The Ole Miss Rebels (15-2) basketball team has been flying under the radar for most of this season. The Rebels are ranked in the Associated Press and USA Today polls (23/24 respectfully) for the first time since 2010.
The University of Memphis Tigers (14-3) were ranked earlier this season. The two teams have had discussions about restarting the series. This year would be an excellent opportunity for the “backyard rivalry” to resume. Both teams are very similar to one another, and there is a slim possibility that the NCAA basketball selection committee may place the Tigers and Rebels in the same bracket for a possible post-season tournament matchup.
Who would win if Memphis played Ole Miss in basketball this season? Let’s break it down…
Tigers – The Tigers do many things very well, block shots, the ability to play both half court sets or run an up tempo offense. However, the best attribute for the Tigers is their talent. With the talent of the Tigers, when one player is having a bad game another just steps up and fill that void. Adonis Thomas, Gerron Johnson, Joe Jackson, Shaq Goodwin and Chris Crawford have carried the torch for the Tigers.
Rebels – Marshall Henderson is the heart and soul of the Rebels team. He is a 6’ 2” junior guard from Hurst, Texas and can score in bunches. In his recent game against the Tennessee Volunteers he was in the zone. Henderson went 0-4 in the first half, but finished the game with 28 points and made six 3-pointers in the game.
Tigers – The Tigers perimeter defense has been an Achilles heel this season. The Tigers have blown big leads this season by allowing teams to convert a high percentage of 3-pointers. The overall defense has been acceptable, but must improve in this area.
Rebels – The lack depth for the Rebels do not leave much room for error. The starters for the Rebels are averaging 58 points and 26 rebounds a game, while the bench is only averaging 24.4 points and 15 rebounds per game.
Tigers – The Tigers are ranked 41 in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) while Conference USA is ranked 11 among all conferences in basketball. The Tigers have been to the NCAA tournament the last two seasons and has received national attention despite playing in a perceived weak conference.
Rebels – Ole Miss has not been to the NCAA tournament since 2002. The Rebels have played in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) the past three years. They made it to the NIT Final Four in 2010. The Rebels are poised to make it to the NCAA tournament based on their current play. The Rebels RPI is 35 and the Southeastern Conference is ranked 6th.
Both of these teams play an exciting brand of basketball and if the teams were to meet in their current form, the game would most likely be an instant classic. Neither team lacks confidence and feels they would win any game that they lace up for. Who would win this game if it was played in Memphis, the Tad Pad or on a neutral court? Regardless of where this game was played the winners would be the fans. Who do you think would win? Let us know your thoughts.
Terry Davis is a regular contributor for MemphiSport. Follow him @Terryd515.