David Collier is a junior broadcast journalism major in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at Ole Miss.
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Despite finishing the non-conference slate 11-2, the Ole Miss basketball team has a lot of pressure on its shoulders heading into their SEC opener on the road against Tennessee.
Ole Miss missed out on some opportunities for quality wins, so it is going to take a strong showing in the conference to get Andy Kennedy and his squad into the NCAA Tournament.
However, a tough stretch early in SEC play could leave Ole Miss behind the eight ball.
The Rebels start the conference schedule on the road for the 12th time in the last 15 years, and the last time Ole Miss won their SEC opener was in 2009 at Georgia.
Tennessee leads the all-time series against the Rebels 69-39, including a 39-10 series lead in Knoxville. Ole Miss hasn’t won at Tennessee since 1991, and Kennedy is 3-5 against them in his career.
The Volunteers were picked in the top half of the SEC in the preseason, and they are off to an 8-4 start, dropping their final nonconference game to Memphis at home last week. The loss was Tennessee’s first of the year at home.
It will be an interesting matchup seeing an Ole Miss offense, which ranks fifth in the nation averaging 83.1 points per game, going up against a Volunteer defense that is second in the SEC, giving up just 58.8 points per game.
Offensively, Tennessee has three players averaging over 10 points per game in junior guard Trae Golden, junior guard Jordan McRae and sophomore forward Jarnell Stokes.
However, the Volunteers are averaging just 65 points per game and have scored under 50 points three times this year.
If Ole Miss can play consistently throughout the game on the offensive end of the court, they will have a good shot of knocking off Tennessee.
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. from Thompson-Boiling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn., and the game can be seen on the SEC Network.