Know Thy Opponent: Ole Miss Rebels

  • 11/18/2009 8:00 am in

twhite

Two games into the 2009-2010 season, we’ve learned little about the Indiana team that should blossom into a respectable squad once conference play rolls around in late December. Sure, the Hoosiers have won two games comfortably, but it’s hard to judge progress against the likes of Howard and USC Upstate. We know IU is better — but how much better? Our understanding of this question will come more into focus Thursday when IU takes the floor with Ole Miss in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Tip-Off Classic in Puerto Rico.

Plagued by an injury bug that claimed guards Chris Warren, Trevor Gaskins and Eniel Polynice for the season, Andy Kennedy’s admirable coaching job in 2008-2009 led Ole Miss to seven conference wins and a 16-15 record. Warren and Polynice have both recovered from left knee injuries and are joined in the backcourt by sophomore guard Terrico White (pictured), who is projected as a fringe lottery pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.

White emerged as Kennedy’s best player as a freshman and averaged 18.4 ppg in conference play on his way to being named the SEC freshman of the year. “Rico,” as he’s called by his coach and teammates, hit close to 50 percent of his two-point attempts as a freshman, but shot just 63 percent from the foul line. Expect Jeremiah Rivers to draw this assignment.

Warren, a 5-10 guard, was averaging 19.6 ppg last season before tearing his left ACL in a December game against Louisville. He’s started the season slow offensively, but he shot 39 percent from three as a freshman, which suggests he’s due to break out of his early slump sooner rather than later. The 6-5 Polynice is a physical guard that can defend. He led Ole Miss with 1.6 steals per game a year ago and was 25th in the SEC in with 5.3 rebounds per game.

Up front, Tom Pritchard, Christian Watford and Derek Elston will have their hands more than full with Murphy Holloway, who Basketball Prospectus calls one of the best offensive rebounders in the country. He’s only 6-7 and doesn’t block many shots, but IU must keep a body on him. Joining Holloway in the front court rotation: 6-9 DeAundre Cranston (13.5 ppg in two games) and 6-8 freshman Reginald Buckner, who was the No. 29 player nationally in 2009 according to Rivals.com.

All in all, this looks like a probable NCAA Tournament team that could give Indiana more than it’s fair share of trouble. Lightning quick point guard? Check. Strong backcourt running mates that can score the ball? Check. Size inside that can rebound? Check. Sounds like it’s time to get out that measuring stick, Hoosier fans.

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  • Indiana Red

    Well played, sir. Thanks for such a balanced post.

    Sounds like a team on the rise after a tough-luck season last year (guess that could be a good way to describe IU, obviously to a lesser extent). The Hoosiers need to get hot, i.e. hit over 50% from the field, maybe catch fire from three, then who knows. But it sounds like there's little room for error. And Pritch, Wat, Elston, Bawa & co., gird up your loins in the paint. The competition level is kicking up a couple notches.

  • tberry

    “Two games into the 2009-2010 season, we’ve learned little about the Indiana team that should blossom into a respectable squad once conference play rolls around in late December.”

    What we have learned is that supposedly inferior team can easily hang with the Hoosiers. I guess some where that is “respectable.”

  • HoosierSmitty

    Sounds like they are solid all around and we might get pounded.

    Hopefully the Hoosiers will step up and make it a good contest. I'd like to think we can possibly win 2 games on this trip…but we need to at least win 1.

  • Ben_M

    Ole Miss will be a great challenge for our young team, but Indiana is putting up similar number according to the stats. Miss has 5 players averaging double figures in the first two games led by White with 17.5, while the Hoosiers have 4 players averaging double figures led by Watford and Creek with 15.5 a piece. Rivers will be chosen to defend White and that will be one key to victory. Its time for Rivers to show us his defensive skills. Ole Miss has a good sized front court as well. DeAundre Cranston is a 6-9 260 lbs senior who is averaging 13.5 ppg in the first two contests. Our front court needs to show up. Pritchard can be missing easy shots with a guy like this on the roster. Ole Miss has a good sized front court and a tall back court with a few gaurds at 6-5. This will be a good test for our young ball club and a real eye opener to what the rest of the year will be. I am going to make a prediction. Rivers pulls the breaks on white’s scoring ability. Our front court scores balanced. Creek lights it up for 20 and Roth shoots amazing from 3 point land. Indiana hits almost all its free throws. IU wins 65-69.

  • buster_bluth

    As a Rebel fan, let me first say that we are thrilled to be playing a program of the stature of IU. Having seen Hoosiers at least 75 times, I have great respect for basketball from Indiana.

    We did have a severe bout with the injury bug last year, but everyone seems to be back to full speed. Terrico White puts us in a nice spot, knowing that more often than not, we have the best player on the floor at any given time. Chris Warren has struggled with his shot, but I look for him to get it going pretty soon. Even with the explosiveness of those two guards, we are at our best when we initiate our offense through Eneil Polynice, a 6-5 guy who is one of our best on the ball defenders as well. He had 15/8/7 the other night.

    The biggest difference in this team and our recent teams is the presence of a true shot blocker. True freshman Reggie Buckner has 9 blocks through 2 games and that's with fairly limited minutes. Murphy Holloway has been playing the best basketball of his young collegiate career – he's a true sophomore – and has made our frontcourt more formidible than many predicted this early in the season.

    As far as our game goes, look for the Rebels to get out and run from the opening tip to the final buzzer. Our depth/talent in the backcourt allows us to put a lot of pressure on teams as we look to break off missed shots, in-bounds plays, steals, etc. Buckner's presence in the paint allows our guards to be very aggressive defensively as well, as evidenced by the 30+ steals we have through 2 games.

    I know that IU has some depth issues and a slew of young, talented players. If this game were later in the season, who knows how it would go, but at this stage – and I may be completely biased here – but I'm not sure the Hoosiers will be able to run with the Rebels for 40 minutes, particularly if Warren finds his 3-point stroke.

    Regardless, here's to a well-played, well-officiated, injury-free game.

    Cheers

  • Hoosier_Hound

    I haven't seen Ole Miss play, but looking up their stats and game recaps, I'd say IU has to keep from turning the ball over in order to have a chance. It doesn't appear Ole Miss is a great shooting team, or given how many threes they chuck (and miss), even a smart shooting team. They don't look to be great at rebounding either, but neither is Indiana. The real difference is that they don't turn it over much and they create a bunch of steals. We all know the Hoosiers have a loose handle on the ball, so that alone is going to give Ole Miss several more opportunities to score, even if they aren't very efficient at it. Defensively, IU is full of inexperienced players who get beat easily, and Ole Miss isn't, which makes IU's chances of winning kind of slim. But there's always the x-factor on the first day of an island tourney, and that is which team has the heavier feat after all the travel. If Ole Miss (or IU) comes out slow, that will have a big impact on the game.

  • Yes, but unlike with Lipscomb last year, the team was able to hold on and keep the victory against USC-Upstate. In my mind, that is an improvement.

  • Indiana Red

    Well played, sir. Thanks for such a balanced post.

    Sounds like a team on the rise after a tough-luck season last year (guess that could be a good way to describe IU, obviously to a lesser extent). The Hoosiers need to get hot, i.e. hit over 50% from the field, maybe catch fire from three, then who knows. But it sounds like there's little room for error. And Pritch, Wat, Elston, Bawa & co., gird up your loins in the paint. The competition level is kicking up a couple notches.

  • Hoosier_Hound

    I checked with Pomeroy to emphasize my main point. Both have played two games against cupcakes so far. Indiana turns it over on 24.3% of possessions and Ole Miss' opponents turn it over on 28.9% of possessions. The Rebels gets a steal on 20.4% of possessions. They only turn it over 12.5% of the time. Ole Miss is going to end up with at least ten more scoring opportunities than Indiana unless the Hoosiers can keep a handle on the ball.

  • hooseyes

    After watching the team play, its hard to deny that they are loaded with potential, and while they will certainly struggle in games (even when they shouldn't) there is a very real chance for this team to gel and surprise some teams in the big 10 this year. I think the key word in the statement you quoted was “should”… Like Matt said, this last game could very well have turned out like lipscomb last year and the fact that it didn't lends a little credibility to a hopeful improvement over last year's team.

  • aerialM

    here's to hoping we're competitive…and I think we will be. nothing close to the maui beat-down we got last year from nd and st. joe's. I think ole miss is an ncaa team and a better team than we are but it'll be good to get some time against elevated competition in puerto rico. even in the other game(s) we'll play, we'll see bubble ncaa teams or nit teams in kansas state and boston u.
    I do think there are some IU fans with unrealistic expectations for this year's squad. I'll admit I was really surprised to see how many people voted that we'd be a .500 or better team this year. call me a downer (or a pragmatist) but when I look at the schedule and see how deep the big ten is this year, I can't see more than 13 or 14 wins this year (which would put us somewhere in the neighborhood of 14-16 or 13-17.) and after last year, that is a major improvement and a solid step to getting to that corner of 20+ wins in the future…we're still so so young and still in the early stages of tom crean's program. finally, if nothing else, in puerto rico, the guys will get to see nick williams again!

  • Hardwood83

    “Regardless, here's to a well-played, well-officiated, injury-free game.” Nice sentiment- I concur, but well-played AND well officiated games are pretty rare in college ball anymore, IMO.

    I don't know anything about Ole Miss b-ball except what I've just read but have not been impressed by SEC ball last year or so far this season (Bama, UGa & Ark all looked bad, even vaunted UK struggled) so hopefully Ole Miss will stay with that trend!

    I want IU to win and will be very disappointed if they don't get at least one in this tournament, but I am still allowing for improvement and growth on this team.

  • coachv

    hell, dumes alone turns it over half the time he touches the ball. i like his game but, good lord man, get a grip!

  • Anonymous

    I believe it will be on ESPNU.

  • HoosierSmitty

    I think the improved depth and talent level on this year's squad should help us stay competitive in most games. For how long is the question? Can we hang with a good team for 40 minutes? 30 minutes? A half?

    Regardless, last year's team didn't ever give up, and I anticipate we'll see that same kind of toughness in this year's squad when they find their backs against the wall.

  • myrddin

    @tberry: Or, you could learn about verb tense.

    “should blossom into . . . once conference play rolls around in late December” != “is”

  • MillaRed

    Watford goes for 26, Hulls dishes 9 assists, Bawa has 5 blocks, IU wins by 14.

    Oh, sorry, I thought it was 2012…………

  • Marcus Gresham

    I hope Watford is still in Bloomington in 2012!

  • Good Ridance Dumes, that guy doesn't belong on the court anymore. I'm sorry, but he sucks.

  • I think we have learned a good amount about IU:

    1) Jeremiah Rivers is fast (we knew that). He is who we thought he was on the defensive end. What we have learned though is that he tries to make THE play instead of just A play. I think that will end up hurting us early in the year. This is something Crean needs to coach him up on.

    2) Bawa is a year away. This guy has amazing potential, great size and doesn't look TOO unathletic out there, but I'm not expecting too many minutes or production until next year.

    3) Watford and Creek are not just good, they are efficient (combined 22 out of 34 from the field).
    This is definitely something we have learned.

    4) Dumes sucks. This guys needs to play better. Not sure if its a 'learning' we need to give him a few more chances, but this guy needs to step up. Let's hope the injury is the reason why he is sucking.

    5) Elston is the man. Simply put, I love what he is doing out there. His 3pt shot and rebounding are a surprise. Let's see what he can do in some big games. He's not afraid.

    Jury is still out on Hulls, and I would like to see Verdell play more point guard when we need to slow the game down. That guy lulls people to sleep.

  • Let's try to steer clear of bashing players with phrases like, “Dumes sucks.” Sure, it's fine to say he's not playing well, but really, is saying that he “sucks” adding anything to the discussion?

  • Huna

    Did anyone hapen to catch GONZAGA vs MSU last nite? The Zags are oh ever so young, but they played AWESOME! Rivers better get his shit together or Hulls will be starting – TOs are not acceptable, nor is less than 50% shooting. IU is similar to the ZAGS, but without the tenured few good players they have: 9 freshman, 3 sophomores, 1 junior, 3 seniors. No excuses for the Hoosiers or Crean. Expectations must be set and MET!

  • cooper

    I tend to think this year is going to be rougher than most. I think the back court is shaping up to be pretty good but I don't see any low post presence. I just don't think Pritchard is athletic enough to play against top D1 talent over the course of an entire season. Ideally, he would be a 7th man who could come in for about 15min a game. I'm not sure on Bawa either. The play where he got the ball under the basket and got stuffed for a jump ball was a little suprising. I thought he was more athletic. Plus if you look back most big men are either dominant right away or not at all. Hopefully, with time he can improve.

    I like Elston so far, and want to see him against some tougher more athletic competition.

    I think Rivers is really good and his teammates need to learn to play up to his speed.

    On Dumes, Crean needs to decide what his plan is. Is he trying to win as many games as possible or prepare the players for next year when the is a better shot of maybe making the tournament. If he is going for wins than Dumes should start. However, I think Dumes should come off the bench and only play a lot of minutes when he is on fire. When he is he can change games, when he isnt he should sit. Personally, I don't see the point of playing Dumes a tone of minutes. Its similar to Taber last year. Wins aren't coming in droves this year and why waste playing time on someone who won't be around next year? Let the players who will be here next year get the majority of the minutes so they are ready next year. May not be fair, but then again Dumes is only here because of the Sampson disaster

  • hoosier07

    agreed

  • hooiserboy

    Dumes is who everyone in D1 thought he was. He is not a D1 caliber player. He played a lot of minutes on a team last year that was relying on freshmen and Taber. As for hulls, I think he will be a good pg but will struggle on the D. Elston, watford and creek will carry the load this year.

  • Bored_in_the_Offseason

    Picked this up in SI's 2009 College Basketball Preview, published on the site today. Luke Winn calls Ole Miss his sleeper team that is not currently ranked in the Top 25… “The Rebels have been overlooked because of injuries that decimated their '08-09 campaign, but at full-strength, their backcourt of Chris Warren, Terrico White and Eniel Polynice is scary-good.”

  • guest

    Dumes is the best on-ball defender we've got with Rivers. i dont care what anyone says. He gets in offensive players faces, and minds. He has the right attitude to play shut down defense. i dont wanna see creek play defense standing 7 feet off his man. get in his face and force turnovers.

  • HoosierSmitty

    That's some wishful thinking, but I'll take it!

    Who knows if Roth even sees the court…

    Could be a rotation featuring:

    Starters: Rivers, Jones, Creek, Watford, Pritchard
    Subs: Hulls (for Rivers or Jones), Dumes (for Jones or Creek), Elston (for Watford or Pritchard), Capobianco (for Pritchard)

    with a sprinkling of Jobe and Bawa depending on foul trouble. Bawa might not be strong enough to match up with their big. Zone Defense?

    Roth will be hard pressed to find time in the lineup unless he can defend and hit the 3 when given the chance.

  • HoosierSmitty

    Rivers is 2-12 (17%) from the floor in the first two games with 9 assists to 8 turnovers. He's butchered a few jumpers and a couple of FTs. I guess I expected more from him when I probably shouldn't have done so. We can only chalk it up to “rust” or his teammates being “too slow for him” so much longer.

    Jones is only 10-26 (39%). I love his length and ability to slash to the hoop, but I was hoping to see the signs of shooting improvement we heard so much about. At least he's only got 2 turnovers so far…pulling him off the PG position has been a solid move. He can help out, but it shouldn't be on his shoulders.

    All told, those numbers scare me with regard to our backcourt.

    Right now we're relying on Watford, Creek, and Elston to carry this team. They are playing amazing, but what happens when they struggle? That's the problem that still exists with this team. There's still no true leadership.

    It's awesome that those guys have stepped up in the first two games, but if Rivers is going to be the floor general on offense, he has to perform better and keep the engine running efficiently on the floor.

    I'm looking forward to seeing how we handle some tough matchups this week in Puerto Rico.

  • iudrew22

    Question: I was looking at the PR bracket and if IU loses…is the game Friday not televised? I looked all over but couldn't find out for sure…Thanks in advance

  • dkoetter

    A little off topic, but first of all, you guys do a great job. This is the first site I go to on IU Basketball. The information is good and entertaining. But also the links on the side have always been an easy way to access more information on the Hoosiers. Just curious, why has the Indy Star and more specifically Hutchens blog been removed from the “Resources” link?

  • Believe it's on ESPNU if they win or lose.

  • To be perfectly honest, I wasn't really happy with the way the Star pilfered material from a paid Rivals story recently and made the decision to take down the links. That's basically all there is to it.

  • jphar

    I think this hinges on Pritchard more than a lot of people would loke to believe.

  • I live 45 minutes from the Ole Miss campus so I keep up with most everything SEC. I know the conference as a whole is not very good but going into last year I really liked the look of this rebel team. The injuries did completely destroy what I thought was going to be a very promising team last year. Ive had optimism since I saw the schedule but after watching the first couple games I'm not sure. I hope we can run with these guys as I dont want to have to deal with my brother in law die hard rebel fan if we lose to them in our sport…i am excited about the potential of this team but it may take a little while for things to gel