HOTTY TODDY: Ole Miss is on Fire
Updated: Mar 24, 2021
There was a lot of hype for Ole Miss basketball coming into this season, despite them losing their leading scorer (2nd leading scorer in the entire SEC) & two time 1st Team All-SEC guard Breein Tyree to the NBA. It’s safe to say Tyree is not an easy replacement, leaving the team as the 6th leading scorer in Ole Miss history with 1,797 career points, 10th leading assist-man with 325 in his career, & the 6th best mark in school history for 3-pointers made with 207.
Along with the departure of Tyree, the Rebels also lost their starting forward Blake Hinson, as he transferred to Iowa State. Bryce Williams showed flashes for the Rebs off the bench last season, but he also transferred, finding his new home at Oklahoma State University, who we briefly highlighted in a previous blog which you can read here.
The Future is Bright in Oxford
Despite losing a few players in the rotation, the future still looked bright for the Rebels, as it was now senior guard Devontae Shuler’s time to shine. He isn’t alone either, as Ole Miss landed their top recruit in program history, 4-Star guard Matthew Murrell, who was ranked the #39 player in his class by ESPN. Coming in with Murrell were a couple graduate transfers in guard Dimencio Vaughn out of Rider University & one of the most sought after grad transfers in the country (ranked #2 by ESPN), forward Romello White from Arizona State University. Two more additions to the team were Robert Allen who transferred from Samford & averaged 14 points and 7 rebounds per game last season, as well as ESPN top 100 prospect Shon Robinson. Another newcomer to this year’s Rebels team is a junior transfer from CSU Bakersfield, who redshirted last season. Jarkel Joiner, a hometown native for Ole Miss, averaged over 18 points in conference play as a sophomore at CSU Bakersfield, where he played for former Ole Miss Head Coach, Rod Barnes, and was awarded 1st Team All-WAC honors. With former 4-star recruit Austin Crowley coming into his 2nd season, forward Khadim Sy entering his 2nd season with Ole Miss, another former 4-star recruit & now second year starting forward KJ Buffen returning for his junior season, and wing player Luis Rodriguez coming back after missing almost all of last season with an injury, the Ole Miss Rebels seemed ready for a great season in the SEC.
With a mix of young guys and newcomers, one can expect a bit of a shaky start, as teams typically need some time to mesh and play their best ball together. Devontae Shuler is the only senior on the team who spent more than two years with Ole Miss, and there are six guys on the team who played their first games for Ole Miss this season. It’s not exactly the recipe for a fast start, but with the talent on this team, nobody should be surprised to see them fighting for a spot in the tourney come March.
After starting the season 8-8 and just 3-6 in SEC play, the Ole Miss Rebels are now red hot on a 4 game win streak, which includes two wins against top 10 teams and a game winning buzzer beater in OT. They got the win streak started with a defensive bout against then #10 ranked Tennessee at home in which they erased a double digit deficit to win 52-50. Next, they traveled to Auburn to take on the Tigers. This was another thrilling finish, as the Rebels won 86-84 thanks to a game-winning buzzer beater from Shuler in OT.
Romello White led the way at Auburn with 30 points and 10 boards, and Shuler added 26. These two performances by Shuler led to him being named an SEC co-player of the week. Then, once again, a #10 team came to Oxford, which hasn’t been a good business decision for teams as of late. Mizzou got 21’d by the Rebs 80-59, as Ole Miss was led by Joiner’s 21 points. That marked two top 10 victories in a 3 game span, which is huge for their tournament hopes. In their last game, Ole Miss traveled to South Carolina where they won their 4th straight game, 81-74. Shuler led the way with a career high 31 points, & did it in his home state. In his four years with Ole Miss, Shuler hadn’t got a win at South Carolina in front of his family and friends, and he came up big in his last chance.
The senior point guard for the Rebels is having a great year so far, as we all expected. His former AAU teammates and #1 & #2 picks in the 2019 NBA Draft Zion Williamson & Ja Morant are not surprised one bit. He’s averaging 16.3 points per game which is tied for 6th in the SEC, he has the 5th most assists in the SEC with 71, and the 4th most steals with 34; right behind his teammate Luis Rodriguez who has 35. Along with being towards the top in the SEC, he’s also creeping up the Ole Miss record books. During this 4 game winning streak, Shuler moved to 9th in school history in 3 pointers made with 168 and counting, creeping up on his former teammate and now Toronto Raptors guard Terence Davis, who currently sits at 8th with 176. He’s also 4th in school history in steals with 176 and only needs 4 more to move into the top 3.
I spoke with former Ole Miss star Breein Tyree about his former team and the culture he left behind. "I believe I made my mark on Ole Miss basketball history. Now it's time to keep it going and represent what Ole Miss culture is", said Tyree. In regards to his former backcourt partner, Breein had this to say; "I talk to Shu a lot, he's like a brother to me. He brings his talent every night and he's shown he's a true leader this year through his numbers and making the plays late in the game to WIN!"
Will the Rebs be Dancing in 2021?
As of right now, Ole Miss is one of only 10 teams in the country who are undefeated against ranked teams this season. Thanks to this 4 game win streak coming at the perfect time, they have now entered the conversation when it comes to March Madness. Joe Lunardi added them to his “Next Four Out” section of the bubble, so with a few m
ore wins they’ll be moving up on that list. Andy Katz has also now listed the Rebels at #27 of his Power 36 rankings. If they keep this momentum going, they should be a lock for making their (technically) second straight NCAA Tournament appearance, as Terence Davis and Breein Tyree, now both in the Toronto Raptors’ organization, led them to the dance in 2019.
Ole Miss is red hot right now, and they have some big games coming up. If they capitalize on these moments, they’ll surely be in the dance. Their next game should be on Thursday, February 18th, barring another rescheduling due to weather conditions. They’ve got LSU coming to Oxford with a record of 13-6 & 8-4 in SEC play. Ole Miss gets their shot at revenge as they lost at LSU earlier in the year, 75-61. Next, they’ll play Mississippi State, who they handled pretty easily earlier in the season, 64-46, behind 22 points from Shuler. After that, they play Mizzou again, then Vandy & a 6-13 Kentucky team to close out the regular season. These 5 games will be critical for Ole Miss leading into the SEC Tournament. This is not financial advice, but the Rebels have +2000 odds to win the SEC Tournament... just saying.
Watch Out, SEC
Oh, don’t think that their leader Devontae Shuler leaving after this season makes this an all or bust season. The Rebels have sneakily formed the #1 recruiting class in the SEC for next season, and 14th in the country. They’ve got two 4-star commitments so far, including Daeshun Ruffin who is ranked the number 4 point guard in the nation, to fill in for Shuler. They’ve also got a commitment from a 3-star guard as well. It’s obviously early, but don’t sleep on Ole Miss basketball in the SEC.