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October 2, 2009
The Rebels are due for some good fortune after watching four of their guards suffer season-ending knee injuries last season. The silver lining was the emergence of Terrico White, who took over as the starting point guard in the wake of those injuries and was playing as well as just about anyone in the conference by the end of the season. If White continues his rapid progress and adjusts to the return of all those injured players, Ole Miss has a chance to emerge as the SEC's biggest surprise.
Terrico White was playing as well as anyone in the SEC toward the end of last season.
Ole Miss is awfully thin in the paint. The Rebels are counting on a big freshman season from 6-foot-8 forward Reginald Buckner, who signed with Ole Miss as the No. 28 recruit in the nation. The Rebels also are hoping for big things from Murphy Holloway, who showed plenty of promise last season as a freshman. Ole Miss needs to find a defensive enforcer in the frontcourt: Arkansas and Florida were the only SEC teams to block fewer shots than the Rebels last season.
The Rebels could have an embarrassment of riches here if they can just stay healthy. White averaged 18.4 points per game and made 2.4 3-pointers per game in league competition last year. Chris Warren is a former SEC all-freshman selection who was averaging 19.6 points and 4.0 assists before getting hurt. Eniel Polynice and Zach Graham are big guards who can cause matchup problems with their size. Warren, Polynice, Graham and Trevor Gaskins went down with knee injuries last season; all are expected back this year.
Ole Miss faced plenty of obstacles last season with all those injuries and coach Andy Kennedy's early season arrest following an incident with a taxi driver in Cincinnati. The Rebels still managed to finish with a winning record, though they didn't earn a postseason invitation. All that adversity should only make Ole Miss stronger this season. If the Rebels stay healthy and Buckner is as good as advertised, this team has a legitimate chance to earn an NCAA bid.
Preseason rankings were compiled by basketball writers David Fox, Mike Huguenin, Jason King and Steve Megargee.