The Andy Kennedy-era came to an end at Ole Miss after a disappointing year last season, but there is still plenty of reason for optimism under new head coach Kermit Davis Jr., who has been one of the most successful mid-major coaches over the past two decades. Davis, 58, spent the previous 16 seasons at Middle Tennessee, where he made three NCAA Tournament appearances. He has also gone 4-1 against the Rebels since 2011-12, so Mississippi fans should be happy to have him.
Rebels kick off Davis Jr. era with a win
The Rebels have two seniors and eight newcomers on the roster for Davis’ first season at the helm. Ole Miss finished 12-20 last season with a 5-13 record in SEC play and they bring back guard Terence Davis, who blossomed into a star last season. Davis decided to return to school after averaging 13.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game as a junior, but the Rebels will need to rein in his shot selection if they are going to be an efficient offensive team. Davis made just 31.7 percent of his three-point attempts last season, but still shot 5.8 three-point attempts per game.
The senior guard led the team in scoring with 17 points in Ole Miss’ 90-64 victory against Western Michigan to open the season. Devontae Shuler scored 13 and Breein Tyree finished with 14 points and three assists to help Davis start his tenure off at Ole Miss with a victory.
TERENCE DAVIS JUST DID THAT!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/F5aU0xHLwY
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) March 8, 2018
Mississippi comes into Friday’s matchup ranked No. 83 in the KenPom rankings. They are scoring 107.1 points per 100 possessions, while limiting opponents to just 99.2 points per 100 possessions so far this season. If one thing is going to hold over from Davis’ time with Middle Tennessee, it is that the Rebels defense is going to put an emphasis on forcing turnovers. Ole Miss forced turnovers on 33.2 percent of their defensive possessions in their season-opening win against Western Michigan.
Baldwin, Brunk stepping up for Bulldogs
Butler head coach LaVall Jordan had a productive debut season with the program, leading the Bulldogs to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and nearly knocking off a top-seeded Purdue team. The Bulldogs lost a lot of frontcourt production in the offseason, as Kelan Martin and Tyler Wideman graduated, but the team did return six players who averaged at least 15 minutes per game last season. The Bulldogs will be leaning on junior guard Kamar Baldwin, who enjoyed a breakout sophomore season that saw him average 15.7 points per game. He will be joined in the backcourt by Paul Jorgensen and Aaron Thompson. Junior forward Sean McDermott will have to fill the void left by Martin’s outside shooting, but Duke transfer Jordan Tucker is expected to pick up most of the production once he is eligible to play following the first semester. Tucker rarely saw the floor at Duke, but is the highest-rated recruit to ever play at Butler.
— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) February 25, 2018
The Bulldogs opened the season with back-to-back victories over Miami (OH) and Detroit. As expected, Baldwin has picked up the bulk of the scoring, averaging 23.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game, so far this season, but the biggest surprise has been the play of sophomore forward Joey Brunk. Brunk played just 5.5 minutes per game last season after redshirting in his first year in the program, but he’s averaging a healthy 15.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in 22 minutes per game through two contests this year. He opened the season with an impressive 17-point performance on a perfect 7-for-7 from the field against Miami and followed that up with 13 points in the team’s last game against Detroit.
Jordan’s squad enters Friday’s matchup ranked No. 31 in the KenPom rankings, while scoring 111.3 points per 100 possessions (23rd in the NCAA) so far this season. The Bulldogs are also limiting opponents to just 94.7 points per 100 possessions (41st in the NCAA) on the defensive end of the floor.
- Bulldogs are 6-2 ATS in their last 8 vs. Southeastern.
- Bulldogs are 15-6 ATS in their last 21 home games.
- Bulldogs are 41-20-1 ATS in their last 62 non-conference games.
- Rebels are 3-9 ATS in their last 12 non-conference games.
- Rebels are 3-10 ATS in their last 13 games overall.
- Rebels are 2-8 ATS in their last 10 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
It’s hard to trust the Rebels in this spot. They have a new coach, new system, and several newcomers expected to play major roles this season. Meanwhile, LaValle Jordan surpassed expectations in his first season as the Bulldogs head coach and he returns a veteran backcourt that should be able to take care of the basketball in this game. Kamar Baldwin is a deadly scorer surrounded by shooters and the emergence of Brunk has to be seen as a major plus for Butler right now. Take the Bulldogs to cover the spread at home in this matchup at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Friday.
Prediction: Pick: Butler Bulldogs -9.5
Full-Game Total Pick
Butler has gone over the projected total in 11 of their last 15 home games and 7 of their last 9 non-conference games. Meanwhile, the Rebels have gone over the projected total in four straight games and six of their past eight road contests. Ole Miss struggled defensively this year and their defense is predicated on forcing turnovers, which could be tough to do against an experience Butler squad. Look for this game to go over the projected total at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indiana on Friday night.
Prediction: Over 150