Show Me My Opponent, 2020-21: Mississippi

Mississippi offense

Stand back for the one joke in this preview

(trying to resist)

(can no longer resist)

Boy, these guys sure put the “miss” in Mississippi!

(pelted by tomatoes)

I’m trying to be as kind as I can here. By the most charitable read, I do think the Mississippi offense has been a tad unlucky this year. Shot Quality says they should be more of a top 80ish offense than their current KenPom ranking of #122, which sounds like it isn’t saying much but is like going from playing Cincinnati again to playing Vanderbilt. Okay, that really isn’t saying much, but hear me out.

It’s Devontae Shuler and a lot of Just A Guys

Mississippi’s 2020-21 roster has exactly one true shot creator and three-level scorer on it: senior Devontae Shuler. Yes, somehow, Shuler is still a member of Kermit Davis’ program after seemingly seven seasons in Oxford and is still able to do a lot of what he wants offensively. Shuler is easily the best three-point shooter on the roster:

Is the best mid-range shooter and shot creator on the roster:

And, along with Luis Rodriguez, is one of two players on the roster that can start 25 feet away from the basket and end a possession by scoring at the rim:

Shuler’s rim efficiency is below 50%, which is bad even for a guard, but at least he’s constantly trying to do everything he can. No other player that Ole Miss has can get to his level. He’s the only player with 15+ three-point makes at 31 and ranks second by a hair in two-point makes, too. It’s kind of a shame that Shuler’s final season (maybe?) in a Rebels uniform is almost entirely surrounded by players who can’t hit the open shots he creates:

If you like missed threes, here’s an offense for you

The Rebels are shooting a putrid 27.8% from downtown. While that number is weighed down by a pair of horrific three-point shooting performances last week (3-for-29 in their last two games), it wasn’t exactly all roses before then, either. Seven times this season in 16 total games, the Rebels have shot 28% or worse from three, including five games where they’ve shot 16% or worse. If you’ve watched an Ole Miss game this year, you’ve probably wondered why they can’t hit shots this open:

The misfortune of this roster is one of slow bleed. Breein Tyree (36% 3PT% career) graduated after the 2019-20 season. Blake Hinson (33.3%) transferred to Iowa State. Bryce Williams (38.5% on 78 attempts) transferred to Oklahoma State. Terence Davis (37.1% final season) has been in the NBA for two seasons. Ole Miss never quite replaced these players in terms of outside shooting, and now it’s Devontae or nobody. And until someone steps up to help Shuler out from beyond the arc, baskets aren’t going to come easy.

Randomly, they can score at the rim very well

What’s funny is that the previous sentence is…kind of false. Ole Miss sits at 43rd nationally in FG% at the rim despite having the 256th-best assist rate on layup/dunk/tip attempts. As bad as it all looks outside of the paint, the Rebels have three legit scoring options in their frontcourt: Luis Rodriguez, K.J. Buffen, and Romello White. Rodriguez is big on driving to the rim in transition:

Buffen offers a pair of useful tools for a small-ball 4 in that he can both drive to the rim from 20+ feet out and serve as a very skilled screener in the Kermit Davis ball screen sets:

Lastly, there’s White, who is Ole Miss’s only real post-up option for most of the time he’s on the court. He’s pretty skilled at scoring out of the post, which may make you question why Ole Miss doesn’t get him the ball more often:

But they’ve got some turnover issues

About that: Ole Miss has a worse-than-average offensive turnover rate, largely driven by these frontcourt players. Both Buffen and White turn it over on at least 20.7% of their possessions:

And Luis Rodriguez, at least with a 21% TO% rate in conference play, has joined them:

For an offense that can’t shoot well at all from downtown yet hits mid-range attempts fairly well and scores exceptionally at the rim, this is the final critical blow. Ole Miss is already playing small-ball with a center at 6’8”, so a lot of opponents are daring them to shoot over the top. The Rebels are playing along by taking these bad shots, making poor passes, and struggling to take advantage of a somewhat-talented frontcourt. They’re a frustrating scout, to say the least.

Here’s a quick scout of Mississippi’s rotation. Only players who receive at least 10 minutes per game in SEC play are considered. The first five players are projected starters. Positions in parentheses are from Bart Torvik’s algorithm.

  • #2 Devontae Shuler (scoring PG). The best player on this team and the only guy who can score at all three levels. Shuler is also the best passer and best/only three-point shooter. Offense runs through him, especially in half-court; largely stays out of the paint there.
  • #24 Jarkel Joiner (wing G). Has taken 84 non-rim two-pointers and 73 of everything else. Is very good on mid-range shots, so watch out. 11-49 on threes. Just as good of a ball-handler as Shuler, but not near the same level of passer, and Shuler is just a fine passer.
  • #15 Luis Rodriguez (wing F). Only player on the team to have 30+ rim makes and 10+ threes. (Shuler: 24 and 31.) Likes to drive out of spot-up situations, but prone to pulling up before he should and not a particularly efficient finisher.
  • #21 Robert Allen (wing F). Allen got a surprise start in Ole Miss’s Saturday loss to Georgia, but on a per-minute basis, he’s been a better two-way player than Buffen. The Ole Miss defense is way better with Allen on court, but he adds nothing shooting-wise and is pretty much a rebounds-and-dunks guy.
  • #0 Romello White (center). 6’8” center that is 38-for-47 at the rim and has attempted one three all season. Really, really good at drawing fouls (better than Fulkerson, even), and very important to their defense.
  • #5 K.J. Buffen (wing F). Kermit Davis seems very sick of Buffen, to the point that he played a guy who had started 47 straight games just five minutes against Georgia. He’s not an aggressive defender and has only been able to score well at the rim. Not a serious shooting threat.
  • #11 Matthew Murrell (wing G). 12-40 on threes, 12-34 on twos, 12-21 at the free throw line. Unfortunately not #12, but he’s your guy if you like 12s. 
  • #3 Khadim Sy (stretch 4). Started every game he played in last year, has barely played at all this year. Not really sure what’s up there, but he’s a 28.6% career 3PT shooter, has regressed as a rebounder, and even after luck/schedule adjustments, Ole Miss is 11 points worse per 100 possessions with him on the court.
  • #1 Austin Crowley (wing G). 5-23 on threes, turnover rate of 28.2%.

NEXT PAGE: Movies set in Mississippi, ranked: 1. In the Heat of the Night 2. O Brother, Where Art Thou? 3. Smokey and the Bandit (gap) 4. Thieves Like Us 5. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)

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