Primer: Ole Miss - Tennessee

Ole Miss (14-5, 5-1 SEC) travels to face Tennessee (12-7, 3-3) tonight at 7 p.m. CT. What to watch for? We take a look.

Follow SpiritBen on Twitter

Game: Ole Miss - Tennessee
Date: Jan. 29, 7 p.m.
Location: Knoxville, Tenn.
TV/Radio: SEC-TV/Ole Miss Radio Network

The Lede:

The official NCAA RPI rankings were released earlier this week, and with them a fresh round of speculation and prognosticating.

Not so much for Ole Miss guard Ladarius White.

White, whose team is in Knoxville, Tenn., today for a road date with Tennessee, has blinders on. He's steering clear of the numbers, of what national pundits are saying, of what Ole Miss needs to do to improve its postseason resume with two-thirds of the SEC schedule left to be played.

"Some players do," pay attention to RPI and the like, White said. "I really just don't look at it. I just try to take it one game at a time and get the win. I'm not concerned about the RPI."

While ignorance is bliss for White, a handful of his teammates, including junior forward Aaron Jones, are fully aware of Ole Miss' positioning not only in the conference, but in the national standings.

The Rebels, now all alone in second place in the SEC following Kentucky's loss to LSU last night, are 14-5 overall and 5-1 in the conference. They've won four straight, and are 25-8 in their last 33 SEC games dating back to 2012, good for the best mark in school history.

Andy Kennedy
Associated Press

More importantly, they've climbed to No. 58 in the RPI, while Tennessee (12-7, 3-3 SEC) comes in at No. 52. Ole Miss is 2-4 against top-100 RPI teams this season.

"I've got the United Nations in my locker room. RPI? I hit them with this APR, and GPA — I'm not even sure they know what the NCAA is, many of them," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy quipped, during a sit-down with reporters on Monday.

"You're inundated with it. They watch college basketball like we watch college basketball. It's talked about 24/7. They obviously understand.

"Now, they don't get the formula. I don't get the formula. We're through a third of the SEC season, and it's easy to break it down that way. We went 5-1. If we can do that the next two quadrants, we'd be in pretty good shape. We understand the importance of the game, and we know Tennessee is a good basketball team."

Ole Miss suffered four close losses - three at home - in the non-conference, only to flip the proverbial switch once the calendar turned to January and the SEC slate.

Key for the Rebels has been the play of the 6-foot-6, 211-pound White and his fellow role players, who are finally proving capable in complementing Jarvis Summers and Marshall Henderson - a duo Kennedy is playing at an all-league level.

"Jarvis has established himself as one of the best guards in the league, and he's playing that way," Kennedy said. "He's playing with a lot of confidence, and we have a lot of confidence in him. He's giving us a lot of leadership that is above and beyond.

"Marshall is Marshall. Marshall is the only guy in the country that can go 4 for 15 and be the lead story. He's the only guy that can go 2 for 12 and be the MVP of the game. He's a different guy, and his ability to make shots … we got to do a good job of playing off that. And then we have to get contributions from a number of different guys. We're getting those."

White, a junior guard, is averaging 7.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game on the year. However, he's upped his production in SEC games, averaging 9.7 points each outing.

He scored 11 points and grabbed four rebounds in the 82-63 win over Mississippi State on Saturday.

"We're clicking as a team," White said.

Sure enough. So, at least for White, the resume talk can wait.

Scouting Tennessee:
(Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations)

Tennessee is 12-7 on the season and 3-3 in the SEC after splitting a pair of games last week vs. Arkansas (W, 81-74) and at Florida (L, 67-41). The Volunteers are 9-2 at Thompson-Bowling this season, but are just 3-5 in away and natural site games. Senior Jordan McRae leads the team with a 18.5 points per game average, while the duo of Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon are the top rebounding pair in the league combining for 17.9 boards per game.

Jarnell Stokes
Danny Parker

Tennessee ranks second in the SEC in rebounding margin at +8.9 rebounds per game and lead the league limiting their opponents to just 30.6 rpg. In conference games, UT ranks last in the SEC turning the ball over 5.33 time more than its opponents per game.

The Rebels and Volunteers have met 110 times, with Tennessee holding a 69-41 lead in a series that began in 1924. Ole Miss has won three in a row in the series, including a season sweep of the Vols last year. UT owns a 39-11 record against Ole Miss in Knoxville, but the Rebels earned their first win in Knoxville since 1991 with last season's 92-74 win. The home team has won eight of the last 10 regular season meeting dating back to 2005. A win would give Ole Miss a four-game winning streak against Tennessee, its longest against the Vols since 1990-91. Andy Kennedy is 5-5 against the Volunteers in his career.

(Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations)

* Ole Miss is 5-1 in the SEC, tied for second in the league standings and have won four conference games in a row entering Wednesday's showdown in Knoxville. A win would tie last year's squad and the 1936-37 team for the best start to SEC play through seven games.

* Senior G Marshall Henderson recently became the 34th member of the 1,000-point club at Ole Miss and ranks 34th in school history with 1,021 career points. He is just the fourth player in Rebel history to eclipse the 1,000-point mark in two seasons joining Denver Brackeen, Gerald Glass and Don Kessinger. Junior G Jarvis Summers is close behind Henderson with 1,005 career points became the 35th member of the 1,000-point club at Ole Miss.

* Ole Miss leads the SEC, and ranks third in the nation, averaging 7.1 blocked shots per game. Junior F Aaron Jones is ranks third in the league, and 34th in the nation, averaging 2.6 blocked shots per game.

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy meets the media to preview the Rebels' road trip to Tennessee.

OM Spirit Top Stories