Rebels look familiar

Basketball coach Bruce Pearl sees something familiar when he looks at the 2006-07 Ole Miss Rebels ... a reflection of the 2005-06 Tennessee Vols. "In a way," he says, "Ole Miss reminds me of us last year."

The UT coach has a point. Consider:

- The 2005-06 Vols utilized a three-guard lineup. The 2006-07 Rebels utilize a three-guard lineup.

- The 2005-06 Vols led the SEC in fewest turnovers (12.9 per game) and turnover margin (plus 5.3 per game). The 2006-07 Rebels are leading the SEC in fewest turnovers (10.8 per game) and turnover margin (plus 5.6 per game).

- The 2005-06 Vols were learning a new system under a first-year head coach (Pearl). The 2006-07 Rebels are learning a new system under a first-year head coach (Andy Kennedy).

- The 2005-06 Vols played up-tempo basketball, even though they weren't blessed with great team speed. The 2006-07 Rebels play up-tempo basketball, even though they aren't blessed with great team speed.

- The 2005-06 Vols kept defenses honest with a couple of long-range bombers at the wing positions – Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith. The 2006-07 Rebels keep defenses honest with a couple of long-range bombers at the wing positions – Bam Doyne and Clarence Sanders.

- The 2005-06 Vols relied heavily on 6-foot-1 senior point guard C.J. Watson. The 2006-07 Rebels rely heavily on 6-foot-1 senior point guard Todd Abernethy. Watson improved his scoring from 11.9 points per game as a junior to 15.3 as a senior, while increasing his shooting percentage from 41.0 to 46.7. Abernethy has improved from 8.6 points and 2.9 assists per game as a junior to 10.8 and 5.1 as a senior.

"Abernethy is having a terrific year at point guard, as you'd expect from a senior," Pearl noted. "He's scoring better. Sanders and Doyne are wings that can make tough shots. They're really good one-on-one players."

There's another similarity between last year's Tennessee team and this year's Ole Miss team. The 2005-06 Vols went 22-8 after going 14-17 the year before. The 2006-07 Rebels are 12-7 after going 14-16 the year before.

"They've made tremendous improvement," Pearl said. "Look who they have played. They lost at Florida (79-70), at LSU (62-55)and at Mississippi State (77-67). A lot of teams will lose at those places."

Tennessee takes a 14-5 overall record and a 2-2 SEC mark to Ole Miss Wednesday night. Tipoff is at 8 EST. There is no TV coverage.


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