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Ole Miss meets Mississippi State on the hardwood the for 250th time Wednesday, which makes it the most-played rivalry in the Southeastern Conference. 

Like the rivalry in football, where the road team last won in 2010, the home team has also held serve in the basketball series, with Ole Miss (12-7, 3-3 SEC) last winning in Starkville in 2009 and Mississippi State (9-10, 2-4 SEC) last winning in Oxford in 2011.

For some players, such as Aaron Jones, Jarvis Summers and LaDarius White, all seniors and all Mississippi natives,  it's a rivalry renewed. For others, such as leading scorer Stefan Moody, a junior college transfer, and key contributors M.J. Rhett and Terence Smith, both graduate transfers, this is their first taste of the rivalry. 

"The rivalry will become pretty evident to them," said head coach Andy Kennedy of the newcomers. "They had the opportunity to see the impact of the Egg Bowl and how important that was for both schools. It's important for us, first and foremost, because it's the next game and it's a home game, and we need to make sure we match the intensity that I'm sure Mississippi State will bring to the game."

Ole Miss won two of the three meetings last year and has won three straight games in Tad Smith Coliseum against Mississippi State, but it's the Rebels' 76-72 loss in Starkville last year that serves as a reminder of the nature of the rivalry as well as a motivating factor going into Wednesday's game.

"Last year, when we lost to them, they started having a party in their locker room," junior guard Martavious Newby said. "It's like the Super Bowl to them. We're trying not to let that happen again. We're trying to beat them, so they won't do the same thing they did last year."

The game also holds importance because, as Kennedy said, it's the next game and it's a home game, and Ole Miss looks to establish some consistency and stack wins together.  The Rebels have a 5-4 record over their last nine games, alternating wins and losses since, having last won back-to-back games in late December.

After a 72-71 win over Florida, Ole Miss moved up to No. 46 in the latest RPI rankings released by the NCAA. Looking ahead, the Rebels face three potential RPI landmines in their next four games, starting at home against Mississippi State (No. 210), followed by road games at Missouri (No. 162) and Auburn (No. 146). 

Sandwiched between the road games at Missouri and Auburn, Ole Miss has an RPI quality win opportunity at home against Texas A&M (No. 31). Both teams were among ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi's "first four out" in his latest bracket released Monday, with Texas A&M as the third team out and Ole Miss as the fourth team out.

"We're playing well, but we just have to be consistent," sophomore forward Dwight Coleby said. "One game we'll look like the best team, and then we'll come back and be sluggish. If we can ever be consistent, we should be good."

Classes started on the Ole Miss campus this past week, as the men's and women's basketball teams enter the heart of Southeastern Conference play. Some of the spring sports have started their 2015 seasons, while others are gearing up for the start of their seasons. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was:

- Selection Sunday is more than a month away, but in a battle of teams on the fringe of the NCAA Tournament discussion, the Ole Miss men's basketball team downed Florida 72-71 on Saturday. Going into the matchup, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi tweeted, "The loser here is pretty much toast from an NCAA tournament perspective." 

- Through six SEC games, Ole Miss is 3-3, having played six of the top eight teams from the league, according to KenPom.com. The Rebels, themselves, are the third-highest rated team (No. 34). Looking ahead, return trips at home against Arkansas and Georgia and a road game LSU loom large for the team's NCAA Tournament chances.

"It's good for our confidence," said head coach Andy Kennedy of the win. "We're not as confident of a group as I would have hoped despite some of our early wins that show we are a good basketball team. You have to be able to stack wins at this time of the year. It was obviously a vital game for us."

- Preseason All-SEC first team selection Jarvis Summers proved clutch for the Rebels, scoring each of the team's last four points, the first two on a step-back jumper from just inside the 3-point line and the last two on a pair of free throws with 3.5 seconds left after driving into the lane.

"Coach (Kennedy) always tells me to go right," Summers said. "That's my strength. I just listened to him this game and tried to make a play." 

- In a similar situation, tied 77-77 on the road at No. 1 Kentucky, Summers settled for a contested 3-pointer, which was off the mark, and the Wildcats went on to win 89-86 in overtime. That was not the case Saturday against Florida.

"I beat myself up after that game," Summers said. "I just had to move forward. I told myself if I ever got in that situation again, I was going to keep going to the hole and be aggressive." 

- Here's a good read on Stefan Moody from Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger. Check it out.

- Playing its third straight opponent ranked opponent, Ole Miss came up just short, falling to Mississippi State 64-62 on a last-second shot on Thursday night. Ole Miss went 1-2 over the three-game stretch, knocking off Georgia and losing to Texas A&M and Mississippi State by a combined 11 points. The Rebels are 14-6 overall, 4-3 in SEC play, likely needing to get to at least eight SEC wins to garner NCAA Tournament consideration.

- The result was not what head coach Matt Insell and the team wanted, but a lively crowd of 3,383 provided one of the better, if not the best, atmospheres I have experienced in five-plus years around the women's basketball program. Insell has tirelessly promoted his program, including going door-to-door on Fraternity Row the night before the Mississippi State game, and it showed Thursday.

"First, I want to thank Rebel Nation," Insell said. "What a great crowd that was. I think Oxford, Mississippi and Rebel Nation just really showed up for us tonight. They showed us how much they cared about this basketball game. The crowd was into the game the entire time. I just want to thank everyone that came."

- A lot has been written and said about The Pavilion at Ole Miss. Here's an infographic comparing it to Tad Smith Coliseum. Notice the concessions in the bottom right corner that includes the addition of Raising Cane's to the menu.

- The Ole Miss baseball team held its first spring practice on Friday and its first intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday. Here's a pretty thorough preview from Kendall Rogers on the Rebels, which are ranked No. 18 in the D1Baseball.com's preseason top 25 rankings. Don't forget, Ole Miss opens the 2015 season with a three-game home series against William & Mary, starting Friday, Feb. 13 at 4 p.m C.T.

- The lowest-ranked team in its four-team regional in Gainesville, Florida, the Ole Miss men's tennis team notched two big wins over No. 13 Florida and No. 29 South Carolina. The Rebels rallied from down 3-0 to defeat the Gators 4-3 and closed out the weekend with a 4-2 win over the Gamecocks to advance to the ITA National Team Indoor Final 16.

- The men's tennis team was bolstered by the return of senior Nik Scholtz, a three-time All-American and the reigning SEC Player of the Year. Unranked because he did not play in the fall, Scholtz defeated the 34th-ranked and 71st-ranked players this past weekend. For more on Scholtz and his decision to return to Ole Miss for his senior season, click here.

- Former Ole Miss players Cody Prewitt and Senquez Golson showed out at the Senior Bowl this week. They impressed coaches, scouts and media members, among others. Next up is the NFL Scouting Combine (Feb. 17-23). For more on their week at the Senior Bowl, click here and here.

- Another former Rebel, the New England Patriots' Brandon Bolden, will be playing in the Super Bowl next Sunday (5:30 p.m. CT, NBC). I caught up with Bolden earlier this week, so look for more on him in the days leading up to the Super Bowl.

- In case you missed it, with the start of classes, the Ole Miss football has been updated to reflect six mid-year additions, including freshman offensive lineman Javon Patterson, a U.S. Army All-American Bowl selection from Pearl, Mississippi. Looking ahead, National Signing Day (Feb. 4) is a week and a half away, so stay tuned.

- In case you missed it, part two, the Ole Miss football video department released a couple of videos over the weekend: "Home is Ole Miss" and "The Journey: Chapter 3."

The Ole Miss men's and women's basketball teams both made some history, while the men's and women's tennis teams started their spring seasons. National Signing Day (Feb. 4) and the start of baseball season (Feb. 13) are less than a month away and loom in the minds of many Rebel fans. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was:

- Coming off a home loss to LSU, where head coach Andy Kennedy questioned the team's energy and their top three scorers shot a combined 14-for-45 from the field, the men's basketball team bounced back with their biggest win of the season, winning on the road at No. 19 Arkansas. It's a huge win for Ole Miss, not only for the NCAA Tournament resume when March rolls around, but also for the team's psyche and confidence during this early part of SEC play.

"You come into this building and win by 14, it shows the potential of this team," said Kennedy on the Ole Miss IMG Sports Network after the game.

- As it did for most of the game at No. 1 Kentucky, Ole Miss played like a team comfortable playing on the road, as the Rebels shot a season-high 56.4 percent from the field and committed just 11 turnovers against an Arkansas team that entered the game forcing 16.6 turnovers per game.

- The Big 3 of Stefan Moody, Jarvis Summers and LaDarius White all scored in double figures, which the Rebels need to be successful this season, but also credit the frontcourt players, who are playing with more and more confidence on the floor. Some numbers through four games of SEC play: Sebastian Saiz (8.5 points, 5.0 rebounds), Dwight Coleby (7.5 points, 6.5 rebounds) and M.J. Rhett (7.3 points, 5.3 rebounds). Led by that frontcourt trio, Ole Miss boasts a plus-2.8 rebounding margin in SEC play.

- A week after Aaron Jones earned top-play honors on Fox Sports Live, Martavious Newby and Stefan Moody combined for an alley-oop in the win over Arkansas that earned the No. 7 spot on Saturday's Top 10 plays.

- Some perspective: For Ole Miss, it was the program's first true road win over a ranked team under ninth-year head coach Andy Kennedy, the first since the 2002-03 season. Ole Miss has now won 10 of its last 12 against Arkansas, including five of its last six games in Fayetteville.

- The NCAA RPI will be released Monday, but Ole Miss moved up No. 46 in the RPI (per Warren Nolan), with two more big RPI opportunities this week: on the road at Georgia (No. 27) and at home against Florida (No. 70).

- The women's basketball team made some history of their own, knocking off No. 18 Georgia on Thursday night, the program's first win over an AP-ranked team since the 2010-11 season, snapping a 24-game losing streak to AP-ranked opponents.

"I'm really happy with our basketball team," head coach Matt Insell said. 'What a great win for our program and where we're going in the future with our program."

- An individual note: Senior Tia Faleru is the only player in the SEC averaging a double-double, as she leads the league in rebounding (10.6) and ranks second in scoring (15.9). Her three-point play started the 8-0 Ole Miss run to end the game against Georgia.

"When she told she was ready to go, she said to go to her every possession, and that's what you want your best player to do," said Insell of Faleru, whose 3-point play started the 8-0 run to end the game. "You want your best player to want the basketball. She wanted it, and she got a big and-one play for us that kept us going. I'm really proud of her."

- Playing its second straight ranked opponent, Ole Miss led No. 11 Texas A&M for 23:01 and as late as the 12:02 mark in the second half. An 11-0 Texas A&M run proved to be the difference, as the Aggies took a 42-41 lead with 11:01 left and led the rest of the way in a 58-49 win in College Station.

- The Rebels got some good news with the return of freshman Shandricka Sessom, who had missed the previous two games with concussion-like symptoms. With her return to the starting lineup, Gracie Frizzell came off the bench, having averaged 17.5 points per game and made a combined 11 3-pointers over her two starts against Alabama and Georgia. Frizzell came off the bench against Texas A&M, but it will be interesting to see if she returns to the starting lineup at some point this season.

- Ole Miss will play its third straight ranked opponent, hosting in-state rival No. 15 Mississippi State on Thursday night in a nationally-televised matchup on the SEC Network. The Bulldogs started the season 18-0, rising as high as No. 14 in the polls, before losing back-to-back games, and enter Thursday's matchup with a 19-2 record. The teams met twice last season, with both games going to overtime and the home team holding serve in each contest.

- Two blasts from the past: Here's an interview with SMU head coach Chad Morris, who talks to Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman about Jevan Snead, whom Morris coached in high school in Texas. Here's a New York Times article on Jeremiah Masoli, who watched Oregon, his other former school, play in the national championship this past Monday.

- Speaking of the national championship, Ole Miss finished the 2014 season at No. 17 in the Associated Press poll and No. 19 in the Amway Coaches Poll, its first final national ranking since 2009 and its highest final national ranking since 2008, when they finished No. 14 in the AP poll and No. 15 in the Coaches poll. Looking ahead to next season, here's a compilation of way-too-early preseason top 25 rankings for 2015.

- Cody Prewitt and Senquez Golson will represent Ole Miss in the Senior Bowl, which will take place on Saturday at 3 p.m. CT from Mobile, Alabama, and will be televised by the NFL Network. According to CBS Sports, Prewitt is the No. 52 NFL Draft prospect, the No. 1 free safety, and a projected second round pick, while Golson is the No. 62 NFL Draft prospect, the No. 7 cornerback, and also a projected second round pick.

- The Ole Miss men's tennis team delivered Toby Hansson a 6-1 win over UCF in his first match as a head coach. Nik Scholtz, the reigning SEC Player of the Year, is expected to rejoin the team when classes start this week, ahead of the team's matches at the ITA Kickoff Weekend in Gainesville, Florida, next weekend.

- New England running back Brandon Bolden will be the 23rd former Ole Miss player, accounting for the 28th appearance overall, to play in a Super Bowl and the first since Michael Oher and Patrick Willis represented Ole Miss in Super Bowl XLVII. Bolden also laid this massive block in the Patriots' win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game.

After an up-and-down non-conference slate that included wins over Creighton, Cincinnati and Oregon, all away from home, and losses to Charleston Southern and Western Kentucky, both at home, Ole Miss learned a lot about itself in the first week of Southeastern Conference play.

In their league opener, the Rebels went on the road and pushed No. 1 Kentucky to overtime, and then four days later, cruised to a wire-to-wire 65-49 win over South Carolina. One of the keys, head coach Andy Kennedy said, has been finding the right combinations on the floor.

"With us, every player has a strength and a weakness," Kennedy said. "I'm trying to have combinations to cover ourselves. We're getting better at that."

For the Rebels, the right combinations start with their two leading scorers in junior guard Stefan Moody (14.8 ppg), the high-volume scorer, and the senior guard Jarvis Summers (14.4 ppg), the game-manager, who are learning how to play together in the backcourt.

"The biggest thing is Moody has more assertive, as opposed to watching Jarvis," Kennedy said. "He's becoming more assertive and, now he's helping Jarvis. A lot of times early in the season, we were ball-watching a lot. Everybody was watching Jarvis dribble around, and nobody knew how aggressive they needed to be. We're starting to figure that out."

South Carolina head coach Frank Martin, who saw the duo up close and personal this past Saturday, likened Moody to an NFL defensive back because of his freakish athletic ability and described Summers as "probably the least-heralded player in the SEC that's really good." Through two SEC games, Moody and Summers are averaging a combined 21.0 ppg and shooting a combined 49.0 percent from the floor.

"I thought the way they play, I have always felt that (Jarvis) Summers was the heartbeat of their team," LSU head coach Johnny Jones said. "As solid as he is, is the sense of urgency and toughness that he plays with, even when they had Marshall Henderson on the team.

"The different look right now is the newcomer (Stefan Moody) that they have that did take a lot of those (Henderson-type) shots and played so well against Kentucky the other night gives them the feel of Henderson. He's a very capable scorer that can make shots."

After 1-1 start in league play, the Rebels enter a key stretch, where they play three straight games against RPI top 45 opponents, starting with LSU (No. 45) on Wednesday night.

"These are two teams that everybody has in the tournament," said sophomore forward Sebastian Saiz of LSU and Arkansas (No. 13 in the latest RPI). "At the end of the day, they're going to be in the tournament. So to get both of them is going to be really good for us."

LSU is led by sophomore forwards Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey, who are averaging a combined 32.7 ppg and pulling down a combined 19.2 rebounds per game. Martin ranks third in scoring (16.8 ppg) and third in rebounding (8.6 rpg), while Mickey ranks sixth in scoring (15.9 ppg), second in scoring (10.6 rig) and leads the league in blocked shots (3.6/game).

"The conservation with LSU starts with Martin and Mickey, two great players, and they have really taken a big leap forward as you expect from year one to year two," Kennedy said. "They're two guys who caused you a lot of matchup problems because of their size and versatility."

Last season, Kennedy said, their biggest deficiencies were rebounding margin, defensive rebounding percentage, and an inability to finish close to the basket, all areas where Ole Miss has improved from last year to this point in the season. 

Against No. 1 Kentucky, the nation's longest team and the league's leader in rebounding margin, scoring defense, field goal percentage and blocked shots, Ole Miss was outrebounded just 34-32 and outscored the Wildcats 30-26 in the paint.

Led by Martin and Mickey, LSU provides another tough test for Ole Miss in each of those respective areas, as the Tigers rank fifth in the league in rebounding margin (+5.2/game) and second in blocked shots (6.3/game).

"Kentucky is the biggest team in college basketball and they would be the second-biggest team in the NBA, so if we can do that against Kentucky, we can do that against anybody else," said Saiz, who scored a career-high 20 points in last year's meeting with LSU."

The Ole Miss men's basketball team opened SEC play, while the Ole Miss women's basketball team continued SEC play, as we enter the heart of college basketball season. Over the weekend, the men's and women's teams posted wire-to-wire wins on back-to-back days. After the conclusion of NFL Divisional Round, the Rebels are guaranteed to have a representative in Super Bowl XLIX. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was:

- The Ole Miss men's basketball team welcomed five newcomers, including two fifth-year transfers and two junior college transfer, and it's been a process for the team learning to play together. After an up-and-down nonconference slate, the Rebels played No. 1 Kentucky to overtime on the road and then notched a wire-to-wire 65-49 win over South Carolina to open SEC play.

"With us, every player has a strength and a weakness and what I'm trying to do is have combinations to cover ourselves, and I think we're getting better at that," head coach Kennedy said. 

"It's a process," junior guard Stefan Moody said. "You can't just throw a bunch of guys together and expect them to mesh automatically. It's a process. It's going to take a little while and we're figuring it out."

- Ole Miss did not get the result it wanted on the road at No. 1 Kentucky, but the Rebels played perhaps their best game of the season, and if they play like that the rest of the way, they have a chance to play meaningful basketball come March. Ole Miss shot 49 percent from the field, including 9-of-17 from 3-point range, and scored 86 points, all season highs for Kentucky opponents.

"It doesn't really get any worse than that, especially when you have a chance to beat the No. 1 team in the country," said junior guard Stefan Moody, who led the Rebels with 25 points before cramping up in overtime. "It's a part of life. You have to take it how you got it. We lost by a few points. It was a confidence booster coming into this game (against South Carolina) and in games ahead. We went toe to toe with (Kentucky). It proved we can go toe to toe with anybody."

- In case you missed it, here's a vine of a highlight-reel dunk by Aaron Jones against No. 1 Kentucky, which earned him top-play honors on Fox Sports Live. (H/T @ColeMissSports)

- After winning 12 of its first 13 games, all in the nonconference slate, by double digits, No. 1 Kentucky has been taken to overtime in back-to-back games, first at home against Ole Miss and then on the road against Texas A&M. Speaking to the way No. 1 Kentucky played in each of the two games, Ole Miss took a better shot, and it came on the Wildcats' home floor. Against Ole Miss, Kentucky shot 42 percent from the field, including 11-of-20 from 3-point range, and went 28-of-40 from the free-throw line. Against Texas A&M, Kentucky shot 28 percent from the field, including 9-of-28 from 3-point range, and went 25-of-35 from the free-throw line.

"I told them, the standard has been changed," Kennedy said. "Through 13 games, we've seen some high points and low points. And then we went into Rupp Arena, in that environment. The only thing that bothered me about the commentary afterwards was a lot of people saying that Kentucky didn't play well. Kentucky played well. We took their best shot. My hope was that our guys saw that this is the new standard, and this is what we are capable of doing, if we take the right approach. If we take the right approach, this team has a chance."

- Watching Ole Miss on film, South Carolina head coach Frank Martin said it was easy to spot their progress through 15 games this season, pointing to the Rebels' nonconference wins over Oregon and Cincinnati, as well as the way they played Kentucky.

"They're athletic," Martin said. "They're seniors. They stay the course. They don't whine and pout. They don't roll their eyes. They play. Moody has given them an unbelievable presence to go with those other guys. Andy's got his guys playing well."

- After a 1-1 start to SEC play, the Ole Miss men has a crucial four-game stretch ahead, all against teams ranked in the RPI top 80: vs. LSU (No. 43), at Arkansas (No 14), at Georgia (No. 38) and vs. Florida (No. 79).

- With wins over Florida and Alabama this week, the Ole Miss women's basketball won back-to-back regular-season SEC games for the first time since the 2011-12, improving to 13-4 overall and 3-1 in SEC play. The 13-4 start is the best since the 2006-07 season, when the Rebels finished 24-11 and made a run to the Elite Eight. 

- "We said before the SEC started, when we were 10-3, that five more wins gets us to the WNIT," head coach Matt Insell said. "We said eight more wins gets us to the NCAA Tournament. I asked them what they wanted, and they said they wanted the NCAA Tournament, so they're fighting every day to get to that eight-win mark because when you get to that eight-win mark in this league in women's basketball, I can't name a team that didn't make the NCAA Tournament after getting eight wins in this league."

- One of the"next four teams" out in the first Bracketology projection from ESPN.com women's basketball Bracketologist Charlie Creme, the Ole Miss women also have a crucial stretch ahead, starting with a home game against No. 19 Georgia on Thursday, followed by a road game at No. 8 Texas A&M, followed by a rivalry game at home against No. 14 Mississippi State.

"Georgia is coming in here, and they're ranked in the top 20 in the country, and you get a chance to get them on your home court, and you get a chance when you have a lot of momentum going within your team and your team is playing well," Insell said. "It's a huge game. If we want to get to the NCAA Tournament, we have to win a couple of those games. This week, we have a chance to play two teams this week to see where we're at and see where we're going."

- The Ole Miss men's tennis team netted a big win off the court with Nik Scholtz's Twitter announcement that he would return for his senior season. The Rebels began the 2015 season this past weekend with singles and doubles matches at the Florida Gulf Coast Invitational. They play their first dual match of the season on Friday at UCF, before starting play at the ITA Kickoff Weekend on Saturday, Jan. 24.

- Five former Ole Miss football players have been invited to play in college football postseason all-star games, headlined by Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt, who will play in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 24. Serderius Bryant played in the Medal of Honor Bowl this past weekend, totaling three tackles and two tackles for loss.

- With Brandon Bolden (New England Patriots) and Donte Moncrief (Indianapolis Colts) both advancing to the AFC Championship, Ole Miss is guaranteed to have a former player in Super Bowl XLIX. It will be the 20th Super Bowl featuring a former Ole Miss player, and whether it's Bolden or Moncrief, Ole Miss have its 23rd different former player participate in a Super Bowl.

Ole Miss looks to reverse history, as the Rebels (9-4) travel to No. 1 Kentucky tonight (6 p.m., SEC Network), the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.

Ole Miss is 0-15 all-time against the nation's top ranked team, last playing No. 1 Kentucky in 2012. Kentucky is 102-13 all-time against Ole Miss, including 48-2 in games played in Lexington. The Rebels have one win all-time at Rupp Arena, coming in 1998.

"Excited to get the SEC schedule under way, and we obviously do it in grand fashion in Rupp Arena tomorrow night," said head coach Andy Kennedy on the SEC teleconference Monday. "So I know our guys will be excited about the opportunity, playing in the most storied venue in all of college basketball, against arguably the best team in college basketball. So I know our guys will be looking forward to the opportunity."

The Wildcats are a perfect 13-0, as they pursue the first undefeated season in college basketball since the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers, a team that included Tom Abernathy, the father of Todd Abernethy, the coordinator of recruiting development and acting assistant coach.

By defeating Louisville by eight points, 58-50, Kentucky's school-record run of consecutive double-digits to begin the season ended at 12, a run that included double-digit wins over No. 5 Kansas, No. 25 Providence, No. 6 Texas and No. 18 North Carolina.

"Cal doesn't get the credit he deserves for the job he does," said South Carolina head coach Frank Martin on the SEC teleconference Monday. "I watched them the other day. They're magnificent. They're defending as well as any team in the country, and as well as any team I've seen in a long time."

Their defense, Kennedy said, is what gives gives them an opportunity an opportunity to undefeated this season. Kentucky leads the nation in scoring defense (47.8 ppg), field goal percentage defense (.297) and blocked shots (8.2/game). The Wildcats also lead the SEC and ranks seventh nationally in 3-point field goal percentage defense (.267).

"They're a special defensive team," Kennedy said. I've certainly watched them casually when I could throughout the course of the season, and then as we gear up for them in preparation. That is what gives them an opportunity to do what I know is a topic of conversation not only in Kentucky but throughout the country: Can this team go through the regular season undefeated? 

"It'll be a monumental challenge, obviously, but defensively is the reason that I think it's a valid question, simply because they don't give you anything easy, and as a result teams have really struggled to score against them."

Because of their defense, along with their size and length, Kennedy has stressed the importance of making jump shots, and defensively, keeping them off the offensive glass. Kentucky leads the SEC and ranks ninth nationally in rebounding margin (+10.4/game), leading the league in both offensive rebounds (15.2/game) and offensive rebounding percentage (.460).

"We're going to have to make jump shots, which is not easy to do in any venue, much less Rupp," said Kennedy after the win over Austin Peay on Saturday. "Because of their length and ability to alter everything in the paint, you have to make jump shots. Defensively, you have to do an incredible job off the defensive glass. We've improved on our rebounding margin and guys are pursing the ball more consistently. If you allow them to live off the offensive glass, you have no chance."

Kentucky head coach John Calipari, looking at Ole Miss, stressed the importance of defending jump shots, particularly perimeter shots, noting that the Rebels' three leading scorers, all perimeter players -- junior Stefan Moody (13.9 ppg), senior Jarvis Summers (13.3 ppg) and LaDarius White (12.5 ppg) -- account for 52.6 percent of the team's scoring and 53.2 percent of the team's field goal attempts.

"Mississippi is going to shoot 25 threes in this game or maybe more," said Calipari in his media opportunity Monday. "If they make 20, then we lost our first game. They're shooting 25. Their three guards are their leading scorers and take more than 50 percent of their shots. 

"They offensive rebound 13 or 14 per game. They're going to play a zone where they're changing defenses. It could confuse us. If they're making shots, then we have to try to drive them off the 3-point line. When you're playing teams that are willing to shoot that many, you just don't know."

SEC Appears Stronger Entering Start of League Play

Looking at the SEC as a whole, all metrics point to a stronger league from top to bottom and perhaps more NCAA Tournament bids for a league that received just three bids last season. And it starts with Kentucky's dominance at the top.

"Kentucky has sort of separated themselves in the nonconference from the rest of the world, not only in our league, but from everybody else's league as well," said Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings on the SEC teleconference Monday. "Our league is deep and I think the conference season will be an absolute grind because there are so many teams that are probably competitive and equal enough that a lot of teams can win on any given night."

The SEC is one of four conferences with five teams in the RPI top 50 and one of three leagues with 10 teams in the RPI top 100. The SEC also has five teams in the top 50 and 11 teams in the top 100, according to KenPom.com. Ole Miss is rated No. 93 and No. 67 in the two metrics, respectively.

ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi released his first full bracket of the season, and it included five SEC teams, and in his conference-by-conference forecast, he forecasts four teams from the SEC to receive an NCAA Tournament bid.

Observations from the Best Seat in the House is back, having taken a week off for the Christmas holidays and traveled to Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. The football team finished the season in a "New Year's Six" bowl, the men's basketball team closed out non-conference play, the women's basketball team opened Southeastern Conference play and the spring sports draw nearer. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was:

- The Ole Miss football team ran into a buzz saw in No. 6 TCU, a team playing like it was motivated by the College Football Playoff snub and should have been in the four-team playoff. The 42-3 loss to the Horned Frogs marked the first bowl loss under head coach Hugh Freeze and the worst bowl loss in program history.

"TCU is a very good team," Freeze said. "They deserved every mention they got this year to be in the hunt for one of the four.  They certainly, rightfully, deserve to be in it with the others.... To pick the four is a very difficult task.  They certainly could compete with any of those in it, no question in my mind."

- It's easy for fans to be disappointed by the end of the season, but credit is due to Freeze and the 2014 team, particularly the seniors, many of whom were freshman during a 2-10 season in 2011. They helped lead the program to three straight bowl games for the first time since 1998-2000 and their nine wins are its most in a season since 2009. History will be kind to this team, as the underclassmen on this year's team look to take the program to the next level in the years to come.

"I'm extremely proud of our kids and how they've turned this program, in three short years, to being relevant and competitive. I'm just sick that it wasn't that way for them today," Freeze said.

- Playing in his last collegiate game, senior cornerback Senquez Golson provided a bright spot in the game, as he tied the school record with his 10th interception of the season, the 16th of his career, which is tied for third place in Ole Miss. A projected second-day NFL draft pick, Golson remains undecided on his plans for the spring, whether it's playing baseball or preparing for the NFL Draft.

- He did not want to go out the way he did, saying as much to the media in the postgame press conference, but just as history will be kind to this year's team, it will likely be kind to senior quarterback Bo Wallace. He had his ups and downs, and he would probably be the first to admit that, but he finishes his Ole Miss career with school record for career total offensive yards (10,478), and with 24 wins as the team's stating quarterback, he is tied with Eli Manning as the winningest quarterback in modern Ole Miss history. Among those 24 wins: Three top-10 wins, including No. 1 Alabama, two Egg Bowl wins and two bowl wins.

- Much was made about the SEC's bowl performance and the SEC East's 5-0 record and the SEC West's 2-5 record, headlined by the 0-3 record by SEC West team in the "New Year's Six" bowl games. With that being said, a couple of things to consider: The SEC tied its own record the most conference bowl wins in college football history. When comparing the records of the two divisions, be sure to look at their bowl game opponents, which includes the nation's No. 4, No. 6, No. 12 and No. 18 teams for SEC West teams. Also, should one bowl game carry more weight than the 12-game or 13-game regular season when comparing divisions and conferences?

- Speaking of the "New Year's Six," the new format pulled in historic ratings. The first half of the "New Year's Six" delivered the most-viewed and highest-rated New Year's Eve triple header on an ESPN network on record, including an average of 5,013,000 views and a 3.4 US rating for No. 6 TCU and No. 9 Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl. The semifinals on New Year's Day then delivered the largest two audiences in cable television history and the highest overnight rating for a non-championship game on ESPN and ABC, with a 15.5 rating for No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Florida State in the Rose Bowl and a 15.3 rating for No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. I look forward to seeing the numbers for the College Football Championship on Monday, Jan. 12.

- Looking ahead to next season, Ole Miss will have perhaps its two best offensive players in sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and sophomore offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil coming off season-ending injuries, as Tunsil suffered a broken fibula in the loss to TCU. David Chao, MD, a former NFL head team physician, said on Twitter that type of injury requires surgery, but Tunsil could make a recovery in four-to-six months. Freeze said Treadwell, now out of the boot, will recovered by about the start of spring practice, expecting him to participate in some of spring practice.

- But the biggest question heading into the offseason and the 2015 season? The quarterback position. The Rebels signed the nation's top junior college quarterback in Chad Kelly, and we'll know more about his future with the program in the coming days. And then there's redshirt freshmen Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade, neither of whom has separated from the other through two seasons working behind Bo Wallace. It will be something to watch.

- Other questions heading into the offseason and 2015 season? Who does Freeze hire to replace linebackers coach Tom Allen on his coaching staff? After signing four on junior college national signing day, including the nation's top quarterback, defensive tackle and cornerback, how does Ole Miss finish up its recruiting class on National Signing Day (Feb. 4)? How do Treadwell, Tunsil, among others recover from season-ending injuries? That and more, we'll all have to sit back and watch.

- Speaking of looking ahead to 2015, here's Chase Parham's annual look at 10 dates that are significant for Ole Miss during the next calendar year. A must-read for all Rebel fans, if you haven't already checked it out.

- While in Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, I had the opportunity to visit and tour the College Football Hall of Fame. Wow. If you're a college football fan and haven't yet visited the museum in downtown Atlanta, you need to make plans to do so. 

When you walk in, you see a three-story-high wall of helmets representing the 768 teams that play college football at the FBS, FCS, Division II, Division III and NAIA level. When you walk upstairs, you walk through the history of college football, whether it's through exhibitions, many of which are interactive, or through films. And then there's some Ole Miss flavor, from a "Speed Limit 18" sign, to an Archie Manning 1970 magazine cover, to a game ball from the 2011 seven-overtime game against Arkansas, and then the helmet wall, films and interactivity of the exhibits will blow you away.

- As part of bowl week, I also had the opportunity to visit Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite Hospital, shadowing three of team's 21 seniors in Cody Prewitt, Billy Busch and Charlie Scott. It was great to watch the players interact with the patients, sharing stories and brightening their day. It gave you perspective. 

Another senior, Lavon Hooks, said it best: "It was a great opportunity getting to hang out with kids that might not get the same opportunities as us. It brightened my day, just being able to give back. I think it brightened their day, too, getting to play and hang out with some people they may see on TV and look up to."

- The Ole Miss men's basketball team had an interesting non-conference, defeating Creighton, Cincinnati away from Oxford, while losing to Charleston Southern and Western Kentucky on their home floor. The Rebels closed out the non-conference slate with a 9-4 record, rolling past Austin Peay 92-63 on Saturday. Ole Miss shot a season-best 54.8 percent from the floor, but head coach Andy Kennedy was most pleased by 23 assists on 34 made field goals.

"There have been a lot of things I was not expecting," said Kennedy of non-conference play. "I felt like the continuity would be a little better because we had more experience. The reality is we are still integrating new guys into the way we do things. It took us a while to figure out who's best with whom. This team needs to share the ball. We have to help each other get shots."

- Preseason All-SEC first team selection Jarvis Summers has come on strong entering the start on SEC play. He has scored in double figures in each of his last three games, including a team-high 18 points in the win over Austin Peay.

"Tonight as we were making that push, he was the guy that was being the player we need him to be," said Kenned of Summers, the Rebels' second-leading scorer. "My hope is he's getting back into a rhythm. He understands the importance that he brings to this team."

- The Rebels open SEC play on Tuesday when they play on the road at No. 1 Kentucky in Rupp Arena. Kennedy and Summers both stressed the importance of making jump shots and keeping the Wildcats off the offensive glass to keep the game close and give themselves a chance at the upset.

- The Ole Miss women's basketball team opened SEC play, defending their home court in a 71-57 win over Arkansas and then playing No. 11 Kentucky to the wire in a 64-58 loss on the road in Lexington. The Rebels led for 25:59 of the game, before a 6-0 run over the final 2:22 sealed the win for the Wildcats. Despite the loss, head coach Matt Insell and his team proved they're going to be a tough out for opponents this season.

- With the turn of the calendar, the start of the spring sports draw nearer, and something is whether three-time All-American and reigning SEC Player of the Year Nik Scholtz elects to return for his senior season in men's tennis. The Caledon, South Africa, native played in various Futures tournament this past summer and fall. With Scholtz, the Rebels would return six of their top seven player from last season, in addition to talented newcomers Gustav Hansson of Sweden and Zvonimir Babic of Croatia. 

A couple of dates to watch, as far as a possible return for Scholtz, are Jan. 7, when Ole Miss opens the 2015 season in the Florida Gulf Coast Invitational, Jan. 21, when Ole Miss classes begins, and Jan. 24, when Ole Miss begins play in the ITA Kickoff Weekend.

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With final exam week on the Ole Miss campus, there was not much game action, but there's still plenty to talk about, as Ole Miss finalized salary increases for head football coach Hugh Freeze and his staff, and the football team moved one week closer to the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Wednesday, Dec. 31. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was:

- Freeze's new $4.3 million base salary is tied for third among Southeastern Conference head coaches and tied for seventh nationally. It increases to $5 million if the Rebels advance to the SEC Championship Game, which would be tied for second among SEC coaches and tied for tied fourth nationally.

- Also, as part of the same release, Ole Miss announced it will unveil plans, including visuals and timelines, for the expansion of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Monday, so stayed tuned for those.

- The first-ever two-time winner of the Chucky Mullins Courage Award, Deterrian Shackelford was honored for his community service and off-the-field contributions, winning the Wuerffel Trophy and being elected the AFCA Good Works Team Captain.

- The Ole Miss Alumni Association will hold its bowl bash on Tuesday, Dec. 30 at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. More details here. As we get closer to Dec. 31, be sure to visit and bookmark Ole Miss Bowl Central and Chick-fil-A Bowl Central and stay tuned to @OleMissFB and @CFAPeachBowl for all things Chick-fil-A Bowl related.

- There might be a few more video between now and Dec. 31, but here are two videos to check out from Ole Miss Sports Productions: The 2014 season highlight video and the official team Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl preview video. Great work, as always.

- The Ole Miss men's basketball team moved to 6-3 on the season, suffering its third home loss in five such games this season. The Rebels led by as many as 17, and as many as 16 in the second half, but they were unable to overcome a second-half rally from Western Kentucky in an 81-74 loss Saturday.

"It's unacceptable, quite frankly," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "It's unacceptable for me, it's unacceptable for our team. I've tried and tried and tried to infuse pride. It's hard to infuse that, I have learned. We have really tried everything we could to get them to understand the importance of protecting home floor because it's so difficult to win on the road." 

- As many others noted, preseason All-SEC first team selection Jarvis Summers was held to single-digit scoring for the fourth straight game against WKU. In each of the Rebels' three losses this season, he has scored just eight points.

"Basically, just got to do what I've got to do," Summers said. "I can't make no excuses. I have to get in some rhythm. It's frustrating. I can't pout. I can't cry about it. I have to continue to put the work in." 

- On the positive side, Stefan Moody led the Rebels in scoring for the fourth straight game, which has included 26 points against Cincinnati, 22 against Oregon, and most recently, 25 against WKU. He's averaging 21.3 points and has gone 14-of-27 from 3-point range during the four-game stretch.

- The Ole Miss women's basketball team rebounded from back-to-back losses with perhaps its most complete performance of the season, cruising to an 88-48 win over South Alabama on Sunday. With the win, the Rebels have a chance to go 10-3 for its best non-conference record since the 2011-12 season.

- In the win over South Alabama, five players scored in double figures and the Rebels shot a season-best 53.2 percent from the field. Defensively, Ole Miss forced 31 turnovers and held South Alabama to 29.5 percent shooting, including just four made field goals and 14 points in the second half.

- Not Ole Miss related, but if you haven't already, you should check out this Marcus Mariota Heisman tribute video from the University of Oregon Athletic Video Department. Great stuff. Mariota won the award, receiving 90.9 percent of the possible points in voting, the second-highest percentage ever. 

- On an Ole Miss-related note, the Rebels will face Heisman Trophy fourth-place finisher, TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin, in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. Ole Miss has already faced and defeated the third-place (Alabama's Amari Cooper) and eight-place (Mississippi State's Dak Prescott) finishers for the award.

- Ole Miss will have at least two representatives in the NFL Playoffs, as Brandon Bolden's New England Patriots and Donte Moncrief's Indianpolis Colts clinched division titles Sunday. Check out this story on Moncrief from Stephen Holder on the Indianapolis Star.

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In the early part of the week, Athletics Director Ross Bjork and head football coach Hugh Freeze reached an agreement on a new contract. In the late part of the week, the Rebels learned their postseason bowl destination. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was:

- Bjork and Freeze broke the news of a new contract via Twitter early Tuesday. The terms of the new contract will be released as they are finalized and are expected in the coming days.

- For the second straight season, No. 9 Ole Miss will end its season in the same city in which it began it, having defeated Boise State in Atlanta in its season opener and now returning to Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Dec. 31 against No. 6 TCU.

"It's an exciting time in college athletics, and we are thrilled to be one of the teams selected in the first 'New Year's Six' bowls," Freeze said. "We are honored to accept this great invitation and take on an outstanding TCU team. Atlanta is a place that is very dear to our program, and it's important to us that we represent our great university."

- When the regular season was said and done, Ole Miss had defeated the only two teams to be ranked No. 1 in the CFB Playoff Rankings (Alabama and Mississippi State) and three 10-win teams (Alabama, Boise State, Mississippi State), all of whom are also playing in "New Year's Six Bowls." Check out this infographic recapping the Rebels' 2014 season.

- TCU was ranked No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings last week, only to fall to No. 6 behind No. 3 Florida State, No. 4 Ohio State and No. 5 Baylor in the final rankings. Despite his team's exclusion from the national semifinals, TCU head coach Gary Patterson doesn't expect a letdown. 

"I don't think it will linger at all," Patterson said. "Ole Miss has been ranked as high as third in the national standings. So, for us, we know we're playing a very good football team. We want to prove that we were a team that should have been in the playoffs, and the Peach Bowl and playing Ole Miss is exactly the game we should be in." 

- Freeze has become the only coach in school history to guide Ole Miss to bowl berths in each of his first three seasons.

- Ole Miss will put its 23-12 bowl record (.657 winning percentage), the second-best in the nation, and a six-game bowl win streak, tied with Florida State for the longest in the nation, on the line against TCU.

- The matchup presents the No. 1 scoring defense (Ole Miss) against the nation's No. 2 scoring offense (TCU), which as both coaches noted on the media teleconference is kind of ironic, given Freeze's background as offensive coach and Patterson's background as a defensive coach.

"He's the defensive guru that I have wanted to learn from," said Freeze of Patterson.

- As Chase Parham of RebelGrove/Rivals.com noted on Twitter, Bo Wallace has a chance to the be the first Ole Miss quarterback in school history to start and win three bowl games, having earned MVP honors in bowl wins over Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech the last two years.

- The Rebels' return to Atlanta is another homecoming of sorts for nine players from the Atlanta area, headlined by Evan Engram, one of the nation's best tight ends, Mike Hilton, the Rebels' leading tackler and Robert Nkmediche, a Lombardi Award semifinalist.

- Ole Miss has traveled well for bowl games in recent years, and within hours, discounted Ole Miss student tickets for the Chick-fil-A Bowl sold out. More ticket info here

"We were really excited to find out about the announcement of both TCU and Ole Miss because both teams are renowned for their passionate fan bases, and so we believe we'll be in for our 18th straight sellout with both fan bases flocking to Atlanta to support two of the top-10 teams in the country," said Gary Stokan, Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl president and CEO.

- Be sure to visit and bookmark Ole Miss Bowl Central and Chick-fil-A Bowl Central and stay tuned to @OleMissFB and @CFAPeachBowl for all things Chick-fil-A Bowl related.

- Men's basketball head coach Andy Kennedy notched perhaps the best non-conference win of his nine-year tenure, as Ole Miss defeated Oregon 79-73 in Eugene on Sunday afternoon. Stefan Moody led the Rebels with 22 points, including this first-half buzzer beater.

- Through eight games, Ole Miss has three quality non-conference wins, all away from home (vs. Creighton, vs. Cincinnati, at Oregon), while both of its losses came at home against Charleston Southern and TCU.

- Similar to Kennedy who sent a message to his team a couple of weeks ago, women's basketball head coach Matt Insell said his team has to get their effort back right and their toughness has to get better, having lost back-to-back games for the first time this season.

"We have to go back to the drawing board this week and figure out some things," Insell said. "I'm going to break down film and figure out what we can fix as a basketball team and why we're not playing as well as we played over Thanksgiving break and how we can start getting back to playing better before we head into SEC play."

- It's final exam week on the Ole Miss campus, so check out this creative hype video from Ole Miss Sports Productions.

Ole Miss continued its strong bounce-back from a season-opening loss to Charleston Southern, improving to 5-1 on the season and knocking off two previously unbeaten opponents in No. 23 Creighton and Cincinnati to capture the inaugural Emerald Coast Classic.

"We hadn't really found any rhythm through our first four games, either offensively or defensively," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "We had been playing hard, but I didn't think we established any rhythm whatsoever. That was surprising to me based on what I had seen this summer and the extra work. I thought we would be further along in developing an identity. We took a huge step toward that this past weekend."

Senior guard Jarvis Summers, a preseason All-SEC first team selection, leads the team in scoring averaging 14.7 points per game. He is joined in double figures by junior guard Stafan Moody (13.0 ppg) and senior guard LaDarius White (12.2 ppg). 

Moody exploded for a career-high 26 points, including 17 in the second half, as Ole Miss defeated Cincinnati in the Emerald Coast Classic Championship Saturday. He knocked down as many 3-pointers against the Bearcats (3-of-7) as he had all season (3-of-21).

"He hadn't really made any threes prior to us going to Florida, and he really struggled," Kennedy said. "The first one he made, he banked in against Creighton, which is not what we intended to get him out of his slump. He made a couple early against Cincinnati. They pressed us, which allowed him to get in the open floor, and he made some spectacular finishes."

"It took a while, trying to get used to the offense and things like, but then I finally got it going, got in a good rhythm, got some good looks, and the shots started falling," Moody said.

White, Kennedy said, has probably been their consistent player this season. He is averaging 13.0 ppg during the last five games, all wins for the Rebels, and is shooting 58.9 percent from the field, including 8-of-15 from 3-point range.

"He came out of that big class with Johnny O'Bryant, Rodney Hood, Jarvis Summers, and I really felt like Snoop had a chance to be a tremendous player," Kennedy said. "My hope is that this senior year, he will embrace the approach you have to take, and he will be consistent. He has certainly showed moments."

Through six games, Kennedy has used a deep rotation with all 12 healthy scholarship players averaging nine-plus minutes per game, including nine players averaging 14-plus minutes per game. 

"We have done it so many times, I'm used to it," said Moody of the deep rotation. "Any five that's out on the floor, I feel like we can mesh together, regardless of who's coming in and coming out. We have been doing it for so long."

The rotation has not included sophomore forward Terry Brutus, who missed last season with a torn ACL, but he is expected to return to full practice and game action soon. Kennedy noted his ability to help the frontcourt with rebounding and ball-screen defense.

"He's unique in that he gives us a four-man that we haven't had since he got hurt," Kennedy said. "He has some of the same Murphy (Holloway)-like qualities in that he's a bit undersized, but he's so explosive and he's so quick. He's been practicing with us for about 10 days. We have increase his workload in contact, and so forth. He gives us great energy. We'll see if he gets cleared, and we're pretty confident that he will, and we'll see how quickly we can get him into game action because it's been a while since he has played."

Coming off wins over Creighton and Cincinnati, Ole Miss turns its attention to two more marquee non-conference opponents, as the Rebels host unbeaten TCU (7-0), coming off a 61-52 win over Mississippi State, and travel to Oregon (4-2), an NCAA Tournament team last season.

"We have already stubbed our toe," said Kennedy, referring to the season-opening loss to Charleston Southern. "We have talked about wanting to protect your home floor, simply because I know how difficult it is to win on the road. And then we'll have a challenge at Oregon on Sunday. We're playing two opponents from quality leagues, and I understand the importance of those games."

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Ole Miss collected a lot of hardware over the weekend, as the football team reclaimed the Egg Bowl trophy and the men's and women's basketball returned home with regular-season tournament championship. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was:

- In the face of adversity, the Ole Miss football team turned in a complete performance, highlighted by an explosive offense and suffocating defense, in a 31-17 win over No. 4 Mississippi State to cap a 9-3 regular season. Check out what everyone was saying about the Rebels' Egg Bowl win.

"I kind of look at the big picture, and I know there are people in this program who probably disagree and that's OK," head coach Freeze said. "They're entitled to that. "To be sitting here 9-3, to have beaten the No. 1 team in the nation and the No. 4 team in the nation. We lost some very difficult games in conference on the road. We have come miles and miles in three short years. Anytime you end the season with nine wins and the Egg Bowl in your possession, that's a dang good year."

-Hugh Freeze called a great game, maybe his best as the head coach at Ole Miss, getting the ball to the team's playmakers with opportunities to make big plays, as the Rebels averaged 8.6 yards per play, including seven plays that gained 30 or more yards, on the way to 532 yards of total offense.

"It was a combination of having the right play called at the right time, so part of it was the scheme," Freeze said. "The plan was good, and then the kids executed it," Freeze said.

- One of those explosive plays was a 91-yard highlight-reel touchdown run by Jaylen Walton that not only proved to be the game-winning score, but also earned the No. 3 spot on SportsCenter's top 10 plays Saturday night.

- Bo Wallace cemented his legacy, throwing for nearly 300 yards and adding a touchdown run, all on a sprained ankle. Already the school's all-time leader in total offense, Wallace became the first Ole Miss quarterback to defeat two top-five teams since Archie Manning in 1969 and became the first quarterback to lead Ole Miss to nine regular-season wins since Eli Manning in 2003. 

- Defensively, Ole Miss held Mississippi State to a season-low tying 17 points and 445 yards of total offense, nearly 67 yards below its season average. The Rebels racked up nine tackles for loss and three sacks and held Dak Prescott to 48 yards on 24 carries.

"They're pretty good," said Freeze of Mississippi State. "They're going to get some yards. They have all year. At the same time, I'm not surprised. We are the No. 1 team in the country in scoring defense. We've been stingy with giving up points in the red zone. It was great to see, but I'm not really surprised."

- Speaking of, Ole Miss finished the regular season ranked No. 1 nationally in scoring defense (13.8), more than two points fewer than No. 2 Stanford (16.0) and gave up a nation-low 18 touchdowns, three fewer than UCF and Alabama (21).

- The home team continued its dominance in recent years, with the home team winning every meeting since 1999 except for 2003 in Starkville and 2010 in Oxford.

- On a related note, it was not quite the same as King Kobraz's "Feed Moncrief" two years ago, but Rebel Nation, particularly its students, have adopted Lil Jon's "Missisisppi Throw It Up (Remix)" and "Outta Your Mind" as their own this year, and it made for a great home field advantage.

- Ole Miss may not be a contender for the four-team playoff, but they may be a contender for a berth in a "New Year's Six" bowl, which this year includes the Fiesta, Cotton, Peach and Orange Bowls. CBS Sports' Jerry Palm projects Ole Miss to the Gator Bowl and play Iowa.

- The men's basketball team picked up two key wins, knocking off No. 23 Creighton, its first win over a ranked team since the 2013 NCAA Tournament, and Cincinnati to claim the Emerald Coast Classic Championship. The Rebels continued their strong start defensively, holding the Bearcats to a season-low 30.4 percent from the floor in a 66-54 win in the championship.

"We've posted two quality wins against teams (Creighton, Cincinnati) that are going to have good seasons," head coach Andy Kennedy told the AP. "We played just as hard tonight like we did against Creighton, but not as well. Still, this was a good win for our program to beat a team of this caliber."

- Stefan Moody turned in his best game in an Ole Miss uniform, scoring a career-high 26 points against Cincinnati to earn tournament MVP honors. If he keeps it up, he's going to be fun to watch.

"I've been telling people that he has explosive scoring ability," Kennedy said. "He carried the load for us. Good teams have good options. Tonight it was Stefan."

- The women's basketball team improved to 6-1, defeating Utah and Nevada to claim the Nugget Classic. After a road game at Western Kentucky on Thursday night, the Rebels return home for a much-anticipated matchup with No. 13 Baylor on Sunday afternoon. In case you forgot, Ole Miss played then-No. 9 Baylor to an 87-80 loss in Waco last year.

- The volleyball team made a strong final push under first-year head coach Steven McRoberts, defeating Alabama and Georgia to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive entering their regular-season finale against Texas A&M. The Rebels led 2-1 after taking the second and third sets, but the Aggies rallied to win sets four and five to take the match 3-2.

"It's tough to end it with a gut-wrenching loss," McRoberts said. "I'm thankful for this first year, that we've laid a solid foundation moving forward. Hopefully, our team is willing to put in the effort to get over that hump, so that we're celebrating at this point next year instead of being done at Thanksgiving."

- Former Ole Miss wide receiver Donte Moncrief capped the weekend with another big game, hauling in three catches for a career-high 134 yards, including touchdowns of 48 and 79 yards, his second and third career touchdowns. He and teammates T.Y. Hilton also threw up the Landshark, as they planned to do, and received the game ball after the game.

- To close, let me congratulate Metz Camfield, who has also been a part of this weekly feature, whose last day with Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations was Saturday. Starting next week, he will be the editor of CoachCal.com, so follow him over there and @MetzCamfield.


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It's that busy time of the year with the Ole Miss football, volleyball, men's and women's basketball teams all in action. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was in Ole Miss sports:

- A slow start (17-0 first-quarter deficit), a stalled running game (33 carries for 37 yards) and six turnovers (two in the red zone) all had a hand in a 30-0 loss at Arkansas, ending the Rebels' SEC West title hopes. There's not much else to say.

"I told our kids in locker room," Freeze said, '"I don't like the way we finished year two and I don't like the way we played tonight.'

- It's clear Ole Miss misses Laquon Treadwell, not just his production, but also his leadership and playmaking abilities. Playing without the sophomore star for the first time in SEC play, Ole Miss was shut out for the first time this season. The Rebels managed just three plays of 20 or more yards, and their active leading receiver, Vince Sanders, was held without a catch in the contest.

- Give the defense credit for keeping as close as they did for as long as they did. Facing a short field for much of the game, the Ole Miss defense allowed just one touchdown in five trips to the red zone for Arkansas. The Razorbacks started on average from their own 43-yard line and they had scoring drives of 52, 24, 49, 41, 0 and 0 yards, respectively.

- Ole Miss also found itself on the wrong side of history, as Arkansas became the first unranked team to ever shut out two ranked opponents in back-to-back games.

- With Arkansas becoming bowl eligible, an entire division will advance to the postseason for the first time in Southeastern Conference history. What's more impressive, the SEC West is a combined a 38-3 against non-SEC West opponents, including a combined 28-0 against non-conference opponents.

- For the second straight season, both SEC divisions will be determined on the final weekend. Alabama and Missouri each control their destiny, while Georgia needs an Arkansas win over Missouri, and Mississippi State needs a win over Ole Miss and an Auburn win over Alabama. Ole Miss, like Arkansas and Auburn, will play a spoiler role, looking to eliminate Mississippi State from SEC West title contention.

"If you can't get up for that one, you probably don't need to be playing," linebacker Deterrian Shackelford said. "It's everything, it's the Egg Bowl. And for the seniors, it's Senior Day. If I have to motivate people for next week, they probably shouldn't be playing."

- Ole Miss volleyball's Nakeyta Clair set the school single-season kills record in the rally scoring era, putting down nine kills in a four-set loss to No. 6 Florida this past Friday. The Rebels bounced back with a five-set win over Alabama on Sunday, the second match in a four-match homestand to close out the regular season. Ole Miss will host Texas A&M on Friday for Senior Day, where the Rebels will honor the senior trio Marie-Pierre Bakima, Cara Fisher and Rachael Weathersby.

- Father, Rick, and Middle Tennessee State got the best of son, Matt, and Ole Miss, in the first-ever meeting between father and son head coach in NCAA Division I women's basketball history. The result was not what Matt and the Rebels wanted, but the matchup provided a tough test for a young team learning every game and created some buzz and excitement surrounding the program.

- Here's a nice story on Rick and Matt Insell from Will Borthick from the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Check it out.

- The Ole Miss men's basketball team rebounded nicely from a heartbreaking overtime loss to Charleston Southern, rattling off three straight wins over Troy, Southern and Northern Arizona, going into this weekend's game in Niceville, Florida. The Rebels will face Creighton and then either Cincinnati or Middle Tennessee State. The Blue Jays, which return one starter from last year's 27-8 team, is off to a 4-0 start, including a win over No. 18 Oklahoma.

- Head coach Andy Kennedy said he has been surprised by how much he has learned a lot about his team, one that includes five newcomers, and he spoke very honestly about what he has learned through four games: "We're not as tough physically as I would have hoped," said Kennedy after an 80-74 win over Northern Arizona. "We make excuses. I didn't know this group would do that. I know some of it is a defense mechanism. I get that. I have done this a long time. Sometimes, that's the easy way out. It's the default mode. I get it, but we have to get tougher. We have to play to our abilities. I don't think we have played to our ability yet."

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The Ole Miss football team was off, but it was a busy week in Ole Miss athletics nevertheless, as the men's and women's basketball teams opened their respective seasons. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was:

- The Ole Miss football team did not play Saturday, but the Rebels got the help they needed to remain in the Southeastern Conference Western Division race, as Alabama defeated Mississippi State and then Georgia defeated Auburn. To win the SEC West, Ole Miss still has to win on the road at Arkansas and at home against Mississippi State, and then Auburn must defeat Alabama on Nov. 29.

- On the other side, in the SEC Eastern Division, Missouri controls its own destiny at 8-2 overall and 5-1 in SEC play, with games remaining on the road at Tennessee and at home against Arkansas. If Missouri falters, Georgia would win the SEC East title at 6-2 in the SEC.

- Speaking of Arkansas, the Razorbacks were going to beat somebody, and they finally did it by shutting out LSU 17-0 to snap their 17-game losing streak. Stat of the game: Arkansas held LSU to just 123 yards of total offense.

- Bruce Feldman wrote about Body Blow theory last year, as it related to Stanford football. The same theory can perhaps be applied to this week's Ole Miss-Arkansas matchup. SEC teams are just 1-4 in games the week after playing LSU with the lone exception being Alabama's 25-20 win over Mississippi State.

- If Ole Miss defeats Arkansas and Mississippi State defeats Vanderbilt, Nov. 29 sets up for another memorable day in the SEC Western Division. Ole Miss and Mississippi State would both remain in the SEC Western Division race, while Alabama would control its own destiny and Auburn would look to play spoiler.

- Ole Miss moved up two spots to No. 8 in the Associated Press and coaches polls by virtue of losses by Arizona State and Auburn. The Rebels are the highest-ranked two-loss team in the country

- The men's basketball team dropped an overtime heartbreaker to Charleston Southern in its season opener. Ole Miss went 19-of-63 from the field and 6-of-30 from 3-point range, but it was unable to overcome a 54-50 rebounding deficiency, as the Buccaneers won the game 65-64 on a tip-in dunk with 0.1 seconds left in overtime.

"I have been doing this for 10 years, and I have never had one like this," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "You have to do your best to learn from it. It's easier said than done. It's going to hurt. You want it to hurt. They were stunned in there. They should be."

- One of the bright spots was the play of junior guard Martavious Newby, who led the team with 14 points and seven rebounds. He's a stabilizing force and calming influence, providing a toughness that Kennedy said he hopes can become more contagious and spread throughout the team.

- The women's basketball team is off to a 2-0 start with wins over Grambling State and Mississippi Valley State. Ole Miss suffocated MVSU, as they held the Lady Devilettes to just 38 points and forced 46 turnovers, turning them into 51 points off turnovers.

"I have coached teams that have forced that number of turnovers," head coach Matt Insell said. "That's a number we look at. We can gauge our hustle on how many turnovers we force and how many deflections we get. Sometimes you may not turn a team over a lot, but you get a lot of deflections. That's just as good as a turnover. We really gauge a lot of what we're doing on turnovers, deflections and steals. If those numbers are high, we played pretty darned good defensively."

- Newcomers make up six of the top seven scorers, with five of them already finishing in double figures this season. Leading the way, however, is senior forward Tia Faleru averaging 21 points and 12.5 rebounds through two games. She also became the 26th 1,000-point scorer in program history.

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It's Sunday, so that means it's time for this week's Observations from the Best Seat in the House. There was no shortage of observations this week. Let's get into it:

1. It's the day after, and I still can't believe yesterday happened. Ole Miss became the epicenter of college football, from ESPN's "College GameDay," to Katy Perry, to the game itself, to the celebration and national attention that followed. It could not have been a better day for the football program, athletics department and the university itself.

"Let's utilize the filter, the platform and the marketing power of athletics to then help the entire university," said Athletics Director Ross Bjork earlier this week. "This is one of those examples that because of athletics the university can be put on a pedestal in a great way to showcase all the great things that are happening. That's a responsibility that we take very seriously. 

"We're not the most important thing, but we happen to be the most visible and this will be one of those examples where because of athletics that visibility takes hold and now we can show the world how beautiful our campus is and the hospitality of the Ole Miss family."

2. Let's start with "College GameDay." The crew loved it and the fans loved the show's first visit to the Grove, to the tune of the highest overnight rating this season. The passion and hospitality of Ole Miss fans and the beauty and atmosphere of the Grove were on full display. 

And depending on future results, the show may make a return later this season, either Nov. 1 vs. Auburn or Nov. 29 vs. Mississippi State.

3. Beside the bliss of standing within shouting distance of Katy Perry as she made her way to the GameDay set to make her picks, which was a great moment for me, she was great for Ole Miss. With her fame and popularity, she got people to tune into GameDay and then promptly stole the show. 

She picked the Rebels, which started a full-on embrace of Ole Miss and Oxford, as she hugged the Black Bear mascot, became a regular on the Jumbotron wearing an Ole Miss visor, stormed the field with the masses of fans and then celebrated with them at the bar at Funky's. I can't begin to describe what her ties to Ole Miss, if even for a day, means to the university.

4. There are a lot of places you can start with the game itself, but I'm going to start with Bo Wallace. 

The much-maligned quarterback had his day, much like Andrew Ritter had against LSU last year, becoming the first quarterback since Eli Manning to defeat Alabama.  

He completed 18-of-31 passes for 251 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, completing each of his final three pass attempts for 57 yards and two touchdowns with the game on the line. "Good Bo, Bad Bo" had been the popular narrative entering the game, one that Wallace hoped to have rid of once and for all.

"That thing's the most annoying thing I've ever heard," Wallace said. "I also feel like I'm the only quarterback in the nation who throws interceptions. Hopefully I can be 'Good Bo' the rest of the year."

5. When called upon, to keep Ole Miss in the game in the first half and then win the game on the final drive, the Rebels defense rose to the challenge as they have all season. Sound familiar?

The Ole Miss defense allowed just 10 points, despite facing an Alabama offense that entered the game averaging 42.0 points. The Rebels also created two timely turnovers, one of which led to the game-winning touchdown, and the other effectively ended the game.

6. Including the fumble returned for a touchdown by Alabama, the Ole Miss defense has given up just four touchdowns this season, the fewest in the nation. The Rebels also rank second in scoring defense, giving up just 10.2 points per game, and rank fifth in total defense (277.6 ypg) and yards per play allowed (4.1 yard per play). 

7. To quote the great philosopher Drake, the Ole Miss senior class started from the bottom, and now they're here.

From a forgettable 2-10 season, to a 5-0 start and a top-five national ranking. There are a lot of talented underclassmen on the roster, but these seniors who stayed have showed out themselves and have provided invaluable leadership so far this season.

"After the 2-10 season and we lost our head coach, a lot of players were thinking about getting out," senior Senquez Golson said. "I almost left to go play baseball and we talked to the coaches and we just decided to stay."

8. For the historic 2013 signing class, Saturday was another moment of validation, the first win over a top-ranked team in program history and the Rebels' first win over Alabama since 2003. They all played big roles in the win and creating a "new normal" in Oxford.

"I came here with the 2013 class to change the culture around here," said sophomore Robert Nkemdiche, the consensus No. 1 recruit in the nation from that class. "We came to do something different. I could have gone to Alabama or LSU, but I wanted to come here and make a difference. And that's what we have done. I'm really proud of ourselves."

9. Ole Miss' win over Alabama was just one shockwave as part of Shakeout Saturday that saw five of the top eight teams in the AP poll lose on the same weekend. Florida State, Auburn and Baylor survived, while Oregon, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and UCLA joined Alabama in defeat.

10. As part of the shakeout, Ole Miss moved into a tie with Mississippi State for No. 3 in the AP poll. And with Auburn at No. 2, three of the top four teams in the AP poll reside in the SEC West. Mississippi State hosts Auburn and ESPN's "College GameDay" this Saturday.

11. The eyes of college football descended on Ole Miss. To see what everyone is saying in local and national news and the best tweets from Saturday and Sunday morning, click here.

12. There are a lot of great photos and videos out there from Saturday. Here is a photo of the mass of fans storming the field, a video of fans tearing down the goal posts and a video of the game-winning touchdown.

13. Speaking of photos and video, Josh McCoy did yeoman's working covering the days leading up to and including "College GameDay" and the win over Alabama. Check out his gallery from the Alabama game here

And a tip of the hat to Michael Thompson, Micah Ginn and the rest of the marketing and productions staff for creating a big-time atmosphere in the stadium to match the big-time atmosphere in the Grove. 

14. I would stay tuned for what might be the best episode of "The Season: Ole Miss Football" yet. 

15. Lost in the euphoria of "College GameDay" and the historic win over Alabama, volleyball head coach Steven McRoberts and his team had a signature moment of their own. Missouri came in as the defending SEC Champion with a 20-match conference win streak, and the Rebels swept the Tigers 3-0 in front of a nationally-televised audience on the SEC Network.

"It's huge," said junior Nakeyta Clair who led the team with 14 kills and a .500 hitting percentage in the match. "It shows not only us, but it shows our fans that we can do it this year. We have a lot of confidence in ourselves this year. It didn't faze us they were SEC champs last year."

16. Senior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick tied the school shutout record with the Ole Miss soccer team's 1-0 win at Alabama on Sunday. The Rebels grabbed four points on the road this weekend, as they also played Auburn to a 2-2 draw Friday.

17. The Ole Miss men's basketball team opened fall practice Friday, and the team's trip to the Bahamas in August is already paying dividends. Don't forget Square Jam is set for Friday, Oct. 17, the day before the football team's homecoming game against Tennessee, and the men's and women's basketball teams open their respective seasons Friday, Nov. 14.

"We're so far ahead based on what we had the opportunity to experience in the Bahamas," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "We have been with this team for 10 practices in July and August, and then we had two games in the Bahamas, so I feel much further along with this group. 

"We already put in some of our baseline stuff so that we can start to make adjustments based on what we saw this summer. Our foundation is pretty much set. Now, we're building off that based on the skill-set of our players."

18. Two former Ole Miss Rebels in Aaron Barrett (Washington) and Lance Lynn (St. Louis) are still playing in the MLB Playoffs. He took a no-decision, but Lynn worked six strong innings, giving up two runs on seven hits with eight strikeouts and two walks in Game 2 of the NLDS against Los Angeles on Saturday.

19. Looking ahead, it doesn't get any easier for the football team as Ole Miss travels to No. 14 Texas A&M this Saturday. With an 8 p.m. kickoff on ESPN, Kyle Field should be rocking. A trademark under head coach Hugh Freeze has been a team that bounces back from the highest highs and the lowest lows, but the spotlight has never shined as bright as it does right now.

Gaining experience and building chemistry were two big talking points for the Ole Miss men's basketball team coming out of its Bahamian exhibition tour in August. The practices leading up to and including the games in the Bahamas are already paying dividends, as the Rebels began preseason practice Friday.

"We're so far ahead based on what we had the opportunity to experience in the Bahamas," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "We have been with this team for 10 practices in July and August, and then we had two games in the Bahamas, so I feel much further along with this group. 

"That, and and this is the most-experienced team I have coached at Ole Miss, where nine of our 13 scholarship players are upperclassmen. I'm pleased with where we are and the prospects of this team."

With the departure of Marshall Henderson, senior Jarvis Summers, an All-SEC second team selection and the SEC's second-leading returning scorer, is looking to lead and be more vocal on a veteran-laden team with nine upperclassmen.

"I want him to be a leader and I want him to be steady," Kennedy said. "He has showed he is capable of those things. He had a great junior year. He's an all-league level player. For the first time, he realizes this is his team. We will go as far as he carries us, and he has accepted that challenge.

"Last year, a lot of the focus was on Marshall, and Jarvis did a great job of playing off of that. This year, he will be the focus. It will be a new role for him, and he will have to adjust accordingly."

Summers himself said it's everyone's responsibility to lead and take ownership of the team.

"I feel like everyone has to play a role," Summers said. "I know I played the most minutes and I'm the player from last year that got things going, but we're one, and we have to lead together."

Among the nine upperclassmen are two graduate transfers in Terence Smith and M.J. Rhett and two junior college transfers in Stefan Moody and Roderick Lawrence. Moody and Smith, Kennedy said, will help Summers with ball-handling responsibilities in the backcourt.

"With our two post-grad transfers, you're getting a mature kid who's been in game action before," Kennedy said. "And they're hungry because they never really experienced much team success. Stefan Moody and Rod Lawrence have really helped us from an athleticism and versatility standpoint."

It's a big weekend on campus with the first-ever visit of ESPN's College GameDay and the SEC West Showdown between No. 1 Alabama and No. 11 Ole Miss in football, and it only benefits the other programs, Kennedy said, including men's basketball.

"Everybody's under the brand of Ole Miss," Kennedy said. "We're all on the same team, whether you're a basketball player, a football player or a volleyball player. We're all Ole Miss. Anything that can raise that profile is awesome. What Hugh (Freeze) has been able to do, getting College GameDay here and the excitement it brings and the platform it presents, we're all excited about it."


Recapping the SEC Network Launch

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The Ole Miss men's basketball team wrapped up its Bahamian exhibition tour with a perfect 2-0 record. Head coach Andy Kennedy recapped the trip, talked about the chemistry, depth and experience of a new-look roster heading into the fall. The Rebels will open the 2014-15 season at home Nov. 14 against Charleston Southern. 

Below are the highlights from Tuesday's media opportunity:

On what he learned about the team from the trip to the Bahamas: 

I learned a lot. We had 10 practices here. We were over there for five days and we got two games. I treated it like an exhibition in that you obviously want to win, but I played all 12 guys. Terry Brutus is not healthy enough yet. He hasn't been cleared for full contact. Hopefully, he will be by the end of August or early September. 

Our 12 scholarship guys who were healthy and eligible to play all averaged double-figure minutes. I had seven of those guys average 18-plus minutes, three of which were new guys. It was very beneficial to see us in game action. We were able to put in some offensive and defensive stuff that we feel like we can build on and tweak. It was good for us.

The depth and experience of this group is probably as good as I have had. We have five seniors, three of which have matriculated through our system in Jarvis (Summer), Snoop (White) and AJ (Aaron Jones). We have two fifth-year guys in Terence Smith and M.J. Rhett, two experienced, focused guys. 

We then bring back a Martavious Newby and Anthony Perez who are now juniors. You guys have heard me say a bunch that when a kid becomes a junior, that is who he is. 

You then add two junior college kids in Stefan Moody and Rod Lawrence, two guys who have started at the Division I level. And then you have Sebas(tian Saiz) and (Dwight) Coleby, two guys who were thrown in the fire as freshmen and you look to take that next step, and they have done so. And then you add a freshman in Marcanvis Hymon. 

You have a bunch of upperclassmen who have been through this before. Trying to mix and match and see what we have as a group was very educational to me. When we start back at the end of August, early September, this experience will give us a head start in preparing for the season.

On establishing chemistry: 

It's really important. I'll be going into my 10th year as a head coach. I'm not smart enough to know how to push all the buttons so that the chemistry aligns. It has to evolve and it has to be owned by the team. 

That's really the biggest thing that I have challenged this group with, especially the seniors. M.J. and Terence, they're new to the situation, but they don't have time to feel your way through it. I want them to attack it with a sense of urgency that last year guys didn't play with. 

Snoop, Jarvis and AJ have all been good players in this program and all have been vital parts of us having some success. This is it. This is the last go-around, and I want them to own it. This gave us an opportunity to put that in play early.

On the roster: 

I felt like last year, the difference in winning 27 games and advancing to the NCAA Tournament to winning 19 games and not going to the postseason were evident to me. We needed to get more athletic. We needed to get stronger on our frontline. We had a rebounding deficiency that we weren't able to overcome. We weren't as proficient as we needed to be in a number of different areas. 

Bringing in the two fifth-year guys and bringing in the two JUCO guys, we filled some of those voids. We return seven of our top eight, with Marshall (Henderson) being the lone ranger who was obviously pivotal in what we have been the last two years.

But the core of our team is back. You add a Stefan Moody who will have a Marshall-like impact honestly. I'm not sure from a sensational standpoint, but here's a kid who is a terrific player and brings a wow factor from an athleticism standpoint that's going to give us some pop in that void that Marshall left with volume shooting and volume scoring. Rod Lawrence is a very solid piece. I tell him all the time, he needs to be our (Manu) Ginobili, a guy who can help us in a lot of different ways, and that's what he does. He's athletic, he's energetic, he's a great defender, he can do this and he can do that. 

And then you bring in two fifth-year guys. Terence Smith scored 1,300 points and started a bunch of games. He's been through college basketball and he's been through it at the level that he's never experienced this. He's excited about this, being in the SEC and having that opportunity. And the same for M.J. Rhett. He was eighth in the nation in double-doubles and led a league in rebounding. He has never experienced this. He has never experienced the NCAA Tournament, so those guys are hungry for that. 

It's been a good edition based on what we have been able to bring in and what we have coming back. I feel pretty good about our core.

On the new players: 

I wanted to throw them into some adversity. In our first game, we allowed it to affect us a little bit. We were looking around at what was going on, and it was good for us in game two when the same thing happened against a better team. Yet, we battled through it. We didn't give in. That was a valuable lesson and something that I will be able to use throughout the course of the season. Those new guys were a valuable part of that, seeing how we reacted to adversity and see how we deal with being in unusual circumstances.

On Jarvis Summers:

He's the most experienced and most productive returning player in the SEC. He has a chance, with a senior year on par with his junior year, to go down historically as one of the best players in the history of our program. He's very focused and very confident. Physically, he's probably in the best shape of his life. Jarvis came here at about 170 pounds, and he's about 190-195 pounds now. He's stronger and he's always had to be a physical guard. Last year, what he was able to accomplish has done wonders for his confidence. He knows this is his team, and he's leading that accordingly.

On the impact of Sebastian Saiz's international experience:

Last year, he was all arms and legs. He was gangly and he got knocked off his spot. He's gotten stronger and his base has gotten stronger, so he's not as easily moved. He played about 21.5 minutes a game, and he was our most productive big. He averaged close to a double-double (with) 11.5 (points) and 9.5 (rebounds). Some of that was because he was more familiar with international rules, like live ball off the rim, and he took advantage of a lot of that. 

He's active. He's confident. He's always played with a motor. For him, it's a matter of figuring out the size and speed at this level and getting stronger. With him having been in the program for a year, you can see him physically stronger. 

Dwight Coleby, as well. ... He's another one that I think you're going to see huge improvement in his physical conditioning and the way his body has reshaped. He's a big kid, both of those kids with Sebas at 6-(foot)-9, about 235-238 (pounds) and Dwight at 6-(foot)-9, about 245 (pounds). 

You add a M.J. Rhett, who's about 6-(foot)-9, 245 (pounds). AJ, I remember the goal for us was to consistently keep him in the 210s, between 212-218 pounds. Now, he's in the high 220s to about 230. He's matured physically going into his senior year. 

Hopefully we can get (Terry) Brutus back healthy. It's been a while -- last September -- since he played, when he tore the ACL. He's anxious to get back. Before the year, he was vital in us making that run, when we had Bear's (Demarco Cox's) injury, and he became that third post (player). You could always count on him. His quickness is somewhat Murph-like (Murphy Holloway-like). His skill isn't yet, but his quickness and ability to make plays. 

You guys are going to really like Marcanvis Hymon. It was great to see him in game play. He has a natural feel and natural ability to find the ball, much like Murph did. I'm really excited about our frontline. That's six guys, not even counting Anthony (Perez), who can still slide down some in that spot. The competition is going to be great for us, and that's what's going to leads us to become a better team.

On Marcanvis Hymon:

He's a face four. He will play all his time at that four-spot until he evolves. He's only about 6-(foot)-7. He's long, he's a quick jumper, and he's athletic. He's a lot like Murph. He has a natural ability, and the ball finds him. He can shoot it out to about 15-18 (feet). Terrance (Henry) evolved into a 3-point shooter, and (Hymon) will in time. He played all post in high school. He's raw, but he's athletic, he's quick, and he did some really positive things.

On the team's depth:

When you talk about experience, with Jarvis as the most experienced guy in the SEC, Snoop who's been through it and we hope that he can take that next step, AJ who was coming as a sophomore. This time last year, he was walking around on crutches, and then I throw him into a starting role. It had mixed reviews, but now he's had a year. He's healthier and he's bouncy again as a senior, with a sense of urgency. 

You bring in two fifth-year guys who have been tremendous assets to us. Terence Smith, I knew from watching him that he was an open shooter, but he's a lot like Jarvis. He's a very efficient guy. He's solid, much more athletic than I thought. He's an angled defender. He always made open shots for us. I'm playing him at some backup point and he did a great job. All his turnovers were bad-rule turnovers -- backcourt violations that aren't backcourts for us and traveling that not's traveling for us -- and he's very steady with the ball. It allows me to play Moody with the ball and without the ball. Moody is a guy who can play a little bit everywhere. He averaged 16 (points) a game at the Division I level. 

We added some pieces, along with Anthony (Perez), who went from a freshman who didn't play very much to a sophomore who helped us to win games, and Newby, who broke his hand and came back at end when we were playing a little better and evolved into a starter. All of those guys have been there and gained some experience and now they know through this trip what's expected of them moving forward. I'm excited about what I see and where we are.

On the third assistant coach position:

It's kind of on the back burner. I'm still going through due diligence. You guys are pretty smart and you realize what I'm doing, and if it evolves like I want it to. ... The positive and the reason I don't have a huge sense of urgency is because of Todd (Abernethy). I brought Todd in here to a position (Coordinator of Recruiting Development) that men's basketball had never had before. I credit Ross (Bjork) and the administration for having the foresight to empower me to have the position, so we created a non-coaching, recruiting development, off-the-floor position. 

When this transpired, I moved him up and allowed him to recruit to give us another body. He has done a great job for us and has gotten us involved with some really good players that he's a point guy for. He was great on the floor and it adds to his credibility with the guys, if and when that spot gets changed. 

They will view him differently because here's a guy who jsut finished a professional basketball career, he was an All-SEC player, and he can still play. He's out there and he's interacting with them, which has helped his relationships and helped him get to know the guys. 

That's another advantage of the trip. We had a lot more interaction for him and Tony (Madlock). They are now much further ahead in their relationships with the players than they would be before because of the experience. All of that has been helpful. 

(Todd's) a natural coach. He will be a coach, sooner rather than later. He's like me and he's like everybody else, you get in where you get in and you try to move your way up. He's had a great opportunity and he's taken advantage of it. It's opened my eyes to the fact that he's a valuable piece to us, so I don't feel like I have to name somebody tomorrow because we're understaffed. We're really not.

 

 

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy talks about the addition of assistant coach Tony Madlock and the new-look roster for the upcoming season, among other topics, on the SEC Summer Men's Basketball Coaches Media Teleconference Monday. Here are the highlights:

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy (starts at 1:24:00 mark)

Opening statement:

It's been a productive summer so far. We have had all our guys on campus, which has allowed us to get to know them a little bit better, especially the five incoming guys, and I have been excited about what I have seen so far.

On filling out his coaching staff:

I still have a spot open. I'm really in no rush to fill that in as it is. My focus has been on this group. Now that the NCAA has allowed us to have our hands on the guys during the summer, it's been great for me to get to know these new guys and see our returners continue to mature and grow as they get more experience in the program.

Tony (Madlock) has been a tremendous addition. He's a Memphian. He played at Memphis, grew up in the area, and he is certainly very, very familiar with the SEC, having been with Tony (Barbee) the last four years at Auburn. He's been great. He's brought a new focus and a new energy, and I'm really pleased to have him as part of our staff.

On the 13-player scholarship limit:

We're going to be there in August. Derrick Millinghaus has transferred to Southeastern Louisiana. Demarco Cox is trying to finish up his degree this summer, so that he can enroll at Georgia Tech in the fall. Janari Joesaar has left and he has signed with Texas-Pan American. Jerron Martin has left, and my belief is that he has intended to go to a junior college as opposed to sitting out. As all those numbers line up, we'll be at our 13 when we need to be in the fall.

On the newcomers, including two post-graduate transfers and two junior college transfers:

It's really a different dynamic. I have never done this before. We brought in two fifth-year guys in Terence Smith from UT-Martin and M.J. Rhett from Tennessee State. That, coupled with the three returning seniors who have matriculated through our system in Jarvis, Snoop and AJ, gives us five seniors. 

And when you talk about Anthony Perez and Martavious Newby, who are going to be juniors this year, along with Terry Brutus, who is in his third year, even though he will be a redshirt sophomore because he's coming off an ACL injury last year, and you couple that with Stefan Moody from Kilgore and Rod Lawrence from South Plains, 10 of our 13 guys will be juniors or seniors in the program. From an experience standpoint, we have never been as experienced. With that, we hope comes a real focus and sense of urgency that you like to see out of upperclassmen.

On the trip to the Bahamas and how it might impact things next season:

First and foremost, I'm looking want to work on my tan... I'm hoping to look a little healthier. Now that we can practice guys in the summer, a lot of the allure of having a foreign trip and having the 10 days to practice isn't quite as important as it once was but I am looking forward a chance to put together a semblance of a team so that we can go over and play some outside competition with the new guys that I'm anticipating making a huge impact on our program. It will give get a chance to see what they're able to do and start formulating an identity as it relates to how we want to play.

I don't know if (the quality of competition) is that important for us. More than anything, it's integrating the new guys and making sure older guys understand their roles. It's a matter of putting a team together and seeing how we can formulate our identity.

OMAHA, Neb. -- Head football coach Hugh Freeze and head men's basketball coach Andy Kennedy, two former baseball players in their own right, were among the Ole Miss fans in attendance for Tuesday's College World Series game against Texas Tech.

"Watching it on TV the other night, it seemed like our Rebels showed up," Freeze said. "Getting to see it live, my assumptions were correct. Our fans have traveled well again, as they always do. They're so supportive of everything we do. The atmosphere is great."

In his 14th season at Ole Miss, head baseball coach Mike Bianco is the dean of coaches among the big-three sports, with Freeze entering his third season and Kennedy entering his ninth season.

"Mike's the dean of us, most especially, having been here a number of years," Kennedy said. "For him to take that next step and get to Omaha, to me, when I was watching the game against (Louisiana)-Lafayette, it felt like I was playing. I'm thinking to myself, 'This is too stressful. I'm supposed to be just watching the game.' I was really pulling for Mike and I was really proud for him and for his team."

"When you see somebody who has gotten so close and then does that, you certainly want to rejoice, particularly when he's part of our family," Freeze said.

Like they share in the success of Bianco and the baseball team, they also share in the benefits of Ole Miss playing on one of the biggest stages in college athletics: The College World Series.

"Any time you can get our university, our brand on the national stage, it is helpful to all of us," Freeze said. "The job that Mike, his staff and his team have done, we're indebted to them because it certainly helps the whole university and every program we have in athletics."

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