Ole Miss Basketball Preview: #32
Overall Rank: #32
Conference Rank: #5 Southeastern Conference
2008-09: 16-15, 7-9
2008-09 postseason: none
Coach: Andy Kennedy (61-39 at Mississippi, 82-52 overall)
The fact that Mississippi managed to win seven games in the SEC is quite impressive considering the injury problems that they endured last season. Coach Andy Kennedy has this program moving in the right direction and he deserves a ton of credit for winning 16 games in 2008-2009 with a very young team that was often forced into action unexpectadly.
Key Losses: G David Huertas, F Malcolm White
With the return of a handful of injured players who missed a lot of time last season, the newcomers will not be asked to do too much. However, 6-8 forward Reginald Buckner is a highly regarded recruit who can score, rebound, block shots and even pass the ball very effectively. DeAngelo Riley, a junior college transfer, has the experience to contribute as well and the battle for playing time in the frontcourt will be fierce. The only addition to the backcourt is redshirt freshman Michael Halford. He is a good shooter, but he may have to bide his time before he is able to provide a spark off the bench.
Eniel Polynice and Trevor Gaskins only played in two games before missing the rest of the season with injuries and Chris Warren played in 11 games. It is Warren who is the superstar of this team and when he went down, the Rebels followed. In those 11 games Warren averaged an impressive 19.6 points and 4.0 assists per game. Now fully healthy, Warren will lead this team to the NCAA Tournament. Two years ago Polynice started 31 games and averaged 10.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.6 steals. The do-it-all wing will be a welcome addition to the starting lineup and will help take the pressure off of Warren. Gaskins only averaged 5.9 points per game when he was playing two years ago, but he is a capable player who will make an impact off the bench.
Most of the talent is on the perimeter and Coach Kennedy could certainly play small in many situations, but there are a few quality frontcourt players who will battle for playing time. At 6-7 and 225 pounds, Murphy Holloway is a little small to play the five spot, but he can spend some time there. Holloway had a great freshman campaign averaging 8.4 points and a team high 6.6 rebounds. Terrance Henry also showed promise as a freshman and he is the type of player who has size and can step outside and hit the mid-range jumper with consistency. If the Rebels want to play big, it is DeAundre Cranston who will be on the floor. He started ten games last season and proved to be a strong rebounder and a decent defender.
Who to Watch:
With Polynice gone, Terrico White and Zach Graham really stepped up their game. White, who earned SEC Freshman of the Year honors last season, is poised for another big year. He ranked third on the team with 13.7 points per game and has the size and the outside shot to emerge as one of the most dynamic scorers in the conference. Graham will not hit the outside shot as consistently as White, but he can score above the rim and is a decent rebounder.
This is still a young team and Cranston is the only senior on the roster. The big question is whether or not this group can put their best five players on the floor at the same time. If they do, it will be a very undersized frontcourt, but a bunch of guards who are at least 6-5. In certain situations it will work and Ole Miss will be running up and down the floor and scoring points in a hurry, but there will be times when Cranston and Henry will be needed to stop a dominating opposing big man.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Chris Warren, Junior, Guard, 19.6 points per game
Terrico White, Sophomore, Guard, 13.7 points per game
Eniel Polynice, Junior, Guard, 4.0 points per game
Murphy Holloway, Sophomore, Forward, 8.4 points per game
DeAundre Cranston, Senior, Forward, 3.1 points per game
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