Gators Look Towards Ole Miss On Short Rest

Following a disappointing road performance at Missouri the Gators are tasked with preparing for Ole Miss on short rest. Road games haven’t been kind to the Gators this season and they’ll luckily be back on home turf in Gainesville for this one and they’ll need to have a positive performance to keep the team’s confidence level up moving forward. Saturday’s beating at the hands of Missouri dropped the Gators a whopping 14 spots in the NET rankings from 40 to 54 and Florida will be looking to bring that number up to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes clean and clear from bubble watch. It all starts with a good performance against Ole Miss. Here is what you can expect from the Rebels.

Season To Date

Currently on a three-game losing skid punctuated by a loss to Arkansas where they blew a double-digit lead in the second half the Rebels seem to still be finding their rhythm in year two under coach Kermit Davis. After narrowly losing to Memphis in the non-conference portion of the season Ole Miss had a big neutral site win over Penn State has proven to be their best resume performance of the season. Currently 9-6 some of their other losses have been to Butler, Wichita State, and Arkansas.

Their most disappointing loss came to Texas A&M, a team that that up until this point in the season has been the worst high major team in all college basketball. Not only did they drop that game to the Aggies but they did it by 10 points. That was the second loss of their current three-game slide and following that dismal performance they had the game where they blew a double-digit lead to Arkansas so this definitely a team desperate for a win. They might be coming into Gainesville damaged but they might also be coming in dangerous as a team that needs a W more than just about any SEC team.

Unselfish Basketball

A big element of Kermit Davis basketball is unselfishness and this Rebels team embodies it perfectly. They share the ball without hesitation and it can make the Rebels hard to defend. Much of their offense uses continuity actions, plays where movements flow into each other and repeat indefinitely. They don’t use a lot of plays to get a particular player in a particular position to take a particular shot, they flow through all their progressions and when the defense lapses they take advantage.

The result of this is six players that average over an assist per game and overall the Rebels are 14th nationally in assisted field goals. Devontae Shuler leads Ole Miss in assists but only with 4.1 per game which again shows just how unselfish the team is and how the ball doesn’t stick in someone’s hands for very long.

This makes Ole Miss fairly difficult to prepare for, especially on short rest. Ideally the Gators would be comfortable with the continuity offenses Ole Miss is going to play but they may not have the time to properly prepare, especially since they ended up having to stay the night after the Missouri game in Columbia due to the ice storm.

Guarding continuity offenses can also be difficult because you need to defend for the entire shot clock. You can’t ease up and then really dig in when you know a ball screen or an isolation is happening, you’ve got to stay locked in for the entirety of the possession since you don’t know just when a shot will be taken. Ole Miss is going to make the Gators guard and after their worst defensive performance of the season that could be concerning.

Defense

When you play a Kermit Davis-coached team you know you’re going to see a few different defenses. They’ll play mostly man defense, like most teams in college basketball, but you’re always likely to see a 1-3-1 zone that was effective for Davis at Middle Tennessee State and has worked well for him at Ole Miss too.

Florida plays some 1-3-1 themselves but it looks a lot different than Ole Miss’ version. The Gators really extend their 1-3-1 and they aren’t looking to play it for an entire possession, they’re trying to fall back into man to man once the ball goes below the three-point line. Ole Miss will play a true 1-3-1 where they don’t switch to man, and they don’t extend the pressure as much as Florida.

The 1-3-1 can be tough to attack because it limits ball movement side to side and it also makes it difficult to get the ball into the high post. Considering the Gators like to get Kerry Blackshear the ball in that range it’s likely Ole Miss will play the 1-3-1 to try to make someone else beat them. It’s very difficult to get drives against 1-3-1 defenses so you have to beat them with the pass. The corners are vulnerable against this look but the Gators haven’t been great when it comes to converting on those shots, another reason it’s likely the Rebels are going to use this defense.

Ole Miss’ zone has been slightly better than it’s man this season allowing 40.2% (0.787 PPP) in their zone and 41.2% (0.815 PPP) in man. Their zone neutralizes a lot of what Florida wants to do and the Gators aren’t well suited to doing what it takes to beat it so there is potential for it to be a struggle.

Since Florida plays a variation of the 1-3-1 they may be comfortable playing against it, and the Gators have actually been fantastic against zones in the limited possessions they’ve got to see them. These possessions have been limited due to the fact Florida has usually torched them and teams have gone away from it but Ole Miss is far more dedicated to playing their zone than most teams. How Ole Miss chooses to defend will definitely be something to watch.

Player To Watch

Even though Ole Miss is an unselfish team that really moves the ball and plays team basketball they have an elite scorer in Breein Tyree who leads the way with 17.8 points per game. A physical guard, he plays much bigger than his 6’2”, 195 frame would suggest and opposing players have a difficult time staying in front of him off the dribble. There is definitely a shiftiness to the way he plays and the way he attacks off the dribble but if a defender is there to cut him off he has the strength to shove them off on his way to the hoop.

Where Ole Miss uses him the most is as a pick and roll ball handler and when he takes a screen, he’s not looking to hit the roll man and kick out to a shooter. When Tyree takes a ball screen he’s looking to try to get to the hoop every single time and often that pick gives him the space he needs. The thing to note about Tyree as a pick and roll player is that he’s not a great shooter off the dribble and he’s not looking to distribute much either. Pick and rolls for Tyree are all about getting him shots and the Gators need to guard accordingly.

As a catch and shoot player Tyree is fantastic. He has hit 41.4% of his catch and shoot threes and he’s someone who is completely unfazed by a defender in his face. Ole Miss isn’t a particularly good shooting team (though the Gators have to be ready for anything after a bad shooting Missouri team lit them up) but Tyree is definitely a threat they need to be aware of.

A senior, Tyree has seen a lot of tough games against the Gators and he won’t be rattled in the O’Dome. If Ole Miss were to win this one it would likely be due to a huge performance from Tyree.

Matchup Outlook

Ole Miss hasn’t put together many great wins and they’re on a losing streak but watching them play they are a cohesive unit that looks better than their record would suggest. They play intelligent offensive basketball and play defense in a way that it’s tough to prepare for. Breein Tyree and Devontae Shuler are a talented backcourt that can score on just about anyone and Blake Hinson has been a breakout forward for them who can be an excellent secondary scorer.

In last year’s matchup the Gators had major difficulties guarding the perimeter against Ole Miss and there is definitely potential for that to be the case again. As well, Ole Miss’ zone could give the Gators’ headaches which is not something they want to have happen after the debacle at Missouri. Ole Miss plays good basketball and they could give the Gators fits if Florida doesn’t bounce back from Saturday’s performance.

Eric Fawcett
Eric hails from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His blend of sports and comedy has landed his words on ESPN, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Lindy's and others. He loves zone defenses, the extra pass, and a 30 second shot clock. Growing up in Canada, an American channel showing SEC basketball games was his first exposure to Gator hoops, and he has been hooked ever since. You can follow him on Twitter at @Efawcett7.