Virginia Tech men’s basketball (6-1) will head to Oxford, MS on Saturday as the Hokies face their first road test of the season. The Ole Miss Rebels (4-2) will be the foe, and Tech knocked them off 80-75 in Cassell Coliseum last season. This year it will be a more difficult challenge on paper, as the game takes place in The Pavilion at Ole Miss.
I say “on paper” because the Rebels haven’t exactly been hitting on all cylinders this season. Here’s a look at their schedule and results thus far…
Louisiana-Lafayette: 94-76 win (Home)
Eastern Kentucky: 85-75 win (Home)
Georgia State: 77-72 win (Home)
Utah: 83-74 loss (Las Vegas)
Rice: 79-62 W (Las Vegas)
South Dakota State: 99-97 OT loss (Home)
South Dakota State also defeated Iowa, Tech’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge opponent. Suffice to say that it’s been a nice November against Power 5 competition for the Jackrabbits, who are a solid mid-major program.
The headline for the recap of the South Dakota State game from the official Ole Miss athletics website begins like this: “Andy Kennedy has implored his team to play with an edge, the sense of urgency needed to compete at college basketball’s highest level. That sense was lacking in the Rebels’ 99-97 home loss to South Dakota State that dropped them to 4-2 on the year.”
Ole Miss is a capable basketball team with talent. Kennedy is in his 12th year as the head coach of the Rebels, and he’s taken them to two NCAA Tournaments and six NITs. He’s won 20 or more games in nine of his 12 seasons, though he hasn’t been able to get over the hump and make his team a perennial NCAA Tournament participant. In many ways, his career at Ole Miss has been very similar to Seth Greenberg’s career at Virginia Tech, and in fact it was Ole Miss under Kennedy who knocked the Hokies under Greenberg out of the NIT in 2008.
Before we get into their starting lineup, let’s look at some efficiency stats for the Rebels…
Offensive Efficiency: No. 37
Defensive Efficiency: No. 218
Effective FG Percentage: No. 68
Def. Effective FG Percentage: No. 189
Offensive Rebound Percentage: No. 103
Defensive Rebound Percentage: No. 224
Overall Rebound Percentage: No. 172
Turnovers per Possession: No. 52
Opponent Turnovers per Possession: No. 180
This is an Ole Miss team that is good offensively, but they are struggling on the defensive end of the court, and they are mediocre rebounders. That bodes well for the smaller Hokie team, who is actually No. 69 nationally in overall rebound percentage, believe it or not. The fact that Tech is No. 1 nationally in effective field goal percentage and No. 4 in offensive efficiency (they moved up a spot since yesterday’s article) means this is a pretty good matchup for VT.
Eight different Ole Miss players have started games for Ole Miss this season, and only two players have started all six games. The lineup seems to be in flux, so we’ll just quickly go over the numbers for each player in their nine-man rotation.
G Terence Davis (6-foot-4, 201 pounds, Jr.): 18 points per game (ppg), 5.8 rebounds per game (rpg). Davis is a talented guard who was his team’s third-leading scorer a year ago.
G Deandre Burnett (6-foot-2, 191 pounds, Sr.): 16.5 ppg, 24 assists, seven turnovers. A senior guard who can score, and who does a good job of taking care of the ball.
G Devontae Shuler (6-foot-2, 192 pounds, Fr.): 12.3 ppg, 10 steals. Shuler is a freshman who attended Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. He leads the team in steals.
G Markel Crawford (6-foot-4, 210 pounds, r-Sr.): 10.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg. Crawford is a graduate transfer from Memphis who leads the team in minutes per game at 30.2.
G Breein Tyree (6-foot-2, 192, So.): 7.8 ppg, 12 assists, seven turnovers. Tyree is another guard who has shown the ability to take care of the ball.
F Bruce Stevens (6-foot-8, 252 pounds, Jr.): 6.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg. A JUCO transfer, Stevens is tied for second on the team in rebounding.
F Marcanvis Hymon (6-foot-7, 220 pounds, Sr.): 6.2 ppg, 8.5 rpg. Hymon has started all six games, and he leads the team in rebounding.
F Justas Furmanavicius (6-foot-7, 210 pounds, Sr.): 3.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg. Furmanavicius is a former JUCO transfer who is originally from Lithuania.
C Dominik Olejniczak (7-feet, 255 pounds, So.): 2.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg. A transfer from Drake, Olejniczak has started four games, but hasn’t been particularly productive in his 14.8 minutes per game.
Ole Miss will play a guard-oriented lineup much of the time, as their only player taller than 6-8 is not particularly productive.
Overall, this Ole Miss team doesn’t have the look and feel of one of Andy Kennedy’s better teams. They’ve been good offensively, but they’ve really struggled on the defensive end, and they haven’t been good on the boards, either.
Coming off a home loss to South Dakota State, and as a result of that loss, they should be mentally ready to go against the Hokies. A second home loss before they hit conference play would be damaging to their postseason resume, and as Tech fans should understand from the Saint Louis game, a defeat at the hands of a mid-major underdog sometimes has a way of waking up a team. This will be the Rebels’ biggest non-conference home game of the season, and they’ll be treating it as such.