Game 8 Preview: Penn State vs. Ole Miss Runnin' Rebels for Barclays Center Classic Title

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

Penn State can win the Barclays Center Classic if it beats the defending SEC Tourney Champs

Who: Ole Miss Runnin' Rebels (5-0)
When: Today, 4:30pm
Where: Barclays Center
TV: NBC Sports Network
KenPom Rank: 57
Vegas Line: N/A
Enemy Blog: Red Cup Rebellion

So that was awesome. Penn State toppled St. John's in its first game of the Barclays Center Classic in one of the best games you'll see this year. Its reward? The defending SEC Tournament Champions Ole Miss and its star guard Marshall Henderson, who recently came back from a suspension for several violations of team rules during the offseason.

Scouting the Opposition

While conventional wisdom would suggest that everything related to Ole Miss would start with Henderson, we'll actually get to him in a bit. Instead, we'll start with Ole Miss's two other star guards: Jarvis Summers and Derrick Millinghaus.

Summers has stepped up as the team's leading scorer in Henderson's absence. The junior Mississippi native is leading the team in points (17.3) and assists (3.8), although it is important to mention that his scoring output has fallen in every game this year, with a season-low 6 points in the team's BCC opener against Georgia Tech. However, he did torch PSU in State College two years to the tune of 27 points on just 16 shots, so Chambers should remember him well.

As for Millinghaus, his rise has been more improbable. The sophomore from New York averaged 5.3 points per game last year and has upped that to 15.5 a game this year. He's also a sniper from downtown -- take out his 1-7 performance from deep in the team's season opener and Millinghaus is shooting 46.7 percent from behind the arc. The speedy point guard can also drive-and-kick to open shooters and/or Marshall Henderson.

While all of that is nice, the reason Ole Miss is so good is its ability to rebound. The Runnin' Rebels have an insane six players averaging at least 3.5 rebounds per game, led by junior forward Aaron Jones (8.8 boards per game) and senior center Demarco Cox (7 boards a night). Also up front are Spanish freshman Sebastian Saiz, who's averaging 6.3 boards per game, and Venezuelan sophomore Anthony Perez, who averages 3.5 rebounds a night. All four guys are 6'9", which should provide an excellent test for Donovon Jack, Ross Travis, and B-Titty.

Finally, after all of that, we get to Henderson. Despite how polarizing the dude is, it takes a special kind of arrogance to say he isn't one of the best players in all of college basketball. When he gets hot, nobody in America can fill it up like him. However, that is the inherit issue with Henderson -- sometimes, it takes him a while to heat up, which usually comes at the expense of his team. If Henderson needs some time to get hot, and he convinces himself that he's the only way Ole Miss can win, his quick trigger may shoot the Rebels out of the game...until he gets hot.

As a team Ole Miss is averaging 84 points per game, good for 42nd in 'Merica, and 43.3 rebounds per game, which is 17th in the country. The team's biggest Achilles heel is its FG%, which is 199th in the country at 44 percent. One thing that needs to be noted: the Rebels have played one team that isn't a mid-to-low major this year...yesterday afternoon when they played Georgia Tech.

Key Matchup

The backcourt is gonna be a big battle, but the matchup to watch is Penn State and Ole Miss on the glass. St. John's abused the Nittany Lions on the glass, and if Penn State can't win on the boards, it could be a really long afternoon for the Nits.

A secondary matchup to watch is the coaching battle. While Chambers coached an excellent game on Friday night, Andy Kennedy is, for my money, one of the best coaches in America. I'm not saying Chambers is a bad coach by any stretch of the imagination, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if Kennedy out-coaches him.

Prediction

God, this is tough. On paper, this is an excellent matchup, but I think the one thing that needs to be taken into account is the fact that Penn State just played 45 minutes against one of the toughest teams in America and need to turn around in about 18 hours. Ole Miss, meanwhile, will have more than 24 hours to rest AND got the chance to scout Penn State against the Johnnies.

Having said that, I anticipate that Penn State is going to come out and punch Ole Miss directly in the mouth. Frazier and Newbill both have gigantic chips on their shoulders, and I expect both of them to come out like gangbusters and do this to the Rebels since it's really their first time on the national stage together.

However, I think Ole Miss is able to pull away and win. Between the Rebels' ability to crash the boards and the fact that Penn State is probably tired -- don't remind me that they play Pitt in Oakland on Tuesday -- I think the Nittany Lions get worn down at the end. Gimme Ole Miss, 84-77.

One last note, I predict that if Penn State wins I will blast the living fuck out of this:

Go State.


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