BECB: Ole Miss, obviously, had to win a game in the First Four for the opportunity to play Xavier. Do you see this as more of an advantage (they already have a game under their belt), or a disadvantage (they have to travel again and get ready for a whole new opponent) for the Rebels?
Jeff Gray: Typically I'm not a big proponent of the whole "they're riding momentum from the extra game" thing, but this case is an exception. This is an Ole Miss team that, after a midseason surge, had lost four of its last five games coming into the tourney. They blew their first game in the SEC Tournament by fouling a desperation heave with 0.7 seconds left. They went from a projected 7-seed to a play-in team in the span of two weeks and were lucky to be included in the field of 68 at all.
My point is this was a team very much on the downswing and very much in need of a morale boost. The momentum they grabbed from storming back from down 17 to BYU can't be understated. Even more important is the confidence the shooters gained down the stretch in Dayton — the Rebs shot 60 percent and hung 62 points in the second half against BYU.
BECB: Ole Miss is 17th in AdjOE ... but 207th in eFG%, 197th in 3PT%, and 206th in 2PT%. How has Ole Miss been able to create scoring opportunities with, all things considered, rather average efficiency?
JG: Well, during that losing streak, the Rebs basically weren't creating scoring opportunities. Rock bottom came in the conference tournament against South Carolina, when Ole Miss pretty much gave up on any kind of ball movement and just started launching terrible perimeter shots the first chance they got.
The key to unlocking the cover on the hoop against BYU, at least in that second half, was reestablishing an inside presence. The guards did an incredible job of driving the lane and then finding the big fellas when the defense pushed forward. M.J. Rhett, who scored a season-high 20, threw down what seemed like a dozen wide open slams off feeds through the middle. Ole Miss ended up outscoring BYU 42-12 in the paint.
BECB: Xavier's Matt Stainbrook is one of the best big men in the country. What should Ole Miss' plan of attack be if they want to try and stop him?
JG: The Rebs have decent interior defense, but finding somebody to match up on the 6'10, 263-pound Stainbrook is going to be an issue. Ole Miss' biggest post defenders, Rhett and Dwight Coleby, are both giving up over 20 pounds to him. If neither of them can handle Stainbrook by themselves, Ole Miss will be forced to commit more defenders to double-teams, which will open up an already shaky perimeter defense — they've allowed their last five opponents to shoot a combined 44 percent from three.
BECB: Stefan Moody showed out again on Tuesday in Dayton with a prodigious performance. What's Xavier's best bet if they want to slow him down?
JG: Steal his Gatorade so he'll cramp up.
BECB: Finally, who wins this game, and why?
JG: I think it really comes down to Moody. He has the potential to shoot the Rebs to a win in just about any game (he damn near did it against Kentucky, but those damn cramps got him in overtime), but he's been wildly inconsistent of late, so that's tough to rely on. And one half of basketball doesn't convince me that the rest of the offense has suddenly found its groove. In the end, I think the better team wins. And the better team is Xavier.