Today, the Kentucky Wildcats welcome the Mississippi Rebels into Rupp Arena for the Wildcats' 12th SEC game of the season and an opportunity to extend their current 17-game winning streak to 18 games. This will be the 112th meeting between the two SEC founding members.
Ole Miss is coming off a thunderous loss to the Vanderbilt Commodores in Oxford, 102-76, that included some post-game theatrics and fan misbehavior. If that weren't enough negatives for the Rebels, they are coming into Rupp on the short Thursday-Saturday turn, a situation that has received much commentary from the coaches and media in the last month or so.
The Wildcats, at this moment, have been on a major roll, to the the extent that they have remained essentially unchallenged at the top of the polls for several weeks now. The Wildcats have appeared dominant at home over the last several games, but there is a general fear that sooner or later this team will take somebody lightly, and that will result in an upset. If there was ever a team that could be taken lightly, but shouldn't be, it's Ole Miss.
|Jelan Kendrick||Maj. Res.||R. Fr.||F||14||19.7||1.6||5.6||29.1||0.3||1.3||22.2||0.6||1.4||42.1||0.5||1.4||1.9||1.7||1.6||1.4||0.1||1.0||4.1|
|LaDarius White||Maj. Res||Fr.||G||14||13.2||1.3||4.4||29.0||0.5||2.4||20.6||0.9||1.4||63.2||0.4||1.2||1.6||1.1||1.4||0.6||0.2||0.9||3.9|
|Demarco Cox||Maj. Res.||So.||C||24||14.2||1.5||2.8||52.2||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.5||1.0||44.0||1.5||1.9||3.3||0.4||0.6||0.2||0.6||1.2||3.4|
|Will Norman||Res||R. Fr.||G||2||2.5||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.5||0.5||0.0||0.5||0.0||0.5||0.5||0.0|
None for either team.
Ole Miss Strengths vs. UK
- Offensive rebounding. The Rebels are are leading the SEC in offensive rebounding.
- Getting to the line. The Rebels get to the line a lot, but Kentucky is really good at not putting teams on the stripe.
- Mississippi is a decent shot-blocking team -- nothing like UK, but still very good, 3rd in the SEC.
- Experience. Ole Miss is a very experienced team.
Ole Miss Weaknesses vs. UK
- Free throw shooting. The Rebels are shooting a galactically-horrible 59% from the line.
- 2-point shooting. Kentucky is a much stronger defensive team than Ole Miss is offensive.
- Turnovers. Ole Miss turns it over 22% of the time, 10th in the league.
- 3-point defense. The Rebels give up a high percentage from outside
Kentucky Strengths vs. Ole Miss
- Overall offense. Kentucky's offensive efficiency is 1.19 points/possession, and Ole Miss' is less than 1.
- Overall defense. Kentucky's defensive efficiency is fairly close to Ole Miss' offensive efficiency, a very bad statistic, since Kentucky's DE is #1 in the SEC.
- Ballhandling. Kentucky is best in the SEC at taking care of the basketball.
- Home court advantage
Kentucky Weaknesses vs. Ole Miss
- Defensive rebounding. Kentucky is sixth in defensive rebounding, and Ole Miss is a very good offensive rebounding team.
Key Matchups for Kentucky:
- Terrence Henry. Henry is a very flexible and talented player who can score inside and out. He will be a challenging matchup even for Kentucky good interior defenders.
- Reginald Buckner. Buckner is the second-best offensive rebounder in the conference, and is very athletic, the third-best shot blocker in the conference.
Key Matchups for Ole Miss
- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Darius Miller. Ole Miss has nobody in their rotation that can handle these guys.
- Doron Lamb. Lamb has been so hot from three lately, and Ole Miss such a poor 3-point defensive team, that they really must find a way to limit Lamb's touches. He could torch them for a big number.
This year has been a disaster for Ole Miss. Their leading scorer, Dundracious Nelson, along with reserves Jamal Jones, and Dale Hughes were dismissed from the team for being caught with marijuana, and they just suffered an awful beat-down at the hands of the Vanderbilt Commodores in Oxford earlier this week.
The Rebels are in disarray after the miserable affair on Thursday, and that carries an element of danger for Kentucky. You never know how teams will react to internal strife, and it is just possible that that the debacle in Oxford earlier this week was the catharsis this team needs to gel. Ole Miss is a fairly talented team, and most people believe they should be better than they have shown this year. That blowup is likely to lead to one of two things -- disintegration, or bonding. Kentucky must be wary of the latter.
On paper, Ole Miss is markedly inferior to Kentucky in every measurable way except offensive rebounding, which while not insignificant, should not be enough to overcome everything else. Unfortunately, paper games are not for college basketball teams, but fans playing fantasy sports.
The Rebels know they are coming into a game that has a low probability of yielding a victory, so they are going to be looking toward playing Kentucky one possession at a time and counting each exchange that favors them as a mini-victory. Kentucky, on the other hand, has no reason to fear the Rebels given their performance on the season, and it is John Calipari's unenviable task to paint the struggling Rebels as an angry troll capable of rising up and feasting on Wildcat.
If Ole Miss is still in this game at halftime, it is on like Donkey Kong, and Kentucky had better realize that taking the air out of the Rebel sails needs to be done quickly and methodically. If Kentucky comes out like the #1 team in America in the first ten minutes, the rest of the game is likely to go according to form.