Press Box Notebook

Hopefully this week men's basketball won't have quite the hurdles to jump over or the hoops to jump through as last week.

I thought the hoops Rebels had a chance to go 1-1, in some form, last week. Then the Tommie Eddie thing came along.

I wasn't sure how they would handle that as a program, but I thought they did OK. The coaches stayed on top of the situation and let the academic people do their jobs. By Friday, Tommie was ready but a loss at Arkansas was already in the books.

Would he have made a difference in a 23-point loss to the Hogs on the road? Sure. But maybe not enough to get a win.

He would have not only given the Rebels some inside presence but would have allowed the offense to run smoother and more effectively, both inside and out. I'd watched the Rebel "O" from Milwaukee when Tommie didn't play well there and then through the next 10 games and a seven-game win streak when he did.

But Tommie at his best – and maybe even big man Dwayne Curtis who sits on the Rebel bench in street clothes – would probably not have made a difference against State. They're that good – again this year.

The Rebels get back into a little more reasonable competition this week with Georgia at home and Auburn on the road. They have a realistic chance – if they play well and provided there are no more "surprises" like the Eddie situation between now and then – to win both.

Will they? Remains to be seen. But the Georgia game is critical if there is still a shot at winning say half a dozen SEC games.

The Bulldogs – the Athens version not the Starkville ones – have had a tough time of it in the second season under head coach Dennis Felton, who came to Athens after a successful tenure at Western Kentucky. Last year they were 16-14 in his first season.

This season they stand at 6-6 overall and 0-2 in league play with losses to Tennessee at home and at South Carolina.

The Bulldogs struggled in non-league action. They did the exact opposite of Ole Miss this season. They took a trip to Canada in late October and played four exhibitions, then came home for two more exhibition games in Athens. Remember, the Rebels went to Milwaukee to start the regular season without an exhibition under their belts.

But it all didn't seem to do the Bulldogs much good. They promptly came home and lost their first two games of the regular season – to Felton's old school WKU and also to Nevada. Both games were in Athens. Then they beat Gardner-Webb by five and Wofford by four in overtime, again both contests in Athens.

They wrapped up the non-conference season with a loss to Stetson – yep, in Athens - on New Year's Eve.

The Bulldogs have only one senior on the squad – 6-3 guard Julian Williams – and I can't see from their statistics that he's played a single second all season.

The fallout from the Jim Harrick era still remains with the Bulldog program. The shape the program was in with the allegations and problems that occurred still linger.

Winnable game for the Rebels? Clearly it is.

But life in the SEC can be surprising. You never know when a team might step up and play its best game of the season.

And we'll still have to see how the Rebels respond to last week's on and off the court adversity. After a seven-game streak, winning had become something they'd gotten used to.

After the Lady Rebel win over Arkansas at home Sunday, Todd Abernethy and Bam Doyne were on the coliseum court working on their shots. They said they were ready for Georgia. They had put the past week behind them and moved on.

That's been the nature of this team so far this season, and that's the way Rod has been telling them to handle things all year. I'd seen that from Milwaukee on. I'd heard him say just that outside the locker room at Bradley Center following the first loss of the season to Air Force.

But last week obviously presented some hurdles and hoops they hadn't had to jump over and through. Maybe this week won't present those same situations and they can get the 10th victory of the 2004-05 season at home Wednesday night.

Talk about your one game at a time scenario. All that matters right now for this Ole Miss men's basketball team is a win over Georgia. After that, then they can look to the next one.

Nope, the 1-1 mark I thought was possible – again in some way, shape, or form – with Arkansas-Mississippi State week didn't happen.

A 2-0 mark the next five days is possible. Hope I'm more accurate this week than last.

It was good to see Bob Weltlich back in the Tad Pad Saturday. I talked to him briefly after the game.

He and his wife Nancy and some other friends and family were underneath visiting with some folks.

"Bullet Bob" or "The Juice" (or whatever even more unpleasant nicknames you may remember him being called during his UM years) was looking for Todd Abernethy. He made his way into the Rebels' locker room (newly renovated, by the way) to find him. It was a door he had passed through for six years as the Rebel head coach.

I still credit Weltlich, who was an assistant at Indiana when Todd's dad Tom played for the Hoosiers, with being the man who introduced Ole Miss to the modern era of college basketball. We've had some success off and on for the past 25 years, and a lot of that goes back to what he brought to Oxford.

The fans began to fill Tad Smith Coliseum for more than a game or two each season, and the Rebels had a true homecourt advantage for the first time ever. Many times students camped out some nights before games to get tickets and lined up well before the doors opened for the contests.

Weltlich could have remained successful here had he continued to recruit at least as well as he had and to coach them up, which was his forte. And he'd have had to get used to the shot clock, which he did not have to deal with here.

I remember a four-overtime thriller the Rebels won while he was coach. Final score: Ole Miss 51, Vandy 48. No way to have that type score in four OTs with a shot clock.

From the uniform look and style to the warmup and practice routine to all aspects of his program here, Weltlich brought a little bit of Indiana basketball (the Hoosiers had lost one game total in two years when he arrived) to Ole Miss at age 32.

But as many young coaches do, Weltlich was looking for what he would consider greener pastures after his first few seasons here when the Rebels started making it to the postseason.

Iowa State called and he talked to them. But the Cyclones hired Johnny Orr away from Michigan instead.

Duke called and he was actually a finalist for the job. The guy they hired then coaches the Blue Devils now. Mike Krzyzewski still holds court at Cameron Indoor.

Weltlich got the Texas job following the 1982 season, replacing folksy, legendary Abe Lemmons, and most of the times were tough for the intense, hard-nosed Weltlich in Austin.

He was released a few seasons later and coached at Florida International and South Alabama after that. He took both those schools to the NCAA Tournament. He and his family still live in the Mobile area.

A lot of Ole Miss people were glad to see him and made their way to visit with him in Section A last Saturday. I know it's special for him too when he returns to the place where it all began – not only for him but for Ole Miss basketball as well, at least in the modern era of the sport.

It was disappointing to read inaccurately in a Sunday paper that the current State win streak over the Rebels in men's basketball at seven is the second longest ever in the series. It reported that way back in the early part of the century State won nine straight.

Bob Weltlich and I can both tell you a win streak his teams started against the Bulldogs reached eight from 1980-83 – the final two games in the streak were in Lee Hunt's first year as Rebel coach.

"Eight Straight Over State" was the cry as well as the bumper stickers.

With all things being maroon recently in the series, let's not forget that terrific red and blue streak either, although some did recently, it appears.

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