SEC basketball: Ole Miss and Mississippi State cage match

SEC basketball and hated arch-rivals Mississippi State and Ole Miss renew hostilities Saturday evening. As far as basketball games go, the impact will be light. The impact on these two hated rivals is immense.

SEC basketball is tough, and “cagers” is an apt description of the players.

The “cagers” nickname for basketball players references the early professional years of the sport. Games were often played in cages, protecting the players from the fans. The fans in Oxford will probably stay in the stands, but Rebels vs Bulldogs is always a cage match kind of game.

Tip time is 4:30. Fans at home can watch on the SEC Network.

In the east corner wearing blue trunks, SEC basketball challenger Mississippi State

 

The Bulldogs bring to Oxford a team that can win SEC road games.

Mississippi State is 13 – 1 after playing a lightweight pre-season schedule. However, the Rebels did defeat a very good Arkansas team at home to open SEC play.

With the win over the Razorbacks, Mississippi State broke an 18 game losing streak to ranked teams. Local sentiment is that the win suggests the Bulldogs have taken a step up this year.

The Arkansas win came at home, of course, and a basketball team should win at home.

Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland relies on big brother junior Quinndary Weatherspoon and little brother freshman Nick Weatherspoon for a combined 25 points a game. Quinndary serves up 4.4 assists a game as well.

Twin towers junior Aric Holman and freshman Abdul Ado each claim 7.1 rebounds for the Bulldogs.

Mississippi State was a young team in 2017, but not so much this year. The Bulldogs bring to Oxford a team that can win SEC road games.

In the west corner wearing white trunks, SEC basketball challenger Ole Miss
Kennedy shored up his roster with capable transfers

Ole Miss enters the weekend with an 8 – 6 record, 1-1 in the SEC after a home win against South Carolina and a road loss to Georgia. As he annually does, Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy shored up his roster with capable transfers. This season, Kennedy did a particular good job securing upper class help.

Memphis graduate transfer Markel Crawford is averaging 10.9 points per game.  Power forward Bruce Stevens came to Oxford as one of the top junior college transfers in the nation. Stevens is playing 20 minutes a game and averaging 8.9 points a night. Dominik Olejniczak is now eligible after transferring from Drake last year. The tree-truck-strong seven-footer is eating 14.1 minutes a game and shooting 58.5 percent from the field for four points a game.

Ole Miss basketball is a model of consistency, winning at least 19 games in eight straight seasons. With the Rebels new basketball arena, the Pavilion, barely a year old and Mississippi State making round ball news to the east, the Rebel faithful want more. Ole Miss is still running in the middle of the pack in the SEC talent chase, and protecting the home court against an SEC foe is critical to both  season and long-term success.

Prediction: late Ole Miss TKO win

All that really matters is Rebels and Dawgs. The Rebels must beat the Bulldogs in front of the home fans. If not, set up the cages.