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Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review

Feb. 24-March 2, 2015

Track & Field

- Ole Miss got SEC titles from Jalen Miller (60m), Daniel Bulmer (mile) and the distance medley relay, and the Rebels achieved their best SEC indoor finish since 1984.

- The Ole Miss men scored 62 points to finish fourth in the team standings, their third-best result in school history and best since tying for third 31 years ago. The team's 62 points were also their most at an SEC indoor meet since that year.

- Overall on the weekend, Ole Miss snagged three SEC titles, two runners-up and two school records. The only other time the Rebels won three titles at the SEC indoor meet was 1983.

- The Rebels' success was notable because 20 of the team's 44 participants were competing in their first SEC Championships, and the men were without injured distance standouts Sean Tobin and Robert Domanic.

- Miller has won every 60-meter race in which he's lined up this year, and captured the school's first ever SEC crown in the event with a time of 6.56 on Saturday.

- Bulmer and Craig Engels finished 1-2 in the men's mile at 4:03.28 and 4:03.76, respectively. Bulmer is the first SEC mile champion in Ole Miss history.

- Bulmer and Engels teamed with Dameon Morgan and Holland Sherrer to capture to Rebels' second straight SEC distance medley relay title. Crazy enough, it was four different men than last year's championship relay team.

- The women were highlighted a pair of school records. Freshman Brooke Feldmeier earned a silver medal in the 800 meters with a school-record time of 2:04.34, and senior Fabia McDonald broke her own record in the pentathlon (4,168) to place sixth.

Women's Basketball

- Ole Miss closed the regular-season with a 2-1 record in the final week of action, which included wins over No. 11/13 Kentucky and LSU before losing to instate rival, Mississippi State in the regular season finale. 

- Ole Miss concludes the regular season with a 17-12, 7-9 SEC record -- the most overall and SEC wins since 2009-10. 

- The Rebels, who were picked to finish 14th in the preseason SEC poll, finished tied for seventh and earned the No. 8 seed in the SEC Tournament -- its highest seed since 2009-10. 

- Tia Faleru posted double-doubles in two of the final three games of the regular season. She now has 13 double-doubles on the season and 33 career double-doubles. It is the second consecutive season the senior has recorded 10 ore more double-doubles after entering her junior campaign with just five career double-doubles. 

- Ole Miss' win over Kentucky gave the Rebels two wins over a ranked opponent this season and gave Ole Miss head coach Matt Insell his first win over his former team. The last time Ole Miss defeated two ranked foes was in 2009-10 when they had wins over No. 8 Georgia and No. 12 LSU. Additionally, the win over a top 15 foe was the first in the last 20 tries. 

Baseball

- The No. 18 Ole Miss baseball team went 2-2 last week with all four games being decided by one run

- The Rebels started with a 2-1 victory over Arkansas State in their first midweek game of the season.

- Sophomore left-hander Evan Anderson picked up the win, going five innings and allowing just one run on one hit and two walks while also adding four strikeouts to his stat line. Freshman Will Stokes closed out the game to earn the first save of his career.

- After the midweek victory, the Rebels hit the road for the first time this season, taking on an undefeated UCF team that was ranked 15th in the nation.

- In the series opener Friday night, Ole Miss saw the Knights rally from a four-run deficit before a walk-off base hit in the bottom of the ninth lifted UCF to the 5-4 decision.

- Errol Robinson's diving catch and flip for a double play was No. 2 on Sportscenter's Top 10 Plays Friday night, Feb. 27.

 - Due to inclement weather on Saturday, Ole Miss and UCF played in a doubleheader on Sunday. It marked the third straight weekend the Rebels played a doubleheader, and for the third time, Ole Miss split the two games. The Rebels fell, 3-2, in a shortened 7-inning game one before claiming the series finale, 4-3.

- The Sunday victory gave UCF its first loss of the season. Florida natives Tate Blackman, Colby Bortles and Sikes Orvis recorded all four RBI in the win. Blackman doubled in the first run of the game, and Bortles hit his second homer of the season. Orvis also played long ball with a solo shot of his own before drawing a bases-loaded walk in the top of the ninth that brought in the winning run.

Men's Basketball

- Ole Miss dropped a pair of games last week versus Georgia and at LSU, snapping its school record four-game SEC road winning streak. 

- With one more win, Ole Miss will reach 20 wins for the seventh time in nine seasons under head coach Andy Kennedy. The Rebels recorded just seven 20-win campaigns in the 96 seasons before Kennedy's arrival. 

- The Rebels have 35 wins against SEC foes over the last three years trailing only Florida and Kentucky in the SEC. 

- Ole Miss ranks fourth in the nation in free throw percentage, hitting 77.6 percent of its attempts. The Rebels have hit 326 of their last 416 (.784) attempts from the line. Junior guard Stefan Moody leads the SEC and ranks fifth in the nation shooting 91.2 percent from the free throw line.  

- Head coach Andy Kennedy is tied with Alabama's Wimp Sanderson for the third-most wins in SEC history with by a coach in his first nine years in the league at one school with 190. He trails only Kentucky's Joe B. Hall (205) and Florida's Billy Donovan (193). 

- Junior guard Stefan Moody averaged 25.5 ppg and knocked down 14 3-pointers in wins over MSU and Tennessee en route to his second SEC Player of the Week honor of the month. Moody is averaging 19.6 ppg over his last nine games and leads the SEC in scoring in league play at 18.4 ppg. 

- Senior guard Jarvis Summers is tied for the lead the league in assists in SEC play at 5.3/game and has posted 75 assists in his last 13 games. 

- Summers is the SEC active career leader in points (1,580), assists (500), minutes (3,730) and wins (82), and is just the fifth player in SEC history with 1,500 career points and 500 career assists.

Men's Tennis

- Ole Miss rose to No. 10 in the ITA National Rankings last week, their highest ranking since ending the 2013 season in the top 10. The Rebels finished the week 4-0 including wins over Tulane and No. 16 Vanderbilt to improve to 9-2 overall, 1-0 in the SEC.

- Senior Nik Scholtz went a combined 5-0 in doubles and singles on the week, including wins over the No. 14 ranked and No. 9 ranked players in singles.  His come-from-behind win over No. 9 Gonzales Austin clinched the Rebels' 4-0 victory against the Commodores.  He improved to 7-1 at No. 1 singles.

- Freshman Grey Hamilton came up big in his first SEC match, serving twice to stay in it at No. 3 doubles and then hitting a forehand winner down the line at 5-5 in the tiebreaker, setting up Scholtz' to serve it out for the first point of the match.

- The Rebels are a combined 14-3 at the two spots in the lineup, as junior Stefan Lindmark owns a 7-2 mark at No. 2 singles. He won both his doubles and singles to help in the win over Vanderbilt.

- The Rebels have now won 10 of the last 11 meetings against Vanderbilt.

Softball

- Ole Miss is coming off a 4-1 performance at the Felsberg Invitational hosted by FIU this past weekend in Miami.

- The Rebels' 12-5 start is the best through 17 games since posting the same mark to open the 2010 season.

- With a pair of one-run wins this past weekend, the Rebels have played in seven one-run games with a 5-2 record.

- Ole Miss has played 18 consecutive games on the road and will play 21-of-22 on the road to open the season.

- The Rebels have four players hitting over the .350 mark, paced by sophomore OF Miranda Strother at a .537 clip.

- Sophomore P Emily Gaitan helped lead the Rebels at FIU, posting a 3-1 record and is now 7-1 with a 1.53 ERA.

Women's Tennis

- The Ole Miss women rose to No. 15 in the rankings last week, their highest ranking since 1999.

- The Rebels opened SEC play on the road at No. 25 Kentucky and No. 13 Vanderbilt and lost a tight match to the Wildcats, 4-3, before dropping a 6-1 decision to the Commodores to close out the road trip.

- Senior Julia Jones, ranked No. 14, went 1-1 in singles and picked up her 93rd career last Friday in the loss to Kentucky. She is now 19-5 overall and 9-2 at No. 1 singles.

Rifle

- Ole Miss hosted the Great American Rifle Conference (GARC) Championships this past weekend and finished fifth overall with a 4613 aggregate.

- Freshman Jessica Haig led the Rebels with a personal best 579 in smallbore followed by a 590 in air rifle.  She finished with the 11th best combined score in her first conference championships.

- Sophomore Sarah Emery shot a career-best 584 in air rifle.

The calendar turned to March, as the men's and women's basketball teams march toward the SEC Tournament and postseason play. The baseball team faced perhaps its biggest challenge of nonconference play. The softball and men's tennis teams each had another strong week, while the men's track and field team did something they had not done since 1984. All of that, and football spring practice begins this week. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was:

- The Ole Miss men's basketball team dropped a pair of games this past week at home against Georgia and on the road at LSU, two teams ranked in the top 50 RPI, and like the Rebels, also projected to be in the NCAA Tournament, heading into the last week of the regular season.

- Ole Miss, now 19-10 overall and 10-6 in SEC play, entered Saturday as the No. 3 seed in the SEC Tournament, and with the loss to LSU, they fell to the No. 6 seed in the SEC Tournament, with a road game at Alabama on Tuesday and a home game against Vanderbilt on Saturday. 

- Georgia and LSU, also 10-6, hold the respective tiebreakers over Ole Miss, but Georgia still has a home game against Kentucky and LSU still has a road game at Arkansas, so the Rebels may have an opportunity to move back up to the No. 4 seed with a sweep this week.

- For a closer look of what happened in the Rebels' road loss at LSU and their psyche going into their last regular season, check out my postgame blog from Baton Rouge here.

- Here's a reset of Ole Miss' NCAA Tournament resume entering the final week of the regular season: No. 50 RPI, 1-2 vs. the RPI top 25, 3-7 vs. the RPI top 50, 7-7 vs. the RPI top 100, 9-6 in home games, 7-4 in road games and 3-0 in neutral-site games. Alabama (No. 82) and Vanderbilt (No. 98) represent two more opportunities against RPI top 100 teams for the Rebels.

- As of the latest bracket projections Sunday, Ole Miss is a No. 9 seed in CBS Sports' Jerry Palm's bracket and a No. 11 seed in USA Today's Shelby Mast's bracket. Here's more from Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger, who talked to Palm and Mast about the Rebels' NCAA Tournament chances.

- The Ole Miss women's basketball team went 2-1 this past week week, highlighted by a 67-59 win over No. 13 Kentucky on Monday night. To make a strong case for the NCAA Tournament, the Rebels likely need to do some damage in the SEC Tournament next week, but they all but locked up a bid to the Postseason WNIT, which would be the program's first postseason appearance since the 2009-10 season.

- Ole Miss, now 17-12 overall and 7-9 in SEC play, has some opportunities ahead by virtue of earning the No. 8 seed in the SEC Tournament. They will play No. 9 seed Arkansas, a likely bubble team after going 0-2 this past week, and with a win over Arkansas, they would play No. 1 seed South Carolina, a likely No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which also boasts the No. 4 RPI in the nation.

- The No. 18 ranked Ole Miss baseball team faced their toughest tests of the young season, going 2-2 on the week, picking up a midweek home win over Arkansas State and taking one of three on the road from No. 15 UCF, handing the Knights their first loss of the season. 

- In a series where all three games were decided by one run, Ole Miss strung together quality at-bats in the ninth inning to score the go-ahead run, while Wyatt Short worked 2.2 scoreless innings of relief, giving up just one hit with no walks and four strikeouts in a 4-3 win over UCF on Sunday.

"To win the last game, you feel a little better going home," said head coach Mike Bianco on the Ole Miss Radio Network after the win. "We're close. Thats' a really good team over there and team playing with a ton of confidence, an older group, and not just an older group, but a talented group. They played really well, and you can see the confidence when they have to execute certain things. Those first two games, we came up short in a few of those areas, and that's all it takes in a close game, so we end up on the wrong side of the scoreboard."

- Also, in the 4-3 win, senior right-hander worked a season-long 5.1 innings, giving up two runs on four hits with a walk and two strikeouts. It was also his longest outing since going 7.0 innings strong against Georgia on May 11, 2014. It's encouraging to see a return to form from the SEC's most experienced weekend starting pitcher, to go along with Christian Trent on Friday and Brady Bramlett on Saturday.

"He still has a ways to go, but today, he was sharp with all four pitches and really located them well," Bianco said. "He seemed to make pitch after pitch. Today, he was so much more consistent. He looked confident and he had great body language. We need him. He's a big part of this, so certainly it was a great start for him."

- The Ole Miss softball team traveled to sunny Miami and went 4-1 on the weekend, improving to 12-5 on the season. After playing their first 17 games on the road, and having the Red & Blue Classic cancelled, as well as a home doubleheader against Southern Miss postponed, both due to inclement weather, the Rebels play their first home game Tuesday against Memphis, before opening SEC play with a three-game weekend series at No. 4 Alabama.

- The No. 10 ranked Ole Miss men's tennis team swept its weekend home matches, picking up a 5-2 win over Tulane on Friday. and a 4-0 win over No. 16 Vanderbilt on Sunday. Senior Nik Scholtz, the reigning SEC Player of the Year, won his 16th and 17th consecutive home matches, defeating the No. 14 and No. 9 players in the nation. The win over Vanderbilt also gave head coach Toby Hansson a win in his first SEC match as head coach.

- The Ole Miss men's track and field team finished third at the SEC Indoor Track & Field Championships, its best finish since 1984, when the Rebels also finished third. Overall on the weekend, the men's team took home SEC titles, including a 1-2 finish in the men's mile by senior Daniel Bulmer and sophomore Craig Engels.

- Speaking of the SEC Indoor Track & Field Championship, check out athletics photographer Josh McCoy's Day 1 and Day 2 photo galleries from the event, as well his collection of snow day photos, taken Wednesday on the Ole Miss campus.

- In case you missed it, check out one of Ole Miss Sports Productions' latest offerings, "The Flagship," an Ole Miss football ticket promotion video.

- Former Ole Miss players Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt participated in on-field workouts at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine on Monday in Indianapolis. They will later participate in Ole Miss' annual pro day on March 5 (closed to the public) and will wait to hear their names called at the 2015 NFL Draft, which will be held from April 30-May 2. 

- In the latest NFL Draft prospect rankings from CBS Sports, released after the combine, Prewitt is the No. 63 overall prospect (No. 1 free safety) and a projected second-round pick, while Golson is the No. 127 prospect (No. 16 cornerback) and a projected fourth-round pick. For more, check out my recap of their respective days at the Combine.

- Also, looking ahead, Ole Miss will begin spring football practices on Tuesday, which will include Hugh Freeze's pre-spring press conference at the Manning Center at 1 p.m. Spring practices will conclude with the 2015 Regions Bank Grove on April 11 at noon CT.

Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review

Feb. 10-16, 2015

Men's Basketball

- Ole Miss saw its six-game winning streak snapped with a one-point loss to No. 23 Arkansas Saturday night. Junior guard Stefan Moody and senior forward M.J. Rhett each scored 16 points to lead the Rebels, but Ole Miss fell in the last seconds to the Razorbacks. 

- That was the second winning streak of six games or better against SEC foes under head coach Andy Kennedy. The Rebels recorded just three such winning streaks in the 71 years before Kennedy's arrival. 

- Moody scored a game-high 18 points, including the game-winning 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds on the clock to lift Ole Miss to a 62-61 win over Florida.  

- The Rebels overcame a five-point halftime deficit to knock off the Gators, thanks to Moody, who was 5-of-10 shooting from the floor - including a 4-for-7 mark from 3-point range - and senior G LaDarius White, who scored 16 points off the bench. 

- The win marked the Rebels first in Gainesville since 1999 and gave Ole Miss its first season sweep of the Gators since 1990.

- Ole Miss ranks second in the nation in free throw percentage, hitting 78.9 percent of its attempts, which would rank second in  the NBA. The Rebels have hit 280 of their last 347 (.807) attempts from the line. 

- Moody leads the SEC and ranks seventh in the nation shooting 90.4 percent from the free throw line.

Baseball

- Ole Miss started the season winning two out of three against William & Mary, improving to 14-1 in season openers under head Coach Mike Bianco

- The Rebels have now won 11 season-opening weekend series during the Bianco era

- Ole Miss recorded 11 doubles during the series to tie for the most in the SEC

- The Rebels clinched the series with a 16-2 victory in game two of Saturday's doubleheader, the most runs scored by Ole Miss since facing Arkansas State last season, May 13, 2014

- J.B. Woodman smacked three doubles in the series finale, becoming the first Rebel to accomplish that feat since Alex Yarbrough did it against Arkansas, April 20, 2012

- Ole Miss ranks second in the nation in attendance in 2015 after bringing in an average of 8,489 fans during three games over the weekend for a total attendance of 25,469

Women's Basketball

- Senior forward Tia Faleru is 10 rebounds shy of her 800th career rebound. She will become one of seven players with 1,000 points and 800 rebounds and 150 steals. 

- Additionally, Faleru is approaching her 100th career assist and should she reach that, she will become one of a mere four players in program history with 1000 points, 800 rebounds, 150 steals and 100 assists.

- With her 18 points and 15 rebounds against Missouri, Faleru picked up her 30th career double-double. It moved her into the top five all-time at Ole Miss and gave her 10 double-doubles on the season. After going three straight games without a double-double, she has posted one in two of the last three games. 

-A'Queen Hayes had a career-high 16 points against Missouri for her eighth game in double figures this season and her first since scoring 12 against Mississippi State. 

- Fellow freshman Kiara Golden knocked down two triples against Missouri for her first points against an SEC foe and her third game with multiple three-pointers this season. 

Softball

- Ole Miss posted a 3-1 performance at the Battle at the Beach this past weekend, winning the tournament with victories over Iowa State, St. Bonaventure and Coastal Carolina.

- Junior OF Bri Payne tied the school record for RBI in a game with six RBI against Iowa State on February 14, tying the mark set by DeDe Justice in the 2003 season.

- Three Rebels were named to the All-Tournament team, including junior OF Bri Payne, sophomore OF Miranda Strother and freshman OF Elantra Cox.

- Strother hit .586 for the weekend, while Cox hit .571 and Payne turned in a .556 performance with eight RBI, sparked by a grand slam in the first inning against Iowa State.

- With the offensive outburst that led to the three-game win streak to close out the weekend, the Rebels now have four players hitting above .300 for the season - four over .400.

- Srother leads the Rebel offense, batting at a .533 clip for the year with five RBI and a team-leading seven runs scored, joining with Elantra Cox to hit above .500 on the year.

- Senior P Lauren Lindsey picked up her first win and save of the year, working 6.0 innings with no earned runs on Saturday in a win vs. Iowa State and save vs. Coastal Carolina.

- Sophomore P Emily Gaitan improved to 3-0 on the season with a win over St. Bonaventure with one earned run and a career-high 12 strikeouts against the Bonnies.

Women's Tennis

- The No. 24 Rebels won a pair of matches over the weekend, downing Tulane 6-1 and defeating William & Mary 5-2 to improve to 8-1 on the season.

 - The 8-1 start equals their best start since the 1997 season.

 - Senior Julia Jones rose to No. 7 in the nation this past week in the singles rankings and earned the highest ranking for a Rebel since two-time All-American Kristi Boxx was ranked No. 9 on April 10, 2012.

Men's Tennis

- The No. 19 Rebels participated in the ITA National Team Indoor Championships this past weekend. They lost a close 4-1 match to No. 2 Oklahoma, who made the final, and then rallied to defeat No. 10 UCLA 4-3 on Saturday. The Rebels concluded play with a 4-0 loss to No. 6 Duke.

- Stefan Lindmark was up in the third set and Vinod Gowda had split when Oklahoma clinched 10-8 in the third set tiebreaker at No. 4 singles.

- Senior Nik Scholtz picked up another ranked this weekend, beating Oklahoma's Andrew Harris, who is ranked No. 26.

Track & Field

-  The Rebels had their final tuneups for the SEC Indoor Championships at two of the best track meets of the season this past weekend in Fayetteville, Arkansas (Tyson Invitational) and Seattle, Washington (Husky Classic).

- Ole Miss athletes achieved a total of 15 personal-best marks between the two meets.

-  Among the highlights for the men were Branden Greene's personal-best 7-1 in the high jump (ranks him fourth in school history), Craig Engels' personal-best 4:01.19 in the mile (ranks him fourth in school history) and MJ Erb's personal-best 14:11.34 in the 5,000 meters (ranks him fourth in school history).

- The women were led by personal bests from Shannon Ray in the 200 (23.92, ranks her fourth in school history) and Mary Alex England in the 5,000 (16:49.86, ranks her second in school history).

- Ole Miss men that rank top 40 in the NCAA are Jalen Miller in the 60 (3rd, 6.55), Robert Domanic in the mile (38th, 4:00.62), Robert Semien in the 60 hurdles (36th, 7.90), the distance medley relay (18th, 9:40.51), Branden Greene in the high jump (20th, 7-1), Adam Aguirre in the high jump (37th, 7-0.25) and Phillip Young in the long jump (23rd, 24-9) and triple jump (7th, 52-9.5).

- Ole Miss women that rank top 40 in the NCAA are Brooke Feldmeier in the 800 (9th, 2:05.27), Kierra White in the long jump (40th, 19-9.5) and Fabia McDonald in the pentathlon (17th, 4,057).

Rifle

- The Rebels dropped a pair of matches this past weekend, falling to Navy at home before traveling to Jacksonville State.

- Freshman Jessica Haig turned in a career-best performance in air rifle against Navy with a 591. She then fired a personal best 573 in smallbore on Sunday.

The men's basketball team marches on toward March, the baseball team opened the 2015 season with a series win over William & Mary and the softball team prepares for its home opener under first-year head coach Mike Smith. The winter sports are in full swing, while the spring sports have begun in earnest, so there are no shortage of thoughts and opinions on the week that was. Let's get into it:

- Valentine's Day was a busy day on the Ole Miss campus, with a baseball doubleheader, followed by a men's basketball nightcap, and Rebel Nation turned out in full force. Swayze Field was business as usual and will get better as the weather warms up, while the atmosphere at the Tad Pad was as electric as I can remember. It was fun spending the day with all y'all.

- The Ole Miss men's basketball team saw its its six-game winning streak, as the Rebels were on the right side of a one-point game in a 62-61 win at Florida on Thursday and on the wrong side of a one-point game in a 71-70 loss to Arkansas on Saturday.

- Impressive Stat #1: It was the second winning streak of six games or better against SEC foes under head coach Andy Kennedy. The Rebels recorded just three such winning streaks in the 71 years before Kennedy's arrival. 

- The Rebels have been a regular on SportsCenter top 10 plays this season, and Stefan Moody became the latest to make the highlight, landing the No. 4 spot on Thursday night with his game-winning 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left on the clock.

- Where Ole Miss made the play in a one-point win over Florida, the Rebels did not make the play in a one-point loss to Arkansas. Ole Miss had the ball up 70-69 with less than a minute to play. The Rebels had an offensive possession to extend the lead, a defensive possession to secure the lead and a final offensive possession to regain the lead, but they could not make the play in any instance, while the Razorbacks made the play in each instance. It happens.

"We made the shot Thursday night (against Florida) in a highly-contested game," Kennedy said. "We missed the shot tonight, and Arkansas made the play. I told the team that I didn't think we lost the game; I thought Arkansas won it."

- The Rebels continue to get production from their ever-improving big men, highlighted by M.J. Rhett's 16-point, nine-rebound game against Arkansas, perhaps his best game in an Ole Miss uniform, as they won the rebounding battle, 45-31, a margin that included 21 offensive rebounds compared to nine for the Razorbacks.

- Since big games in wins over Florida and Mississippi State, Jarvis Summers has seen a dip in production, averaging 6.8 points and shooting 25 percent from the floor, including 2-for-12 from 3-point range, over the last five games. For the Rebels to reach their full potential and perhaps make a run in March, they need more of the Summers from last season.

"He has been hesitant," Kennedy said. "We've tried to do some things to get him to his strength, and we'll continue to do that." 

- Despite the one-point loss to Arkansas, Ole Miss remains a team projected to be solidly in the field as a No. 9 or No. 10 seed, depending on the projection, but a potential RPI landmine looms large this week. Ole Miss play Mississippi State, a team ranked No. 187 in the latest RPI rankings released by the NCAA, on the road in Starkville, where the Rebels have not won since 2009.

- The No. 18 ranked Ole Miss baseball opened the 2015 season, taking two of three in a weekend series against William & Mary.  The Rebels showed a strong bounce-back, routing William & Mary 16-2 in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader after suffering an 8-1 loss in the first game of the doubleheader.

"The first game was disappointing, but it was encouraging to bounce back in game two," head coach Mike Bianco said. "We needed that effort from Bramlett to shut them down and let us swing. That's the knock against us. There are a lot of young guys playing, even though they played some last year. We have to take the punch and do something bad but not let it blow up."

- Impressive Stat #2: Ole Miss improves to 11-0-1 in weekend series to open the season under Bianco.

- J.B. Woodman, who moved to centerfield and the leadoff spot, is off to a fast start in his new role. He went 5-for-9 with three doubles, two runs scored and three RBI. Just as notable, he walked three times and did not strike out on the weekend.

"He's not your prototypical leadoff guy," Bianco said. "It's not that he can't lead-off and it's not that he doesn't have the skill-set to do that, but he also has a skill-set to hit a double and a home run. Some guys like Braxton Lee and Jordan Henry don't have that skill-set. You have to let (Woodman) swing, but he can also walk, steal bases and do a lot of different things."

- It will be interesting to watch how the weekend rotation evolves this season. Sam Smith took the loss in game two of the weekend series, while Brady Bramlett earned the win in the series-clincher and Sean Johnson, another candidate for a spot in the weekend rotation, worked out a scoreless inning out of the bullpen. There are three more weekends remaining, before the Rebels open SEC play on the road at No. 2 LSU.

"He couldn't get the ball into the strike zone," said Bianco of Smith's outing. "He had to stop throwing the two-seam fast ball and went to the four-seam fast ball. He basically had no other secondary pitch. It got away from him. Give credit to them. It was a just tough day, really uncharacteristic of him. Usually we're asking him to get the ball out of the strike zone and live on the edges. Today, he couldn't get close enough in there."

- ICYMI #1: Here's a link roundup of stories leading up to the start of baseball, including the 2015 walk out music and pre-SEC Ole Miss opponent capsules from Chase Parham of RebelGrove/Rivals.com.

- ICYMI #2: Newsreel: Ole Miss Baseball 2015, shot with old-school film.

- Time is running out for the Ole Miss women's basketball team, as the Rebels fell short at home against No. 6 Tennessee on Thursday and on the road at Missouri on Sunday, a game they likely needed to move closer toward NCAA Tournament consideration. 

- Ole Miss, now 14-11 overall and 4-8 in SEC play, has four regular-season games remaining and then at least one game the SEC Tournament. With one more win, the Rebels can clinch an overall record of .500 or better and eligibility of an at-large berth in the Postseason WNIT. 

- As far as the NCAA Tournament, opportunities remain on the schedule, as Ole Miss plays three teams ranked in the top 65 of the RPI, including two in the top 30, and then there's the SEC Tournament.

- The Ole Miss softball team wrapped up its 10-game road swing to open the 2015 season, going 3-1 at the Battle at the Beach hosted by Coastal Carolina. First-year head coach Mike Smith and the Rebels return home to host the Red and Blue Classic at the Ole Miss Softball Complex, where they will play four games in three days, starting with Tennessee-Martin on Friday night (6 p.m. CT).

- The No. 19 ranked Ole Miss men's tennis team went 1-2 on the weekend at the ITA National Team Indoor in Chicago, highlighted by a thrilling 4-3 win over No. 10 UCLA in consolation play on Saturday. It was the Rebels' second top-15 win of the season, and they rallied from the brink of defeat, despite losing the doubles point and Nik Scholtz, the reigning SEC Player of the Year, dropping his first singles match of the season.

- The No. 24 ranked Ole Miss women's tennis completed a sweep of Tulane and William & Mary over the weekend, improving to 8-1 on the season and equaling its best start since 1997, when the Rebels also started 8-1. Julia Jones, ranked No. 7 in the nation, dropped her first dual match, only her fourth loss overall this season. 

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.

Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review

Jan. 6-12, 2015

Women's Basketball

- Ole Miss went 2-0 on the week with a road win at Florida and a win at home against Alabama, moving to 13-4 overall and 3-1 in SEC action while winning back-to-back SEC games for the first time since 2011-12. 

- Ole Miss' win at Florida snapped a 14-game SEC road losing streak and gave Ole Miss it's first SEC road win since Jan 5, 2013,  an 88-81 win also in Gainesville. 

- Ole Miss' 13-4 start is the best start since 2006-07 when Ole Miss opened the season 16-4 and advanced to the Elite Eight while Ole Miss' 3-1 SEC start is the best since 2009-10 when the Rebels opened up 4-1 

- Tia Faleru extended her double-double streak to five straight games with 16 points and 12 rebounds against Florida, the longest double-double streak for an Ole Miss player since Nikki Byrd in 2011 and was the longest double-double streak in Faleru's career. 

- A'Queen Hayes posted her first career double-double against Florida with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Her 15 points tied her career high and the 10 rebounds was a new career high.  

- The two Ole Miss double-doubles against Florida marked the first time Ole Miss has had two double-doubles since the Baylor game in 2013-14

- Gracie Frizzell, Ole Miss' resident sharp shooter, set a new single-game and Tad Smith record with a career-best eight three-pointers in Ole Miss' win over Alabama.  Frizzell's eight three-pointers is the most in the SEC to date and was three off the SEC single-game record. Frizzell set career-highs in points (24), three-point FG's (8) and extended her consecutive games with a three-pointer to eight straight games. 

- As a squad, Ole Miss posted a season-high 10 triples, the most since knocking down 11 against Missouri in the SEC opener in 2013-14. 

Men's Basketball

- Ole Miss posted a 1-1 mark last week to open SEC play after a loss at Kentucky Tuesday and a win over South Carolina Saturday at home. 

- Junior guard Stefan Moody scored 25 points and senior guard Jarvis Summers added 23 for the Rebels, who outscored Kentucky 30-26 in the paint and controlled the boards for much of the game, before falling to No. 1 Kentucky 89-86 in overtime. 

- Summers led all scorers with 20 points, while Moody added 16 points, all in the second half, as Ole Miss rolled over South Carolina 65-49. 

- For Summers, it was his third 20-point game in his last four games, his team-leading sixth 20-point game of the season. 

- The Rebels shot 41 percent from the floor, but they were 7-of-14 from 3-point range and 18-of-22 from the free-throw line and committed just 10 turnovers.

- Defensively, the Rebels held South Carolina (9-5, 0-2 SEC) to a season-low 49 points and forced 15 turnovers, turning them into 17 points. 

- Ole Miss continues to lead the nation in free throw percentage, hitting .791 of its attempts.

Track & Field

- Sophomore Jalen Miller clocked the world's two fastest 60-meter times in 2015 to lead Ole Miss in a dominating season opener at the Gene Edmonds Invite in West Lafayette, Indiana, on Saturday.

- After running a 6.57 in the prelims, Miller clocked a 6.56 in the final to claim the world's fastest time this year by five hundredths of a second. He set a personal best that is just one hundredth of a second off Mike Granger's school record and also established a meet and facility record at Purdue's indoor track.

- All told, the Rebels won nine events and broke two school records in addition to Miller's sensational short sprinting.

- The Rebel men won all but three events in which they competed and claimed victory in every individual running event in which they lined up an athlete.

- Senior Dameon Morgan established a school record in the men's 600 meters with his time of 1:18.48, breaking Thomas Johnson's record that had stood since 1991.

- In her first race in the Red and Blue, freshman Brooke Feldmeier surged past some high-level competitors to win the women's 600 in a school-record time of 1:28.42, which leads the nation this year. The previous record of 1:29.63 was set by Sofie Persson in 2011.

- After the opening weekend of 2015 competition, the following men rank top 10 in the NCAA: Miller (1st in 60m, 6.56), Darryl Brown (9th in 200m, 21.42), Robert Semien (7th in 60mH, 7.90) and Phillip Young (3rd in TJ, 51-0.75).

Men's Tennis

- The Rebels began the spring season at the Florida Gulf Coast University Invitational this past weekend and picked up 23 wins in singles and doubles against TCU, Rice and FGCU.

- Senior William Kallberg and freshman Gustav Hansson finished 5-1 in doubles, including a win over the No. 15 ranked team in the country. They are now 8-2 on the year.

- Junior Stefan Lindmark and sophomore Ricardo Jorge also posted a big win in doubles, defeating the No. 20 ranked team in the nation.

- The Rebels got some big news this past week off the court, as reigning SEC Player of the Week Nik Scholtz announced he is returning for his senior season.  The three-time All-American will join the team when school starts and will seek to become the first four-time All-American in the history of the program.

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.

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.

Scholtz Joins Elite Group

The Ole Miss tennis program continues it's rich tradition under head coach Billy Chadwick of producing the best player in the country's toughest conference.  Today, the SEC office announced junior and two-time All-American Nik Scholtz as the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year.  Scholtz becomes the fourth player for Ole Miss to earn the prestigious award and the first player in Ole Miss tennis history to be named SEC Freshman of the Year and SEC Player of the Year in his career.

Following an exceptional regular season, Scholtz continued his dominant play in the SEC Tournament going 2-0, and rising to No.9 in the national rankings as the highest ranked player in the SEC.  Scholtz boasted a 15-1 record at No. 1 singles, including 8-1 in the SEC.  The SEC currently has seven teams ranked inside the top 25 in the ITA National Rankings.

The South African native 12-time ATP Grand Slam champion Mahesh Bhupathi and three-time All-Americans Johan Hede and Catalin Gard as Rebels to be named SEC Player of the Year.  
Below is a quick look at all the Rebels' SEC Players of the Year.

SEC PLAYERS OF THE YEAR

Thumbnail image for Scholtz_SECPOY.jpg2014 - Nik Scholtz
Singles Record:
8-1 SEC
Highest Singles Ranking: No. 9

Notes: Scholtz became the first player in Ole Miss tennis history to earn SEC Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year honors in his career.  With the Rebels awaiting their postseason destination, Scholtz has positioned himself nicely for a run at the NCAA Singles Championship. Scholtz led the Rebels to some huge conference wins down the stretch to secure the Rebels a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the 21st consecutive season. 

gard_catalin041004_blog.jpg2004 - Catalin Gard
Singles Record:
10-1 SEC
Highest Singles Ranking: No.1 (24 straight weeks)

Notes: Gard led the Rebels to the overall SEC Championship and their third straight SEC West title in 2004.  A three-time All-American, he was also the 2004 ITA All-American Champion and ended his career as the second winningest player in Ole Miss history with 112 wins.

1996 - Johan Hede
Singles Record:
11-0 SEC
Highest Ranking: No. 4Clincher_1995_blog.jpg

Notes: Finishing the season as the SEC's highest ranked player, Hede won the 1996 SEC Singles Championship and was a 1996 NCAA Singles semifinalist. He was also a three-time All-America selection as well as a three-time All-SEC selection, going undefeated in conference play in 1996.  Hede qualified for the NCAA Individual Championships all four years and stands as the all-time winningest player in Ole Miss tennis history with 135 wins.

Bhupathi_Mahesh95ncaa_blog.jpg1995 - Mahesh Bhupathi
Combined Singles and Doubles Record:
15-3 SEC
Highest Ranking: No.1 in doubles, No. 3 in singles

Notes: Bhupathi became the first Rebel to be named SEC Player of the Year.  He was the 1995 SEC Singles Champion and teamed with Ali Hamadeh to win the NCAA Doubles Championship, the school's first ever NCAA title.  Bhupathi also helped lead the Rebels to the NCAA Championship Final and a final national ranking of No. 3.  Bhupathi has won 12 ATP Grand Slam titles in doubles.


Chadwick: 'We Control Our Destiny'

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One spot in the ITA national rankings can make all the difference. 

Last season, San Diego, ranked No. 44 in the country, earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, while crosstown rival, San Diego State, ranked No. 45, was the highest ranked team left out of the 64-team field.

Ranked No. 53 in the country and likely needing a win over No. 10 Texas A&M to keep their postseason chances alive, Ole Miss played its most complete match of the season to knock off the Aggies 4-3 in legendary head coach Billy Chadwick's last SEC home match.

After the win, as well as a doubleheader sweep of Alcorn State, the Rebels moved up 10 spots to No. 43 in the country, ahead of Thursday's SEC Tournament match against No. 18 Tennessee in Nashville. In the first meeting in Knoxville, Ole Miss won 4-1 behind wins at Nos. 2, 4, 5 and 6 singles.

"If they were making the choice today, we might get in; we might not," Chadwick said. "We're ranked No. 43 in the country and traditionally they take 43 or 44 teams, in addition to the automatic bids that are ranked lower. We're walking the tightrope on it. We need to help ourselves and beat Tennessee."

Coaches often times talk about sense of urgency, such as men's basketball head coach Andy Kennedy referring to the team's 2013 NCAA Tournament run. For Chadwick, it's no different, led by the team's lone senior in Johan Backstrom and two-time All-American Nik Scholtz.

"You could see that when we played Texas A&M," Chadwick said. "They really played with a sense of urgency. We know that right now we control our destiny, and if we want to make the NCAA's, we take care of Tennessee."

"We believe we can do it," Scholtz said. "Making the tournament is another thing that's motivating us at this stage in the year. It's good to know that you're definitely in (the discussion), but the fact that we don't know if we're in the tournament is great motivation."

Rivalry Renewed In Men's Tennis

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The Ole Miss men's tennis team saw its 26-match win streak against arch-rival Mississippi State come to an end on April 16, 2011. Since that day in Starkville, the series has been back and forth, with the Bulldogs winning each of the next three, and then the Rebels winning the last two.

The two teams meet for the first time this season, as Ole Miss welcomes No. 17 Mississippi State Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center. The Rebels took two of three from the Bulldogs last season, including a come-from-behind 4-2 win in Starkville in their most recent meeting.

"Every match against Mississippi State is a big one," head coach Billy Chadwick said. "This one is really shaping up to be special. It has some big ramifications as far as SEC seeding and NCAA selection, so we're looking forward to Sunday."

Junior Nik Scholtz has an impressive streak in his own right, having won 10 straight matches dating back to mid-January. He has also moved up 28 spots to No. 16 in this week's ITA Singles Rankings. 

Scholtz is 9-0 in dual singles matches and 4-0 in SEC play at No. 1 singles. At 4-0 in SEC play, he is the only SEC player who has played every league match at No. 1 to remain undefeated.

"He's getting better with every match," Chadwick said. "He has a great approach, as far as his mentality in these matches. The difference is he's much more determined on every single point."

"One of my goals is to go undefeated in the SEC," Scholtz said. "That's been a goal of mine every year. I haven't been able to do it yet. Hopefully, I can do it now. If I take care of winning my matches, the ranking will take care of itself, so I wasn't too concerned about that. I was more concerned about winning and doing what I have to do when I'm on the court."

For Scholtz, a Caledon, South Africa native, he has become immersed in the rivalry, having played five previous matches against Mississippi State -- two at River Hills Club in Jackson and one each in Oxford, Starkville and Seattle, where the schools matched up in the ITA National Team Indoor last season.

"Before I came here, I never knew what it was," said Scholtz of the rivalry. "It's one of the first things you learn. When you play State, it's one of the biggest matches there is. It brings a little bit extra out of everyone, that's for sure. I can't wait for Sunday."

With baseball, softball and track all on the road this weekend, Sunday's men's tennis match is the only game in town, and both Chadwick and Scholtz anticipate a large crowd.

"The matches that we have been successful here, I give the fans the credit," Chadwick said. "If we are going to take down Mississippi State, we're going to need a big crowd here. I would like to see one of the largest crowds we have ever had."

"It always helps, especially having people that you know are behind you," Scholtz said. "When you play an away match, you kind of hope no one is there. When you play at home, the more people you have out there supporting you, the better. That's why you play the game and practice every day, to master your craft and then to come out and show everybody what you're capable of doing. It's more motivation. You try to please yourself and your school, but also the people watching you."

'New Start' For Rebel Netters


The Ole Miss men's tennis team kicks off Southeastern Conference play, as they host No. 31 Auburn and No. 37 Alabama this weekend at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center. The Rebels enter the weekend with a 2-3 record, and they see the start of league play as the beginning of a new season.

"It's very exciting," said senior Johan Backstrom. "It's going to be like a new start for us. This feels like the beginning of the season. We feel like if we play up to our potential with the team that we have now, we can cause some damage in the SEC this year."

The Southeastern Conference race appears wide open, with six teams ranked in the top 25 but no teams ranked in the top 10 in this week's ITA National Team rankings. 

The defending champion and preseason favorite, Georgia, is 3-5 overall and ranked No. 35, with losses to No. 22 Florida and No. 16 Mississippi State at the ITA National Team Indoor. The highest ranked team, No. 11 Tennessee, is 10-3 overall, with a loss to No. 13 Texas A&M. Ole Miss was picked sixth in the coaches' preseason poll.

"The SEC is wide open," head coach Billy Chadwick said. "It's already been proven that any team can beat any other team in the SEC, so it's going to be a tough weekend because Alabama and Auburn both have quality programs."

"It's hard to predict, and there are going to be a lot of close matches," Backstrom added. "With Ricardo (Jorge) being eligible, we have a deep team. If we play to our potential, we should have a really good chance of winning championships this year."

Jorge, a freshman from Tavira, Portugal, made his debut last weekend in Waco, Texas, where the Rebels went 1-1 with a 4-0 win over SMU and a 4-0 loss to No. 7 Baylor. Jorge won at No. 5 singles to clinch the win against SMU and then paired with junior Nik Scholtz at No. 2 doubles for a win against Baylor.

"He has good returns," Chadwick said. "He's a good natural doubles player because he's good at the net. In singles, he relies on his forehand. He likes to dictate the play with it. He's very fast with his feet. He has a really good overall game. From a coaching standpoint, he is an easy young man to work with and listens well. He is an extremely hard worker. He's going to be a good one."

A year ago, Ole Miss defeated Auburn and Alabama in the regular season, both by a score of 4-3, but in the SEC Tournament, 12-seed Alabama upset 5-seed Ole Miss, 4-3.

"We need to get off to a good start, and these are two teams that we match up well with, and we're playing at home, so we need to take advantage of that," Chadwick said. "They're very similar to last year's teams. It's a lot of the same faces. When you look at the results this fall, both of them have improved since last year."

Ole Miss begins play this weekend against Auburn Friday at 2 p.m., and then concludes against Alabama Sunday at 1 p.m.

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The Ole Miss men's tennis team, ranked No. 10 in the nation, lost a pair of hard-fought matches in the ITA-Kick-Off Weekend, first to No. 26 Michigan (4-3) on Saturday and then to No. 25 Clemson (4-2) on Sunday.

"The first thing that I saw was Nik Scholtz played really well, and he's really proving himself to be one of the best players in the country. The other person if I single out what I really liked is Johan Backstrom who played great," head coach Billy Chadwick said of the weekend. He played absolutely great."

Scholtz, ranked No. 15 in the nation, won both of his singles matches at No. 1 singles in straight sets. It was vintage Scholtz, a two-time All-American, who battled elbow injuries late last season.

The story of the weekend, however, was the stellar play of Johan Backstrom, the team's lone senior. He won both of his singles matches, including a dominant 6-0, 6-4 win over Clemson's Austin Ansari on Sunday. 

Backstrom entered the weekend with a 32-27 career record in dual singles matches, having played mostly No. 5 and No. 6 singles in his first three seasons for the Rebels.

And after being limited to just two matches, both in doubles, during the fall season, the Uppsala, Sweden native is playing perhaps the best tennis of his career.

"I played very well in both matches this weekend, especially today in my first set," Backstrom said. "It was really good. I was doing what we have been working on in practice with the coaches, so that's a great feeling to be able to show that improvement in a match. It was good for me."

Ole Miss has a relatively young team, especially at the bottom of the lineup in singles and doubles, including redshirt freshman Vinod Gowda at No. 5 singles and Zach Wilder at No. 6 singles, as well as sophomore Joe Rogers who teamed with Wilder at No. 3 doubles. 

This weekend marked the first career dual matches for both Gowda and Rogers, while it was the third and fourth career dual singles matches for Wilder.

"They're fighting very hard," Backstrom said. "It's tough to come in there. Vinod had a great effort today coming back. Yesterday, it was first dual match. He showed today that he learned from that and he was able to come back today. Zach just has to keep on working, and I'm 100 percent sure he will play better and better through the season and bring us some wins in the future."

Backstrom has embraced his role as one of the older, more experienced players, as he looks to continue his steady play and help the underclassmen on the team.

"You have to act more like a leader and lead by example in everything you do, on and off the court," he said. "You help the younger guys to play at their potential. It's a different feeling when you're out there, but I like it."


A Closer Look: ITA Kick-Off

Three things from Ole Miss men's tennis head coach Billy Chadwick, previewing the ITA Kick-Off this weekend at the Gillom Sports Center Saturday and Sunday:

1. Four Top 26 Teams
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The No. 10 ranked Ole Miss men's tennis opened the 2014 season at the MLK Invitational this past weekend on the campus of Georgia Tech with singles and doubles matches against Georgia Tech, No. 3 Georgia and No. 21 Memphis. Among the highlights included a pair of singles wins each for junior Nik Scholtz, ranked No. 15 in the nation, and sophomore Stefan Lindmark.

"Our objective was to prepare for this weekend coming up," head coach Billy Chadwick said. "The format of the tournament that we went to guaranteed three singles and three doubles matches. It was against great competition, so we feel like we accomplished what we wanted to. We're better prepared for this weekend."

Ole Miss now turns its attention to the ITA Kick-Off this weekend, where it hosts No. 22 Illinois, No. 25 Clemson and No. 26 Michigan at the Gillom Sports Center. The winner of the two-day regional advances to the National Team Indoor Feb. 14-17 in Houston, Texas.

"You're looking at four teams in this regional that are very equal, all very strong from top to bottom, our team included," Chadwick said. "There is no one that wouldn't say this is the strongest regional in the country. We have to take advantage of playing here at home and we need to make that the difference in putting us over the hump. If we get a good crowd out there, it can be the difference in us advancing to the Final 16."

"It's a huge opportunity and it's a very important weekend for our team," senior Johan Backstrom said. "All three teams coming here are really good teams. If we get through these two matches, it's a key for the rest of the season. Going to the National Indoor, where you are guaranteed three matches against the top teams in the country, can be a huge importance the rest of the season as far as rankings."

2. Michigan Rematch

The Rebels will face No. 26 Michigan Saturday at 10 a.m. in the first round, with No. 22 Illinois against No. 23 Clemson in the other first-round match. The winners will meet Sunday.

The match with Michigan marks a rematch from the 2012 NCAA second round. Ole Miss defeated Michigan 4-2 to advance to the Sweet 16, the program's 16th Sweet 16 appearance. Backstrom clinched the match with a 6-3 win in the third set at No. 5 singles.

"We saw them two years ago when the NCAA sent them down here when we were hosting the regionals," Chadwick said of Michigan. "We had a tough, tough battle with them. They're always well prepared. The coach for them, Bruce Berque, used to be the assistant at Florida for years, so we're familiar with him and the job that he did there. And he has made Michigan a top-25 program, year in and year out."

"Hopefully we can play as well as we did in that match and get through them to face either Illinois or Clemson," Backstrom added.

3. New Doubles Pairing

The doubles point was a key to success for Ole Miss last season, with the Rebels posting a 13-2 record when winning the doubles point, compared to 3-7 when losing the doubles point. Lindmark and junior William Kallberg, ranked No. 51 in the nation, solidified themselves as a team winning the ITA Southern Regional in the fall and participating in the ITA National Indoor.

Last season, Scholtz teamed with Jonas Lutjen and ended the season ranked No. 4 in the nation and posted a 20-7 overall record, including 15-3 at No. 1 doubles. With Lutjen graduated, Scholtz now teams with Backstrom, and they posted a 6-4 win at No. 1 doubles against the nation's No. 12 team from Georgia this past weekend.

"I was very impressed with Johan's doubles last year, so he was the logical one to step in and play with Nik," Chadwick said. "Johan has really good returns and he has a really big serve. Those two things are essential when you're playing against the top doubles teams in the country. We have the makings of a good team with Johan and Nik."

"It's always fun playing with such a great player," Backstrom said. "We got better and better each match, and hopefully we can keep on getting to know each other as doubles partners, improve throughout the season and hopefully do some great things."


Rebel Preview: MLK Invitational

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Three things from Ole Miss men's tennis head coach Billy Chadwick, previewing the 2014 season and the Rebels' first tournament, the MLK Invitational at Georgia Tech, which starts Saturday:

1. 'He Can Be The Best Player In The Country'

As Chadwick enters his last season as head coach before retiring after the season, he told the team he wants to make this their best spring, and it all starts with two-time All-American Nik Scholtz, who is ranked No. 15 in the nation.

"Nik Scholtz, if he gets to playing like he can play, he can be the best player in the country," Chadwick said. "He can win the NCAA's. He's one of those who are up there. He will be playing at the top spot for us."

The junior from Caledon, South Africa, ended the 2013 season ranked No. 17 in the nation in singles and No. 4 doubles. He posted a 20-9 overall record, 12-6 at No. 1 singles, and teamed with now-graduated Jonas Lutjen for a 20-7 overall record in doubles, despite battling an elbow late in the season.

"He has to be healthy," Chadwick said of Scholtz. "There are different things that we have been working on that are necessary for him, if he's going to make the transition from college to pro, and he has a good pro future ahead of him. If we get those things starting to fall into place, which they will, watch out for him. He's one the nation's best.

2. The Supporting Cast

Coming off a second-round appearance in the NCAA Tournament last season, Ole Miss enters the 2014 season ranked No. 11 in the nation, which is fourth among Southeastern Conference teams. The Rebels return four of their top six players, led by Scholtz, and then there's the supporting cast.

"When I look at the heart of the lineup, it's three Swedes," Chadwick said. "It's William Kallberg, Johan Backstrom and Stefan Lindmark. Of that group, Backstrom is a senior, and he's looking to make his senior year his best year yet. We feel like that the heart of our lineup, we're looking good, and we have Vinod (Gowda) to throw in the mix also. And then to anchor things, we have Zach Wilder."

Kallberg and Lindmark are ranked No. 104 and No. 108, respectively, and combine for the nation's No. 51 doubles team. Of the three Swedes, Chadwick looks for Kallberg into the No. 2 singles spot vacated by Lutjen

"William Kallberg had an outstanding fall," Chadwick said. "If you look at his record last year, he played No. 3 and No. 4 singles, and he was the most competitive of any position we had. He played really well last year and stepped up. The match that I remember the most with him is when he clinched the match for us against Georgia. He has a real weapon with his left hand, especially with his forehand. We not only look for him to play No. 2 singles, but to play No. 2 singles and win.

3. Looking Ahead To The ITA Kickoff Weekend

The last season of the Billy Chadwick era begins this weekend at the Georgia Tech Invitational (Jan. 18-20), where Ole Miss will play singles and doubles matches against players from No. 3 Georgia, No. 21 Memphis and Georgia Tech. 

It's a tune-up for the ITA Kickoff Weekend Jan. 25-26, where Ole Miss will begin play against No. 26 Michigan, followed by a match against either No. 22 Illinois or No. 23 Clemson. The Rebels' first match is scheduled for Jan. 25 at 10 a.m. at the Gillom Sports Center hours before the Ole Miss men's basketball teams hosts intrastate rival Mississippi State on campus.

"Se scheduled it to where we are going to play in the morning because basketball plays at 3 o'clock in the afternoon against Mississippi State, so we hope to make it a sports weekend for the Ole Miss fans," Chadwick said. 

"It's outstanding competition in the regional that we're hosting. You have four big names in there and all of them are really good tennis programs with great history. From the first hit, it's going to be competitive. It's really going to show where we are."

Rebels Touch Down In The Big Apple

Members of the Ole Miss men's tennis team landed in the Big Apple late Tuesday afternoon for the year's second national championship, the USTA/ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor.  

An elite field of men's and women's tennis players from all divisions and schools across the country have descended on the nation's largest city and the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, where competition will take place Nov. 7-10.

It's a highlight of the fall for players to earn a spot in the national indoor, because it's played at the site of the US Open.   Ole Miss is well represented in this year's tournament with Nik Scholtz in singles and William Kallberg and Stefan Lindmark in doubles.

Scholtz received an at-large bid as a finalist from the USTA/ITA Southern Regional Championships, while Kallberg and Lindmark earned their trip to New York by winning the Southern Region Doubles title.  Scholtz is making his second consecutive appearance in the field, while the Swedish duo competes for the first time in the prestigious tournament.

REBELS AND THE NATIONAL INDOOR
Ole Miss has a long-standing history at this event going back more than a decade.   The Rebels have had a representative at the National Indoors 11 of the last 12 years.    Scholtz will be the fifth player in the Rebels' history to play in the event more than once.   

Former three-time All-American Erling Tveit qualified for the event three times and reached the quarterfinals in singles in 2006 and teamed with Jonas Berg to win the doubles consolation in 2007.  The following year (2008), Berg teamed up with Bram ten Berge to reach the semifinals.  In 2010, twins Marcel Thiemann and Chris Thiemann finished runner-up at the national indoor.  

Scholtz_Nik_ITA.JPGA REMATCH
Scholtz gets a rematch from the All-American Championships in October, as he faces the third seed, Julian Lenz of Baylor.  This will be the third meeting between the two players.   Scholtz won the first meeting last year when the two played No. 1 singles in the Rebels' 4-2 win over the Bears in the regular season.  Lenz took out Scholtz in the second round of the All-American earlier this fall.  This will be the first meeting between the two indoors.

"Everyone in the field is good.  If you're in this tournament, you're either a top 10 player or you won your region," Scholtz said.  "Success in life always requires a little bit of luck as well, but I definitely have to serve well and return well.  Physically I feel great.  I just have to go out there and leave it all on the court and the results will follow.  If you focus on playing your best and giving it everything you have on every point, the results will come."

LEFTY DUO
Kallberg and Lindmark are the sixth Ole Miss doubles team in the last seven years and fourth in a row to make the field.  The lefty duo, with their 6-1 record, hope they can make a run in New York to gain some momentum for the spring season.    

Thumbnail image for Lindmark_Kallberg_ITA.JPG"It would be really good for the spring season and the team, because then perhaps we could play No. 1 doubles," Lindmark said. "That would be a lot of fun."

The Stockholm, Sweden natives will face Florida State's Benjamin Lock and Marco Nunez, who own a 9-1 record and won the Southeast Regional.

Players will attend a tournament banquet Wednesday night and then play begins Thursday morning at 8 a.m. CT.  Be sure to follow all the action including live scores and a live chat on the ITA's Tournament Central page.   Also follow the Rebels on Twitter, @OleMissMTennis and on Facebook at OleMissMTennis.



Rebels In Davis Cup

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As junior Nik Scholtz represents his native country of South Africa in Davis Cup this weekend, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the history of Rebel players who have participated in Davis Cup.  Below is a list of countries that have been represented in Davis Cup by Ole Miss men's tennis players with the year they first played, how many nominations they've earned and the number of ties they have played in.

INDIA
Mahesh Bhupathi
- 1995 NCAA Doubles Champion, All-American, SEC Player of the Year, 12-Time Grand Slam Champion
  • First played in 1995
  • Has earned 35 nominations and played in 35 ties

LEBANON

Patrick Chucri
- Four-Year Letterwinner (2000-03)
  • First played in 2002
  • Earned 20 nominations and played in 27 ties

Ali Hamadeh - 1995 NCAA Doubles Champion, Two-Time All-American, All-SEC First Team
  • First played in 1996
  • Earned 16 nominations and played in 20 ties.

Karim Alayli - 2005 All-SEC Second Team
• First played in 1999
• Earned 20 nominations and played in 33 ties

MOROCCO

Mohamed Ridaoui
- 1991 National Clay Court Champion, 1992 All-American and All-SEC
• First played in 1989
• Earned 12 nominations and played in 12 ties

NEW ZEALAND

James Shortall
- 2000 NCAA Doubles Semifinalist, All-American, Two-Time All-SEC
• First played in 2000
• Earned five nominations and played in four ties

NORWAY

Fredrik Aarum
- Three-Year Letterwinner (2004-05, 2007)
• First played in 2002
• Earn four nominations and played in three ties

Adrian Forberg Skogeng - Four-Year Letterwinner (2010-13)
• First played in 2010
• Earned two nominations and has played in one tie

Erling Tveit - Three-Time All-American, 2008 NCAA Doubles Finalist,
2006 NCAA Singles Semifinalist, Four-Time All-SEC
• First played in 2003
• Earned 13 nominations and has played in 20 ties

SOUTH AFRICA

Nik Scholtz

• First played in 2012
• Has earned two nominations and played in one tie

Summer Update On The Courts

The collegiate tennis season ended about a month ago with the Ole Miss men's tennis All-American duo of Jonas Lutjen and Nik Scholtz reaching the NCAA Final Four in doubles. After a few days in Oxford, the two headed to opposite parts of the world, Lutjen to begin his pro career, and Scholtz to play in some Futures tournaments, as collegiate players often do in the summer months. The results so far indicate why they became one of the top doubles tandems in the nation.

Vorster_Scholtz_Turkey.jpgScholtz, who will be a junior next season, traveled to Turkey for Futures events, and teamed up with Rebel alum Tucker Vorster, also an outstanding doubles player, to capture two titles in three weeks.  Their most recent title came Friday in Instanbul, where the South African duo defeated the No. 2 seeded team of Alexander Krasnorutskiy and Anton Manegin from Russia 7-6(1), 6-4.   Scholtz and Vorster also won the doubles in Konya, Turkey.

One of just nine players to earn All-America honors in both singles and doubles, Scholtz also reached the final of the singles in Instanbul, where he lost a close match Saturday to the No. 2 seed.

After joining Scholtz asLutjen_Hanfmann_Mexico.jpg two of only six players to finish the 2013 season top 20 in singles and top 10 in doubles, Lutjen got his pro career off to a good start in Mexico, teaming up with fellow countryman and Southern Cal sophomore Yannick Hanfmann to capture the doubles title a week ago in Quintana Roo.  They beat the No. 1 seed in the semifinals and the No. 2 seed in the final.  The win marked Lutjen's first pro doubles title. 

Following their wins, Lutjen is back in Germany to continue his pro career, while Scholtz heads back to the Motherland for a well-deserved break, before returning to Oxford in the fall.








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