Ole Miss will tip off the Kermit Davis era on Saturday afternoon as it hosts Western Michigan.
The Rebels return a solid nucleus from last season while welcoming a host of newcomers that Davis and his staff have brought into the program.
Meanwhile, the Broncos are off to a 1-0 start after earning an 89-76 victory over Detroit.
Let’s run through what to watch for in this game.
- Western Michigan (1-0) at Ole Miss
- Location: The Pavilion – Oxford, MS
- Game Date: Nov. 10
- Game Time: 4 p.m. EST
- Watch: SEC Network+
Players to Watch
Terence Davis (Ole Miss)
The 6-4 senior might be one of the most underrated guards in the SEC, and if his shooting percentages improve this season, he’ll be extremely tough to handle.
Davis averaged 13.8 points and 6.4 rebounds last year while shooting 40.7 percent from the floor and 31.7 percent from beyond the arc.
His size and athleticism allow him to excel on both sides of the court, and his 28 blocks led the Rebels in ’17-18.
Blake Hinson (Ole Miss)
We talked a lot about Hinson during the offseason, as the 6-7 freshman could be in line for a breakout season in his first year in Oxford.
Kermit Davis praised the top 150 prospect’s maturity this summer, even going as far as calling him the most mature freshman he’d ever coached.
Hinson will likely start at the power forward position, and his development will be fun to watch this season.
Seth Dugan (Western Michigan)
If you’re looking for one of the best performances of the young season thus far, look no further than what the 7-0 footer did in the win over Detroit.
Dugan exploded for a career-high 32 points and 22 rebounds while adding six assists and going 12 of 18 from the field.
If he can be even half as effective in this matchup, he’s going to certainly present some challenges for the Ole Miss frontcourt.
Kermit Davis knows that it will be a process when it comes to fixing some of the weaknesses of this Rebels squad, and the first step will be finding more consistency on the defensive end of the floor.
Ole Miss has finished in the top 100 in defensive efficiency just once over the past five seasons, so Davis and his staff will need to find a good core to lean on when stops are needed on defense.
As for Western Michigan, it grabbed 22 offensive rebounds in its opener, and that could be an area of concern for an Ole Miss team that wasn’t great at stopping second-chance opportunities last season.
- Spread: Ole Miss -13
- Over/Under: 150.5
- KenPom Projection: Ole Miss, 85 percent chance to win
- ESPN BPI Projection: Ole Miss, 75.2 percent chance to win
The Rebels should be excited to finally step on the court for an official game, and I feel like this is a team that outperforms its predicted last-place finish in the SEC.
Frontcourt play and defense will define Ole Miss’ season because the guard group of Davis, Breein Tyree, and Devontae Shuler is one that the new staff can rely on for valuable contributions.
Western Michigan lost four starters from last season’s team, and there are some early concerns with overall depth at key positions.
Ole Miss has to make a dedicated effort to win the battle on the glass so that Dugan and company don’t grab too many extra opportunities.
There should be great energy from the Rebels as they open up a new season, and the talented backcourt should be the difference in this game.
Season Predictions Record (straight up): 18-3
Game Prediction: Ole Miss 79, Western Michigan 68
For more SEC basketball coverage, follow me on Twitter @theblakelovell.
Blake Lovell is the founder of Southeast Hoops. He hosts the Marching to Madness podcast, which features interviews with coaches around the country. He also hosts a weekly college basketball show on WNSR 560AM/95.9 FM in Nashville. His work has been featured in The New York Times, Athlon Sports, Rivals, FanRag Sports, and many more.