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Kennedy, Mack Talk Familiarity, Preparations

From his five years at Cincinnati, three as an assistant coach and one each as associate head coach and interim head coach, head coach Andy Kennedy knows and has experienced the Xavier program first hand, having coached against the Musketeers in the annual Crosstown Classic.

Xavier, 21-13, is making its 25th all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament, its ninth in 10 years, becoming one of only 11 programs that have been to the Big Dance at least nine times over the last 10 years. The Musketeers have also clinched its ninth 20-win season in the last 10 years. 

"They're exactly what I thought they would be," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "They're not going to give you anything easy. They're very, very fundamentally sound on both sides of the ball. We've just got to do what we do, and that's be the aggressor, try to play downhill, try to be as disruptive as possible against a team that passes it as well as anybody in the country."

As a team, Xavier leads the Big East in field goal percentage (.473) and assists (16.4) and ranks second in scoring at 73.6 points per game. However, compared to their most recent NCAA Tournament matchup with BYU that featured a combined 194 points, Kennedy and his team expect a much more rugged, less free-flowing contest when they face the Musketeers on Thursday afternoon.

Ole Miss senior forward M.J. Rhett said Xavier reminded him of Georgia because of their style of play. Xavier head coach Chris Mack said Ole Miss is similar in physicality and athleticism to a Cincinnati-type team. Both teams faced the same challenge in essentially preparing for the other team in 36 hours.

"For us, it's just making sure that we do our best to take them out of their strengths," Kennedy said. "You never want to get beat with another team's strengths, and that's what our focus will be on in preparation for tomorrow afternoon's game."

"By this time of the year, you really focus more importantly on what your own team does, not necessarily trying to take away every little play and counter that the other team is running," Mack said.

Whirlwind Week Continues for the Rebels

Ole Miss has gone through a two-day turn twice, as well as a one-day turn when the Rebels played No. 23 Creighton and Cincinnati in back-to-back days at the Emerald Coast Classic, but they haven't gone through a turn quite like the whirlwind, as head coach Andy Kennedy described it, this week.

The Rebels closed out a 94-90 win over BYU, a game that ended around 11 p.m. local time Tuesday in Dayton. The team walked out of UD Arena around 12:30 a.m., flew to Jacksonville and then arrived at their hotel around 4:30 a.m., before starting preparations for sixth-seeded Xavier that included a shootaround Wednesday evening at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.

"Well, for us, it's just about making sure that our guys are physically rested, not only the demands of the travel with such an emotional game, and we had to expend so much energy in order to come back," Kennedy said.

"So we want to make sure our guys are rested physically because we know the challenge Xavier is going to present, rugged, not going to give you anything easy, a little bit different flow than what we faced last night. And we want to give them as much information as possible without bogging us down. We're going to be who we are; Xavier is going to be who they are. We've got to do a good job of imposing our will on the game like we were fortunate enough to do the second half last night."

There are advantages and disadvantages to Ole Miss having played an additional First Four game on Tuesday, while Xavier hasn't played in nearly a week, a 69-52 loss to Villanova in the Big East championship game on March 14.

"The disadvantage that we have per our opponent is obviously what we just described, the physical demands of what it's taken to get here," Kennedy said. "The advantage that we have is we have a win in this tournament. We just scored 62 points in a half. We just overcame a 17-point deficit, which is the biggest since 2007 in this tournament. We've got a lot of guys feeling pretty good about themselves."

The Rebels carry a lot of momentum into Thursday, particularly on the offensive end, having shot 60 percent from the field in the second half to finish the game at 45 percent in the win over BYU. Six Rebels scored in double figures, including all three members of their big three in Stefan Moody, Jarvis Summers and LaDarius White.

Moody led the way with an Ole Miss NCAA record 26 points, including 15 in the second half. Summers posted his second career double-double with 11 points and 10 assists, compared to just one turnover. M.J. Rhett added a career-high 20 points, including 14 after halftime.

"Well, it's definitely not emotionally draining," Rhett said. "We're just going to roll off of how we played in the second half. Being that we can come back from a 17-point deficit, if we can just fix our first half performances and play better in the first half and keep our second half, because we're a second half team for the most part. So if we could just hold down our first half and come back in the second half and do what we do, we'll be fine."

Ole Miss a Giant Killer against Xavier?

Giant Killers come in many different shapes and forms in the NCAA Tournament. 

They are not just your teams from smaller and mid-major conferences, but also your lower-seeded power-conference teams. As defined by ESPN's Peter Keating and Jordan Brenner, Giants Killers are teams that defeat an opponent seeded at least five spots higher in the NCAA Tournament.

When the bracket came out on Sunday, Keating and Brenner considered 11th-seeded Ole Miss the second-most likely Giant Killer to pull off a Round of 64 upset , giving them a 38.9 percent to upset sixth-seeded Xavier, second only to fellow 11th-seed BYU, which had a 51.0 percent chance against the Musketeers.

Now, after Ole Miss' thrilling 94-90 win over BYU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Tuesday, the Rebels are considered the most likely Giant Killer to pull off a Round of 64 upset.

Ole Miss is coming off a season-high 94 points, including 62 second-half points, which was the most points scored in the second half of a NCAA game since 2007. The Rebels also erased a 17-point halftime deficit, the largest halftime deficit overcome, also since 2007.

History also favors a possible upset in the Round of 64.

Since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, No. 11 seeds have a 41-79 record against No. 6 seeds, a winning percentage of 34.2 percent. Also, since tournament expansion, 17 teams selected as No. 11 seeds have advanced to the Sweet 16, the last being Tennessee and Dayton last year.

Winners of First Four games have also had recent success in the NCAA Tournament, as at least one First Four team has won multiple games each year since the tournament expanded to 68 teams in 2011, including two Sweet 16 participants and one Final Four participant.

Here's more from Keating and Brenner on Ole Miss and its matchup with Xavier:

The one matchup in the West where it's worth abandoning chalk is actually the easiest to explain. Xavier is a fine team, but they're not outstanding in the areas that help keep Giants safe against Killers. They're only average on the offensive boards and at forcing turnovers (ranking 158th in each category), and as a further warning sign, they are weak at defending the perimeter. That kind of generic Giant loses to Killers, on average, more than twice as often as other types. Moreover, there's just not five seeds' worth of difference between Xavier and Ole Miss. 

BYU would have been a prime challenger to Xavier because of the way they hit 3s and pound the offensive boards, it's true. But with Ole Miss, the same arguments apply, only in lowercase. Mississippi's basic power rating is on par with several teams with higher seeds, like St. John's and Purdue, and better than a few, too, like LSU and Oregon. The big difference is that the Rebels lack BYU's outside shooting touch.

So here's a thought: If the play-in games have become the selection committee's last chance to reward deserving mid-majors or power conference teams with a dozen losses, maybe they'll just keep getting stocked with high-grade Killers. This season, 11 vs. 6 looks like the new 12 vs. 5.

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    Tiffany J. Moore said:

    This is amazing with what he have done so far! Hope that he'll achieve more in the future!

    in post Evan Engram Hauls in Midseason Accolades

    Fiftyyears fan said:

    How can you have five straight top 25 recruiting classes and look as bad as Ole Miss has this year. Easy lack of coaching fundamentals. Look at Mason at Vandy, nothing but 2 and 3 star recruits out of high school and he developers players that want to win. Hugh freeze has 3, 4 & 5 recruits and he expects them to win because of what they were in High School. Mr. Freeze you have not been teaching the fundamentals of football or winning in life. Mr. Freeze you have quit on your players because you have some false expectations of what they are instead of what you can develop in them. Either do your job or quit. Oh yea, please quit running your smoke and mirrors offense, everyone has figured it out. Run a physical offense that can open up holes for your running backs and then your pass attack want require 12 are 14 four and five star receivers. Mr. Freeze you have problems and you need to know that you are not smarter than the rest of the coaches in the SEC.

    in post Rebels Unable to Send Senior Class Out on a High Note

    Karen Holden said:

    Not every pass can be caught. Too low, too short whatever. Not every Kelly pass is perfect. Records were broken by receivers also. But they sre not going to catch every ball thrown. The loss to Auburn was not one players fault. You win or lose as a team.

    in post Late Mistake Spoils Chad Kelly's Historic Performance

    Trent browning said:

    Hey I was just wandering if these are the only 2 olemiss players signing. If there are more signing please respond to me ASAP. Also wondering if neil everett will sign any autographs. Thank you very much

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