#126 Mississippi Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Mississippi Rebels

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #126
Conference Rank: #11 SEC

Mississippi Team Page#126 Mississippi Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy Mississippi Basketball Tickets

It must be really tough to be an Ole Miss Rebels basketball fan. I’m not saying this because they’re a bad team; because they aren’t. In fact, they’ve been one of the most consistent teams in the SEC for the past decade or so. However, in that time, they’ve never had a really, really good team. Andy Kennedy, entering his 10th year as the head coach of the Rebels has led five Rebel teams to the NIT and two to the NCAA Tournament (only missed out on the postseason twice). That’s consistency at its best. Still, the farthest the Rebels have gotten in the tournament was the third round (back in 2012-13) and they never advanced past the semifinals of the NIT in the Kennedy era either. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem likely to change this season. They have a couple good returners from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, but don’t have the same depth that they relied on so heavily last year. Still, Kennedy has shocked us before, and this year’s squad still has a bona fide superstar in senior Stefan Moody (16.6 ppg last season).

2014-2015 Record: 21-13, 11-7
2014-15 Postseason: NCAA Tournament
Coach: Andy Kennedy
Coach Record: 192-114 at Ole Miss, 213-126 overall

Who’s Out:
Overall, the Rebels are losing just about 60% of all their points (73 per game) from last season. That may seem like a lot, but it’s really not that bad considering they’re losing seven guys. That means that none of these players were huge difference makers last season. Still, a couple key guys are gone. One of the biggest names leaving is Jarvis Summers. The 2014-15 campaign was a greatly disappointing season for Summers, who absolutely dominated in 2013-14 (17.3 ppg, 3.8 apg, 48.6% FGP). He had small spurts of dominance, but was incredibly inconsistent and quickly gave up the role of “MVP of the team” to Stefan Moody early in the year. Still, that didn’t mean Summers was useless. He led the team in assists (4.8 per game) and had one of the highest assist-turnover ratios (2.4) on the team as well. At the same time, there’s no denying he was expected to do more for this club going into the year. His once lethal midrange and outside shot completely disappeared (24.6% three point percentage in 2014-15, 42.3% as a junior) and his shot selection was poor at best (33.1% FGP). He was still an intense driver going to the basket (5 free throw attempts per game), which gave him a couple extra points on his still iffy average (12 ppg). He didn’t live up to the hype, but Summers was still a rock solid DI point guard last season who didn’t turn the ball over a lot, led his team in the big moments, and dished out the rock; he’ll be missed.

The next big guy leaving is LaDarius “Snoop” White. White, a four year player out of McComb, Missouri really came into his own last season at Ole Miss. His first three seasons were a bit disappointing, as he never averaged more than 22 minutes or scored more than 8 points per game. However, that all changed last season. His minutes (23.7 per game) were still low, but he became a much more effective player in that short time period. It all started with his outside stroke. A low 30% shooter from downtown in his first three seasons, he boosted that number all the way up to 39.7% last year. He also became a much more adequate perimeter defender (although he was still far from elite in that aspect of his game). Three-point shooters off the bench help space the floor and give an instant injection of offense and energy into the team. He won’t be missed as much as Summers, but he was still a guy that did a whole lot to help his team, and not a whole lot to hurt it. The last notable player leaving is M.J. Rhett. Rhett didn’t score a whole lot last season for the Rebels (7.4 ppg) but he was a consistent rebounder (4.8 rpg) who converted on a lot of shots (57.3%) and was a fine defender on the other end. A three year player at Tennessee State (10.9 ppg, 9.1 rpg in his last season), it looked as if Rhett was just starting to get comfortable at the SEC level later on in the year. His presence down low will be missed on both sides of the ball. Two other double digit minutes per game players from last season that are leaving are Dwight Coleby (5.4 ppg, transfer) and Aaron Jones (3.0 ppg, graduation).

Who’s In:
No surprise here: for yet another year, Andy Kennedy went out and got himself some pretty nice recruits. He brings in an experienced transfer, three ranked recruits (JUCO and freshmen) and one unranked shooting guard. Tomasz Gielo, a power forward, transferred from Liberty and will be immediately eligible in his one season with the Rebels. Gielo is an extremely versatile power forward who has the size and strength (6-9, 220 pounds) to battle with most 4’s down low, but also the soft touch (40.7% three point percentage last season) to keep defenders watching him on the perimeter. His defense is a ways behind his offense, but he’s a guy that will be able to contribute next season even though he played at a much lower level (Big South). He may not average 12 and 6 like he did last year, but 10-11 points and a few rebounds certainly isn’t out of reach. The unranked recruit is small forward Rasheed Brooks from Mansfield, Ohio. A good sized three (6-6, 215 pounds), Brooks is certainly not going to be outmuscled by many small forwards around the nation next season. However, he might be out-performed by them. Brooks, although a strong specimen, is still very raw offensively. He has a solid midrange game and is crafty in the lane, but doesn’t quite have the shot or instincts needed to be an everyday player at this point in his career. The potential is there, but Brooks will seriously need to work on adding a better shot before he can be taken seriously.

Sam Finley, a two star JUCO transfer from Corona, California, could be a different story. Exceptionally athletic, quick in the open floor and capable as a shooter, Finley seems destined to be a rock solid DI player next season. His defense and handles are both a little iffy, but his raw athleticism and speed should make up for those faults. Even if he doesn’t play a whole lot of minute next season, I can guarantee you’ll see at least one high-flying clip of him; whether that’s in practice or during a game. The final two recruits (both 3 stars) are the one’s generating the most buzz at the Ole Miss campus. They are point guard J.T. Escobar from Tallahassee, Florida, and shooting guard Terence Davis from Southaven, Mississippi. However, they are generating buzz for completely different reasons. Escobar is easily the safest recruit out of this whole bunch. Smart, talented and a hard-worker, he seems destined to take over the starting point guard role once Stefan Moody graduates after this season. A terrific shooter (both from three and in the midrange), Escobar could really play either guard position if necessary. He’s not a huge guy (6-2, 170 pounds) but is a pesky defender that could keep most guys uncomfortable. Look out for this guy next year. The other 3 star recruit, Terence Davis, is a different story. Although very talented in his own right, the real exciting thing about Davis is his athleticism. A wide receiver in football, Davis is lightning quick, surprisingly strong (6-5, 190 pounds) and has no trouble elevating for dunks. His shot is better than I was expecting it to be, but it could still use some work. Also, his defense, although very physical, is far from elite as well. Still, an athlete of his caliber is not seen very often, so this is a great pickup by Kennedy.

Who to Watch:
No way to sugarcoat it here: the Rebels don’t have a whole lot of big returning guys. Besides superstar Stefan Moody, only two other guys (Sebastian Saiz, Martavious Newby) are even worth a mention. Still, you got something at least when a player of Moody’s caliber comes back for another year. A good player over at FAU in his freshman season (15.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg) many people forgot about Moody when he transferred over to Ole Miss for his final two years of eligibility. Well, to put it simply, people remembered him again last year. Exciting, athletic and never afraid of the big moments, Moody quickly became the soft-spoken leader of the Rebels. His 35.1% three-point percentage may not seem all that impressive, but when Moody got hot from downtown, he was a hazard to touch. However, he wasn’t just a pure shooter for the Rebels last season, either. His quickness and crafty movement in the lane made up for his small size (5-10, 179 pounds) as he averaged 4.9 free throws per game (90.3% FT%). His 38.8% field goal percentage is a tough number to ignore, but there’s no denying Moody made up for the spotty percentage by giving the Rebels a consistent 15-18 points per game and hustle on the defensive end. With Summers and White gone, Moody could very well be a 20+ppg scorer next season.

Moody may be the most recognizable returner, but Sebastian Saiz, a rising junior big man, is another guy that could play a huge role in next year’s offensive scheme. Saiz isn’t a particularly tall big (6-9), but he’s strong and tough inside (233 pounds) once he sets up on the block. Still very raw offensively, Saiz started to show more of a jumper by the end of the season, but still got the vast majority of his 7.6 ppg inside. This isn’t a bad thing, but adding a midrange jumper to his game could certainly help the spacing of the Ole Miss offense. If not that, he could at least get a little crisper with his post moves. He showed a nice jump hook and a couple nice spin moves last season, but was far from perfect. Defensively, he’ll need to start fouling less (4.9 per 40 minutes). He showed shot-blocking potential last year (1.8 per 40 minutes) but needs to stay on the court more (23.2 mpg) to be a real factor on that end of the floor. Kennedy doesn’t need Saiz to average 15 and 10 next year, but 11-13 points with high single digit rebounds could give the Rebels the inside force they need to compliment Moody’s terrific perimeter game. The final notable returner is senior wing Martavious Newby. Newby is a really interesting college basketball player. Skill-wise, he still has a ways to go before he can be seen as any type of weapon. His 4.0 points per game last season made that quite clear. Still, it’s always said that “you can’t teach hustle” and it’s quite clear that it’s something that Newby was just born with. A strong wing (6-3, 210 pounds), Newby grabbed a jaw dropping 10.6 rebounds per 40 minutes last season…as a guard. He’s also an intense defender (1.2 spg) that makes nothing easy for his opponents. A high energy bench player last season, the defensive minded wing will need to play more of a role in the 2015-16 season rotation if they hope to survive in the SEC.

Final Projection:
Ole Miss shocked the college basketball world in last year’s tournament by upsetting the heavily favored BYU Cougars in the play-in game. They did it by spreading the ball around, getting a ton of people involved and playing team defense. Next season, it may be hard to do that. Stefan Moody, the team’s leading scorer from last season returns (16.6 ppg) but his two partners in crime from last year (Jarvis Summers, Ladarius White) both graduated, as well as big man M.J. Rhett. Sebastian Saiz has the physical tools and athleticism to make a difference down low, but will need to become more polished offensively if he hopes to demand attention in the post. Having a quality transfer like Tomasz Gielo certainly takes the pressure off the younger recruits, which is a big help. It’s all there talent-wise, but putting it all together is going to be a tough task for head coach Andy Kennedy.

Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT

Projected Starting Five:
Stefan Moody, Senior, Guard, 16.6 points per game
Sam Finley, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Martavious Newby, Senior, Guard, 4.0 points per game
Tomasz Gielo, Senior, Forward, 12.0 points per game
Sebastian Saiz, Junior, Forward, 7.6 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 72.8 (48th in nation, 4th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 68.4 (233, 12)
Field-Goal Percentage: 42.3 (228, 11)
Field-Goal Defense: 40.4 (68, 6)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.5 (160, 6)  
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 33.2 (215, 8)
Free-Throw Percentage: 77.3 (3, 1)
Rebound Margin: 2.6 (91, 5)
Assists Per Game: 13.2 (116, 7)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.1 (51, 2)

Madness 2015 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#161 Donte Fitzpatrick-Dorsey
#163 Terence Davis


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