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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEC Appears Stronger Entering Start of League Play

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

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

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

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

Rebels Face Tough Test On The Road

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Through 70 Southeastern Conference games, home teams are 50-20 with a winning percentage of 71.4 percent. Ole Miss is one of six teams in the SEC with multiple league road wins, having won at South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

Ole Miss (16-7, 7-3 SEC) seeks to double its league road win total with back-to-back road games this week, starting with Alabama on Tuesday night (8 p.m., ESPNU), followed by another road battle at Georgia on Saturday.

"We have embraced the grind," said senior guard Marshall Henderson after the Rebels' 91-88 win over Missouri Saturday, the team's best RPI win to date. "We know every game is going down to the wire, no matter who we play. We just have to fight through and get the win."

Alabama is 9-14 on the season and 3-7 in the SEC after dropping a pair of road games last week at Arkansas and at No. 3 Florida. The Crimson Tide are winless on the road this season, but 9-4 at home. Senior Trevor Releford leads Alabama averaging 18.3 points per game, which is seventh in the SEC in scoring.

The Crimson Tide has the nation's No. 2 overall strength of schedule and No. 9-ranked nonconference schedule, with nine games against teams ranked in the top 50 of the latest RPI (ESPN.com).

"Every game on the road is going to be tough," said Henderson on Saturday. "I watched Alabama and Florida play earlier today, and they played Florida tough. Florida is unstoppable in that building, and they played them tough all the way there until the very end. Alabama is definitely a lot better than their record shows, that's for sure. They have one of the toughest schedules in the whole country." 

Ole Miss shoots better from the field (.453 at home/.390 on road) and from 3-point range (.419 at home/.316 on road) at home and rebound the ball better with a -5.6 rebound margin on the road and an even rebounding margin at home.

The Rebels will lean on its veteran backcourt of Henderson (19.6 ppg) and Jarvis Summers (17.4 ppg), the team's two leading scorers, who rank third and eighth in the SEC in scoring, respectively. 

"Marshall draws a lot of attention, both on and off the court," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "The attention that he draws on the floor, Jarvis has done a much better job in year two of playing with him, of playing in those gaps that are created by the way people try to defend Henderson, and as a result, he's had a very productive year for us."

Ole Miss enters the week ranked No. 51 in the latest RPI, while Alabama (No. 110) and Georgia (No. 113) are rated just outside the top 100. 

The Rebels are 4-6 against top-100 RPI teams this season, highlighted by the win over Missouri. After this week, however, they have back-to-back opportunities with two top-10 RPI teams in Kentucky (No. 10) and Florida (No. 5) coming to the Tad Smith Coliseum.

"If we play like we did tonight, as far as being focused and high energy, it will give us a chance at those places," Henderson said. "We also know that if we get those two, we have probably the biggest week in Ole Miss basketball history with Kentucky and Florida coming in here back-to-back. We have to get these two, starting with the one in Tuscaloosa. We have to get them."

VIDEO: Andy Kennedy Media Opportunity

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy met with members of the media Thursday, ahead of the Rebels hosting the Missouri Tigers on Saturday (4 p.m., Fox Sports Net).

On Julius Randle's dunk against Derrick Millinghaus:

We had a tough night on a number of fronts. The game, and then we had a tough time getting out of Lexington because of the weather and then we had to fly to Memphis and drive back. What was about an hour and 15 minute flight turned into about a four and a half hour debacle. On the bus ride home, they showed it with a graphic like nine times in an hour and 15 minutes, so he got to see it. He will get to see it again today.

On Kentucky being a teachable game:

We gave ourselves a chance. Early, we were up five or six points and we seemed to be executing and not getting completely dominated on the glass. The zone was bothering them a little bit. Our primary objective going into the game was to try to keep them in front of us. That's where they broke us down. We couldn't keep anybody in front of us and then we were in a poor position to rebound the ball. Any shots that they did miss, they cleaned up off the offensive glass. Their length is difficult, and it's really hard to simulate. If you don't create some space, then it's difficult to continue to try to score over them all night, and we had trouble with that in the second half.

On rebounding:

I thought we were getting better at rebounding, but look at our last three outings. At Tennessee, we got destroyed. That was a difficult matchup for us, and they're pretty good at what they do. Against South Carolina at home, we get beat by 10. And then we go to Kentucky, and they're maybe leading the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, so we knew it was going to be a challenge, but we just got destroyed. We obviously had these issues in November and December, and we thought we had come to some sort of a conclusion as to how to remedy them, and then they have seemed to have risen back up.

On the different defenses Ole Miss plays:

It's all matchup dependent. If you look at it, our man-to-man has helped us in moments. Our half-court trap really saved us against South Carolina, and it had not been that effective in the three or four games prior to that. Our 1-3-1 zone has been good to us at times. The 2-3 zone has probably been our best overall statistical defense. We will continue to mix and match depending upon whom we're playing, how we're playing, who they have in the game and who we have in the game. There are a number of factors.

On Missouri:

They are a good team with really, really good guards. Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown have size, athleticism, and they are both highly skilled. Jabari Brown is having a Player-of-the-Year-type campaign. He's averaging around 22 points per game and shooting a ridiculous percentage from the floor and from 3, and he's a volume guy. He's Marshall, but Marshall is around 33 to 34 percent, while he's at 53 to 54 percent, so it gives you an idea of the challenge that they present. They're a group that is athletic. They are going to play fast. They are the most efficient team in our league in transition, so there are a number of things that we have to be good at defensively to give ourselves a chance.

On defense against Missouri:

We will do what we always do in most every game. We will mix and match and see what is the best. I don't think you will see a steady diet of any one thing because they are too good. From a size standpoint, they can play over the top of us, if we went primarily with man defense, but I don't think you can sit in a zone because they're too proficient from 3.

On the Missouri game being a resume-building opportunity for the NCAA Tournament:

We knew it was going to be a big week for us. We knew going into Rupp was going to be difficult, and I know coming home against Missouri is going to be difficult. That's why you're in the SEC. That's why you play big-boy basketball to have these opportunities. We have been better with a 4-0 record at home in league play. We have to continue that trend if we have any hopes of playing meaningful basketball once we get into the postseason.

On Martavious Newby:

He's out of the cast, and he has begun his rehab process. As is typical with kids who are playing high-level SEC sports, he heals pretty quickly. The doctors will give you the landscape for the people they typically deal with and then you can usually accelerate that, and Martavious is no exception. Our anticipation is that if he continues to progress the way he has once rehabilitation has started, hopefully we can have him back sooner rather than later. He's a big void and you see his toughness, coming up with loose balls and he gives us a matchup on the perimeter defensively that we miss.

On winning on the road in the SEC:

Coming into this past week, I think Ken Pomeroy said that the SEC had the most games of any league that were decided by four points or less, or overtime, which shows you it's a balanced league. It's a company line, and it's one the SEC has not been able to shake for a couple of years. It's an easy company line. I do think there is a bias in the national media because they get tired of talking about the SEC because it dominates in football, and they get tired of it. When there's an opportunity to talk about something else, that's what they're going to do. 

Kentucky loses on the road to LSU, which is a very good basketball team, in a competitive game, and then they go and win at Missouri. And Missouri has beaten West Virginia, Northwestern, at NC State and UCLA, and they didn't lose a non-league home game. Kentucky goes in there and wins, and they still drop seven spots in the poll. The mindset is kind of crazy. 

Our league, it will start shaking out in the next two or three weeks. You will start seeing the pretenders from the contenders, and that will be the case in any league. The Big Ten has done a job like everybody does of eating their own. You have teams that were undefeated before league play and they lose three, four or five in a row. It happens at this time of year. 

I don't get too caught up in that with my group because we have to find a way to get better. Let's get better and improve. I can't be a big-picture thinker with this group. It's not productive. For us, it's about getting better. It's about figuring out what we did right for 15 to 20 minutes against Kentucky and what went wrong, and let's correct those things and let's try to make an improvement Saturday.

On that bias carrying over into the NCAA Tournament committee room:

I don't think so. I think those people don't get caught up in that. We all deal with human nature. The numbers are going to say what the numbers are going to say. The numbers on that piece of paper have to make sense, and if they make sense, then our league will be properly represented. 

Think about last year. We obviously knew we had to work to do going into Nashville. There were two teams that went into Nashville that were probably safe regardless with Florida being one and Missouri being the other. Missouri finished fifth or sixth in our league. However, similar to what they have done this year, their non-league had enough pop where they were good. 

Everybody else -- us, obviously, Tennessee still had an opportunity to play their way in, Alabama was still in the conversation, and certainly Kentucky was. There were only two that were in regardless of what happened in Nashville, but there were still six in play. It just so happens that Kentucky got beat by Vanderbilt, which was a "bad loss," so they're out. Tennessee and Alabama happened to play one another, but the loser got immediately eliminated, and then the other lost the next round to Florida. We were the only one that wiggled our way through. We went in with an opportunity for six. 

Let's say Kentucky would have beaten Vanderbilt, and if we would have beaten them, they're probably still in, and we would have probably had to have beaten them to get in. There's so much still in play, and that was when Kentucky was not considered a Final Four contender because of the Nerlens Noel injury.

The Kentucky team that I saw Tuesday night was the Kentucky team that many people projected them to be when they named them preseason number one in the country. Those kids are growing up, and when Willie Cauley-Stein plays the way he did, and the Harrison twins are really getting better. They're so long. That's what blew me away. Things that we can typically do against other people, their length made up for that on Tuesday, and it made it problematic.

On excuses being made to say the SEC is down:

It's a mindset. For instance, the Big East. When the Big East turns to basketball, the attention turns to that in November. There's not a lot of thought put into basketball until about now. It's the nature of the geography, the communities that you're in and because of the dominance of football. 

You can't feed two masters a lot of times. Many times, we're a slow build. When Missouri loses to Georgia, it's considered bad, even though it's very, very difficult to win on the road in the league. Going into this last week, Florida and us were the only teams in the league with multiple road wins. It's difficult to win in any league. 

For us, we're going to have opportunities. The league is sitting in a much better place today than it was at this time last year. The biggest reason being even the teams at the bottom, it's not so much weighty at the bottom. We had two or three 200-plus RPI teams last year, and we lost to a couple of them. As a result, it makes the climb very, very difficult to get up and out of. 

This year, that's not the case. Even though we have teams that have not performed as well as they have liked, their numbers don't indicate that. Take Vanderbilt, for instance, and Kevin (Stallings) has done a masterful job. People think they're down because of their injuries and the attrition that they have suffered, yet you look today, and they're in the 60's in the RPI. That win at Vanderbilt, even though you say it's not the Vanderbilt they had two years, granted, the numbers still give you some life.

On what Ole Miss did well in those 15 to 20 minutes against Kentucky:

Number one, we were moving the ball better. We got really stagnant in the second half, and then we got into trying to make a play without moving the defense. Their size ate us up, and we could not get clean looks. And the ones we got, we were looking for a 10-point shot as opposed to staying within the rhythm of the offense. 

And then you don't get stops. They shot 60 percent against us in the second half. We did not get a defensive rebound until Janari (Joesaar) came in and got one that hit off the side of the rubber part of the backboard. That was the first time a Rebel got a rebound in the second half. We had some dead-ball rebounds, but we did not have a clean defensive rebound until under two minutes to go in the second half.

On limited opportunities for resume-building wins:

We have Missouri, and they're in the low 50's in the RPI, and they're a quality team. We have Kentucky coming back in here, and you have Florida, who's in the top five and might come in here number one in the nation, so you have your opportunities. We still have Vanderbilt coming back in this building, and they're sitting in the 60's in the RPI, so there are opportunities for us. We have to play better and we have to earn our way in. That's the only way it should be, and that's the way it is.

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    Rebs stay healthy, they can win it all!!!

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    Bulmer I love you and ole Miss

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    It's great to be a Rebel fan. Coach Freeze
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    I am not and never have been an Ole Miss fan. I am however a Coach Freeze fan. I like what he represents in today's world of big time sports and what he stands for in leading young men of today into a more responsible role. He is everything that Ole Miss has never had. I am on his band wagon winning or losing.

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    How can I get my hands on one of these?

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    Tiger fan here (LSU) b we now have 3 in the SEC. You guys looked great last year. You looked coached, and the players were up for every game. Good to see you back in the hunt.

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