College basketball continues to be at its most unpredictable to start the season, as Ole Miss dropped its opening round game in the Charleston Classic this morning to George Mason 68-62.
On the surface, an SEC team losing to an Atlantic-10 school doesn’t really look that bad. But Mason isn’t the normal A-10 team, as it is integrating a first-year coach in Dave Paulsen and five of the nine players who got minutes for the Patriots against the Rebels are freshmen. The Patriots had already dropped games to Colgate and Mercer, and realistically might not be a top-200 team in college hoops this season.
Despite that youth, it was one of the mainstays of the Mason team that came through all morning. Center Shevon Thompson scored 19 points, grabbed 16 rebounds, and blocked three shots in the victory. But more importantly, he came through in the clutch for the Patriots, with a block and a rebound with around 26 seconds left, followed by a really patient and-one with about five seconds left to seal the game for his team.
Thompson’s going to be a professional basketball player at this time next year, and the Jamaican will probably even get his shot at the NBA as he’s a terrific rebounder by any metric. The Rebels simply didn’t have an answer inside for him, and that could be something to watch with them this season as Sebastian Saiz is the only big man over 6-foot-7 right now who provides a legitimate interior presence.
Interior defense is a concern with the Rebels, as is secondary scoring next to Stefan Moody. The diminutive lead guard got his 18 points on an efficient 7-of-12 shooting day. But beyond him, Ole Miss shot 16-of-54, good for 29 percent from the field. If teams start gearing up to just slow down Moody, there could be some significant problems as the rest of the team still hasn’t quite shown that it can handle the load around him.
These are probably slightly more significant roster problems than what Andy Kennedy has faced in his recent history at Ole Miss after making the NCAA Tournament in two of the last three seasons. Rebels fans should certainly have a lot of faith in him to get his team rolling, but should also prepare for the fact that they might be one or two pieces short this year after losing Jarvis Summers, Snoop White, M.J. Rhett and Dwight Coleby from last year’s team.