High hopes for Rebel basketball

Published 9:48 am Monday, December 11, 2017

It’s still early in the basketball season but four losses so far in non-conference play have the Ole Miss men’s team in a difficult spot.

To get into the NCAA Tournament, or even to get into the NIT, teams don’t get much opportunity to struggle in non-conference play. You need to beat the teams you should beat.

For Ole Miss, a loss against a mediocre Utah team on a neutral site, a loss at home against a so-so South Dakota State team in which the Rebels forgot how to play defense for three-quarters of the game, and a loss at home to a good Virginia Tech team after leading by 16 in the second half means trouble.

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In other words, for a team that has improved overall talent, dropping four games before mid-December is causing grumbles and eye rolls by many fans and increased pressure on coach Andy Kennedy, who didn’t get his contract renewed after last season.

But the Rebels return home for a run of non-conference games, beginning a winnable one this week with Sam Houston State. We are hoping this team will find its spark and chemistry in the next three weeks so that by the time conference play rolls around, they will be vastly improved.