As hoops season nears, predictions abound

This year's Ole Miss men's basketball team has been picked by most to be an NIT participant. A few still don't think postseason play is in the cards for the Rebs just yet, it appears.

Unless my evaluations and conclusions are wrong and my eyes have been deceiving me for the past few weeks and months, I think Frank's Spin of the Rebel basketball team, which appeared on the front page of the Spirit website today, is off base.

I've never met Frank Burlison, a national basketball writer on the West Coast, but I e-mailed him this morning. I was stepping out on a limb a bit, so to speak. I told him politely (even invited him to sit with us on press row for a game at the Tad Pad) that I thought he was off just a little on his assessments of where the Ole Miss Rebels would finish this season.

If you read it, you'll see he says the Rebels will struggle to match last season's 14 wins. He thinks Ole Miss is only better than Auburn in the SEC West, and he believes UM has no better chance than Auburn to get to postseason play of any kind. In other words, it appears he thinks we'll have a sub .500 season for the fourth straight year and not even an NIT bid.

Have to disagree with Frank. I think this team will have a winning season and make the NIT. Some have even gone so far as to predict an NCAA bubble year. I won't do that yet. I'll wait to see how the youngsters mature and how this all comes together. Certainly the talent level is better than it's been since the Sweet Sixteen season of 2001.

It was easy to see last Friday night in the 91-70 exhibition win over Spring Hill College that the Rebels have some work to do. But there were highlights. Dwayne Curtis started and was all we thought he'd be with 29 points and 18 rebounds. And until Clarence Sanders jammed the thumb on his shooting hand (I'll get an update on him tomorrow afternoon before the team leaves for New Mexico), it was clear that he can play and can shoot. He came off the bench and had 11 points, all in the first half, going 4-for-7 from the floor, including 3-for-4 from 3-point range.

Brandon Patterson started and had 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting from the floor with a couple of free throws. Freshman Trey Hampton started and was 4-for-5 from the floor for eight points.

Bam Doyne started in place of lone senior Londrick Nolen (knee injury, didn't play last Friday night, another situation I will check out tomorrow afternoon prior to their departure) and had six points in his 31 minutes. Bam had nine assists and showed the improvement we'd heard about.

Big Mike Smith made a couple of nice moves offensively and scored six points in 12 minutes. Big Marquis Young was 2-for-2 in seven minutes for four points.

I use big because both those guys are just that. Both Mike Smith and Marquis Young have worked so hard to get into shape over the preseason. I look forward to seeing both of them when they finally get there.

There were some negatives. I like 6-foot-9 Xavier Hansbro a lot and he took nine shots, mostly from the outside. That was positive. Missing eight of them won't do, however. The Rebels also were a dismal 11-for-26 from the free throw line. That won't do either.

I thought Todd Abernethy with seven points had a quiet game in his 25 minutes and will continue to have to step it up on defense more than anything else. But we're in good hands at the point, and Todd will work to improve every day.

Jermey Parnell will help this team, but he is still a ways away from being a force. His hands concern me a bit. He has trouble catching the basketball inside in traffic and doing much with it. When he gets it he usually puts it on the floor first and that often causes more traffic situations and he loses control of the ball. He is in much better shape. He will help. He will get better. But he isn't there yet.

So the Rebs leave at 3 p.m. Wednesday for the Memphis airport to head to Albuquerque. They won't be back in Oxford until Monday. Hopefully they will have three wins, but at this point I'd take two. Beating the Lobos in their Pit will be a tall task for a young team.

If we're 3-0, watch out. If we're 2-1, we're right where I thought we'd be. Anything less and we have further to go than most of us thought. Except maybe for Frank Burlison.

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The Lady Rebels, who won their exhibition game 95-67 against Athletes In Action last Thursday night, tip off their season against Rice University Friday night in Oxford at 7. Flash your Ole Miss-LSU football game ticket at the gate and get in free.

Beating the Lady Owls will be no easy task. Rice joined Conference USA this season, and in their first year in the league the Lady Owls are picked to win it. They were an NCAA team at 24-9 last year while also winning the WAC championship in their last season in that league.

The Lady Rebels could use your support if you're in the area Friday night. And if you already have an Ole Miss-LSU football game ticket on you, it won't cost you a thing.

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I heard from a good source that LSU students still think of us as their A-No. 1 rival. Get this.

Most used to call them huggies. Now they're called koozies. But you can call the wrap around the beverage can to keep it cold whatever you wish.

At LSU, the purple and gold ones the LSU student alumni association has distributed this fall have a couple of messages on them.

On one side it simply reads "LSU." And on the other side? "Beat Ole Miss!"

Pretty cool, huh.

Oh where have you gone, ole hype and excitement of the game here two years ago?

What would a win Saturday night do for Ole Miss? It may have been a long time since we needed a football win this badly. Don't believe me? Check out the Spirit message boards, which most of you do daily.

"Beat LSU!"

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