a major drought in the middle of the season when they dropped seven losses in a row.
The Tide’s rollercoaster began before they stepped on the court to play its game. After securing Villanova transfer and 5-star guard Jahvon Quinerly, who has experienced many ups and downs in his short collegiate career, there was hope that he would be granted a transfer waiver and not have to sit out the year as per the NCAA. However, those hopes were quickly squashed when his transfer waiver was denied, side-lining him for the 2019-20 season.
Even without Quinerly, the Tide has been able to inspire crafty and strong plays with their guards averaging 80 points per game. The three starting guards on the team are the Tide’s leading scorers; Kira Lewis Jr. is at the top averaging 17.5 points per game, John Petty Jr. right behind him at 15 points per game and Jaden Shackelford with 14.3 points per game.
Not only has the Tide been effective and volume scoring out their guards, but they also make up most of the teams rebounding, four of the five top rebounders on the team are guards with Petty Jr. leading the team with seven rebounds per game.
This contributes to their highly effective offense; when the ball comes off the rim, they do not have to find a guard as he generally already has the ball, leading to quick buckets on the break.
On the other side, the Rebels have ranked close to the bottom in pace of play this year. On paper, this seems to be a nightmare matchup for the Rebels, but if head coach Kermit Davis can limit the pace of play and take advantage of the Tide’s lack of size on the boards, the Rebels may just have a chance to win.
This game is an absolute must-win for both teams, and with that, expect to see some hard play from them in what will be an interesting and exciting matchup to watch.
If the Rebels can beat Alabama and win out the rest of the season, they could put themselves in position to sneak into the tournament.