While most of the country will be watching thrilling “First 4” action in the NCAA Tournament on Wednesday, California will be opening up their own postseason play. They will take on Mississippi at home in Haas Pavillion Wednesday night at 6 PM Pacific. As an SEC team, we probably haven’t seen much of Ole Miss. What should we expect?
Mississippi went 20-13, which is a pretty good year, but also a puzzling one. The Rebels beat NCAA Tournament teams in Kentucky and Penn State, but they also dropped games to SEC cellardwellers Auburn, South Carolina, and Mississippi State. Their SEC Tournament run ended with a loss to Kentucky.
Ole Miss runs a slightly up-tempo style of play, and it shows. They’re a pretty good offensive team, but defensive play is a struggle for them. They were the worst defensive team in SEC conference play this year. The Rebels are very experienced, starting 3 upper classman. They don’t really have any post presence and they don’t get many attempts at the free throw line. Throwing up 3 pointers will be a big part of Ole Miss’ gameplan.
In the backcourt, look out for Chris Warren. The senior point guard has been the Rebels’ point guard all 4 years, and has finished his career with a solid 19 points per game. He’s a good passer who won’t turn the ball over, and he’ll score the basketball efficiently. Warren is the biggest threat to a Bear victory. Joining him is the lone freshman starter, Dundrecous Nelson. Despite his odd first name, Nelson provides decent 3 point shooting and solid athleticism. The final guard in the 3 guard set-up is 6-6 senior Zach Graham. He and Warren take over 50% of the team’s shots, so if they are stopped then the Bears should win. Graham plays good defense and won’t turn the ball over. He finally built an offensive game in his final season, averaging 14.1 points after not reaching double figures his first 3 years. Trevor Gaskins comes off the bench to provide some 3 point shooting and to cause some turnovers while he’s playing defense. Former Indiana guard Nick Williams provides decent scoring and some athleticism as a reserve.
The front court is anchored by 6-9 junior Terrance Henry. Henry doesn’t have much of an offensive game, although when he’s not turning it over Henry does a decent job at converting his shots. His main impact comes on defense, where he provides a shot blocking presence and a solid rebounding body. He’ll give either Kamp or Sanders-Frison some problems. Reginald Buckner is a sophomore big who will be counted on as well. He’s one of the best shot blockers out there, and he does a great job at rebounding the basketball. His offensive impact is minimal despite making 60% of his shots, and he’s highly prone to foul trouble. The backups in the front court are Steadman Short and Demarco Cox, both who are in their first year at Mississippi. Neither has seen much action, although both provide some size and rebounding as reserves.
KenPom prediction: 78-73 Cal, 68% confidence
My take: Ole Miss is an experienced, tough team, especially when they are at their home court. The problem? They’ve been atrocious on the road, and they struggle at times against teams with quality size. With Kamp and Sanders-Frison in the frontcourt and the game in Berkeley, I got this one going down as a Golden Bear victory.