If you want to talk about some good news rolling the Kentucky’s way after back to back games against top 10 opponents, Ole Miss is next on the schedule. Now, this is not to say that the current Ole Miss team isn’t a talented squad; however, UK leads the all time series over the Rebels 104-13. No, that’s not a typo. 104-13, including a stretch of 39 straight wins from 1929 to 1973. The Cats have beatenn Ole Miss 9 of the last 10 times, so I think it is a good time for the Rebels to pop up on the Cats’ schedule.
Head Coach Andy Kennedy has been the coach down in Oxford since 2006. He took on a bear of a job and has done a pretty good job at bringing success to the program. The two-time SEC Coach of the Year has garnered enough attention to get a brand new $96.5 million arena built for this season, and the Cats get to be the first SEC opponent to break it in.
Coach Kennedy has tinkered with his starting lineup all season, so let’s take a look at what the projected starting lineup could be tonight against the Cats.
#11 Sebastian Saiz, Senior Forward, 6’9″
Sebastian Saiz is a two and a half year starter coming into this season, starting all but four games over the last two years. Saiz is a big body down low and is a tremendous rebounder, leading the team in back to back seasons on the boards.
Saiz is averaging a double-double through the first half of the season, putting up 15.2 points and 12.1 rebounds per game, to go along with 1.5 blocks per game. Saiz can knock down a jumper if necessary, shooting 33% from deep this season, but also gets a lot of his points in the paint and from offensive rebounds.
The senior forward is going to be a tough test for the Cats to keep off the boards, as the third best rebounder in the country. He will most likely match up with Bam Adebayo, the most talented big that Saiz has faced this season. If Bam plays like he did against Louisville in spurts, and the guards actually get him the ball more than once every 9 or so possessions, then he should be fine against the experienced forward.
#1 Deandre Burnett, Junior Guard, 6’2″
Deandre Burnett sat out all of last season due to NCAA transfer rules. He transferred to Ole Miss after two seasons at Miami. He used a medical redshirt his freshman year for the Canes, but was still only playing less than 18 minutes per game his sophomore season when healthy.
This year, Burnett is leading the Rebels in scoring in his first season for Andy Kennedy. He’s averaging 19.2 points, 2.8 assists, and 2.3 rebounds per contest. He’s a volume shooter for Ole Miss, taking 40 more shots than anyone else on the team. He has the 14th best free throw percentage in the country at 91.9% on the season, missing only 8 of his 99 attempts.
Despite being a big scorer for the Rebels, I think Burnett could get in trouble against the defensive pressure of UK’s guards. I know that the defensive guard play was pretty miserable against Louisville, but Burnett is already averaging 3.3 turnovers per game against some weaker competition, so his matchup with Isaiah Briscoe should favor the Cats if he tries to play at the speed Kentucky’s backcourt will try to force him into.
#3 Terence Davis, Sophomore Guard, 6’4″
Terence Davis was barely a contributor last season, playing only 6.6 minutes per game in 20 games. However, this season, he has bumped to a starting role and 22 minutes per game. Davis has made fantastic use of his newfound time on the floor and has turned into one of the main contributors on this year’s squad.
Davis is putting up 12.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, and a team-leading 1.3 steals per game for Ole Miss so far this year. He’s taken the second most shots on the team, despite playing the least of most of the players who have started a game this year for the Rebels.
On top of his offensive production, Davis is a solid defender who will probably draw match-ups with both Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox, and Isaiah Briscoe at times tonight. Ole Miss starts a similar sized lineup to UK with three guys 6’4″ or smaller, so the defensive mindset should involve a lot of switching on picks for the Cats.
#2 Cullen Neal, Junior Guard, 6’4″
Cullen Neal spent his first three seasons at New Mexico playing for his father on a less than stellar Lobos squad. One of those seasons was used as a medical redshirt, which surprisingly had nothing to do with his transfer. After putting up just average stats in 30 minutes a game for his dad’s team, it was reported that Neal began receiving death threats for losing games for the Lobos. The story garnered national attention, and at the end of the season, Neal announced his transfer to Ole Miss.
Now that Neal’s life has calmed a bit, he’s become a solid contributor for Andy Kennedy. He’s scoring 12.3 points, dishing out a team-leading 3.7 assists, and pulling down 2 boards per game. Neal can stroke the deep shot, shooting a team high 43.1% from 3 this season, to go along with an 81.8% clip from the charity stripe.
As a part of that three-headed dog that is the Ole Miss backcourt, Neal will matchup up with one of UK’s three guards. I think most likely to be guarded by Malik Monk, but everyone knows Coach Cal gets some crazy ideas on the defensive end sometimes.
#5 Marcanvis Hymon, Junior Forward, 6’7″
Marcanvis Hymon started a third of the games last season for the Rebels. He was the team leader in field goal percentage and blocked shots, despite coming off of the bench for most of the year.
This year is more of the same from Hymon in a larger position to contribute. He’s again leading the team in field goal percentage, shooting 58.1% from the floor, as well as leading the team in blocked shots with 1.7 blocks per game. Hymon is also averaging 4.1 points and 4.3 rebounds on the year.
The junior is a good interior defender for his size, which could be a big advantage for the Rebels against the weak four spot combo for the Cats of Derek Willis and Wenyen Gabriel. To the credit of both forwards for the Cats, they rebounded the ball much better against Louisville than they have for most of the season, but they’ll need to get some offense going to provide a spark in the lineup.
Andy Kennedy and the Ole Miss Rebels are 9-3 on the season with losses to #10 Creighton, at Virginia Tech, and against Middle Tennessee State. The best team they’ve beaten is probably a 9-4 Memphis team, but outside of that, their schedule has been pretty weak leading in to conference play. The Cats post a major athletic advantage to almost every team the Rebels have faced this season which bodes well for Kentucky. However, as most SEC schools are against UK, I’m sure Ole Miss is going to be packing the house for a rowdy atmosphere.
Jerry Tipton reported that there is no t shirt promotion tonight, which feels like the first time that’s ever happened in an SEC road game for the Cats since Coach Cal came to Lexington. There’s a t shirt promotion tonight. Shocker. Look for the Cats to take advantage of talent mismatches at multiple positions to try to put Ole Miss away. Keeping the Rebels off the glass will be key to winning the game, in my opinion.
Go Cats. Beat Rebels.