David Cloninger

Previewing SEC basketball: Ole Miss

Andy Kennedy
Andy Kennedy AP

Other previews

Oct. 29 Alabama

Oct. 30 Arkansas

Oct. 31 Auburn

Nov. 1 Florida

Nov. 2 Georgia

Nov. 3 Kentucky

Nov. 4 LSU

Nov. 5 Mississippi State

Nov. 6 Missouri


Coach (record at school, years; overall record, years): Andy Kennedy (212-126 Ole Miss, 11th year; 233-139, 12th year)

2015-16 record (SEC finish): 20-12 (10-8)

2015-16 postseason: None



2016-17 media predicted finish: 9

DC’s predicted finish: 7

He’s outta here (senior unless otherwise noted): G Martavious Newby (4.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg), F Tomasz Gielo (9.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg), F Anthony Perez (7.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg), G Stefan Moody (23.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg), G J.T. Escobar (1.2 ppg, 0.1 rpg, transferred to North Florida), F Terry Brutus (0.6 ppg, 0.9 rpg, transferred to Samford), G Alex Shepard (DNP, transferred to Northwest Mississippi Community College), G Sam Finley (5.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg)

He’s here (freshman unless otherwise noted): F Justas Furmanavicius (Jr., transferred from Three Rivers Community College, eligible this year) F Nate Morris, C Karlis Silins, G Breein Tyree, G Cullen Neal (Jr., transferred from New Mexico, eligible this year), C Dominik Olejniczak (transferred from Drake, ineligible this year), G Lane Below (Jr., transferred from Three Rivers Community College, eligible this year)

Top returners: 6-9 F Sebastian Saiz (11.7 ppg, 8.7 rpg), 6-5 G Rasheed Brooks (8.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg), 6-7 F Marcanvis Hymon (6.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg)

Ole Miss probably won’t be as exciting to watch this season.

That said, it should still win its share of games and in contention for a top-four finish in the SEC and an NCAA tournament berth.

Andy Kennedy, now the longest-tenured coach in the SEC who continues to add to his total as the winningest coach in Ole Miss history, hasn’t backed off on his plan of recruiting talent from other schools. He set up a branch campus in Connecticut and got three players from Three Rivers CC, then nabbed New Mexico grad transfer Cullen Neal to be his point guard.

But the days of the high-scoring Marshall Henderson and Stefan Moody (each JUCO transfers) are over. The Rebels will look very different this year as they take the ball from the guards and give it to the posts.

Senior Sebastian Saiz is fully recovered from a detached retina that cost him six games last year. The smooth-shooting Spaniard will be the focal point of Ole Miss’ offense until the new guys get their feet wet.

The bright side of the new guards is each of them – Neal and Miami transfer DeAndre Burnett – played at the highest level, Neal just last year. Kennedy hopes there won’t be that much of a transition but the question will be how often a new team replaces what it lost.

Moody was so talented and so dangerous, scoring at least 29 points nine times last season, that it was easy to hand him the ball in a tight game and ask him to take over. Saiz will have limited moves if he’s camping on the block, and while Neal may get around 15 points per game, his last year at New Mexico came with a severe shooting slump.

The Rebels usually trip a few times in the non-conference schedule and the SEC won’t be strong enough to do them any favors. They’ll get their 20 wins, but a tournament berth may be out of reach.

Although having the best graduate manager in the history of basketball, Wilbur Allen, can only help.


Coach (record at school, years; overall record, years): Matt Insell (41-54 fourth year/overall)

2015-16 record (SEC finish): 10-20 (2-14)

2015-16 postseason: None



2016-17 media predicted finish: 14

DC’s predicted finish: 9

She’s outta here (senior unless otherwise noted): G/F Precious Person (2.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg, dismissed, playing professionally overseas) F Jonell Williams (2.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, transferred to North Florida), F Kelsey Briggs (4.6 ppg, 1.9 rpg, transferred to Houston), G A’Queen Hayes (6.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, dismissed, transferred to Eastern Kentucky), G Kiara Golden (3.4 ppg, 1.0 rpg)

She’s here (freshman unless otherwise noted): F Kate Rodgers, F/C Shelby Gibson, G Bree Glover, G Chrishae Rowe (RJr., transferred from Kentucky, eligible after first semester this year), F Taylor Manuel (transferred from Loyola (Ill.), eligible this year)

Top returners: 5-10 G Shandricka Sessom (15.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg), 5-9 G Erika Sisk (8.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg), 5-8 G Madinah Muhammad (7.5 ppg, 1.4 rpg)

Matt Insell had to deal with the fallout of an NCAA scandal but overcame a 20-loss first season with a 19-win second. He had to rebuild last year in another 20-loss season.

Could another big season be in store in Year 4?

The Rebels are planning on it.

Six of their top seven scorers return. Former Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Chrishae Rowe becomes eligible after the first semester, just in time for SEC play. Every SEC team gets a boost in the selection committee’s eyes just from being in the SEC, so if Ole Miss can post around a .500 record in conference play …

Well, they have to go earn it. But they seem very capable of it.

The Rebels were a fast, hot-shooting team last year but couldn’t beat inconsistency. One game they’d stroke 10 3-pointers and the next they’d miss eight layups.

They’ve added height so they won’t be dwarfed by the rest of the SEC’s monsters, and the addition of Rowe could make them dangerous. The problem is getting to that point.

Rowe was kicked out of Oregon for a violation of team rules after leading the Ducks in scoring as a freshman. She landed at Kentucky, but never played a game before being dismissed there as well (“failure to uphold the program’s standards”).

Insell, a former Kentucky assistant, was waiting with open arms but it remains to be seen if Rowe can keep it together and return to the court. Thus far, there have been no problems and if she has rebuilt herself, Ole Miss will have a star that will make so many of their supporting cast better.

Media and coaches picked the Rebels last. I think they’ll be substantially better.

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