Troy (0-0) at Ole Miss (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 8, 8:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Tad Smith Coliseum (9,061) -- Oxford, Mississippi. Television: None. Home Record: Troy 0-0, Ole Miss 0-0. Away Record: Troy 0-0, Ole Miss 0-0. Neutral Record: Troy 0-0, Ole Miss 0-0. Conference Record: Troy 0-0, Ole Miss 0-0. Series Record: Ole Miss leads, 7-0.
GAME NOTES: The reigning SEC Tournament champions will tip off the 2013-14 season on Friday night, as the Ole Miss Rebels play host to the Troy Trojans at Tad Smith Coliseum.
Even though Troy has improved in each of the past three seasons, the 2012-13 campaign was still a disappointing one as it finished just 12-21 and 6-14 in the Sun Belt Conference. Don Maestri, who took over as head coach in the program's first year at the Division I level in 1993, retired after last season and was replaced by Phil Cunningham, who most recently served as an assistant at Western Kentucky.
The Rebels enjoyed one of their most successful seasons in school history a season ago, going 27-9 overall and 12-6 in the SEC. Ole Miss shocked many by defeating Missouri, Vanderbilt and Florida on its way to its first SEC Tournament title since 1981, and in its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2002. The Rebels upset fifth-seeded Wisconsin in the second round before their magical run ended with a third-round defeat to La Salle.
Ole Miss has never lost to Troy, winning all seven previous matchups.
Troy was offensively challenged last season, scoring just 62.0 points per game on less than 40 percent field goal shooting, and the loss of top scorer Emil Jones (11.4 ppg) certainly won't help matters this time around. Hunter Williams will likely assume the role of go-to scorer after posting 10.4 points per game a season ago, and he is the team's best distributor after dishing 3.3 assists per contest. Antoine Myers (8.0 ppg) is back for his senior season and has proven to be an impressive perimeter defender by coming up with more than a steal per game. Deonata Jethroe (5.9 ppg) and Tevin Calhoun (5.5 ppg) are also accustomed to regular minutes, while junior college transfer Wes Hilton will get his opportunity in a rather light frontcourt.
Although an improvement on last season appears unlikely for Ole Miss, there's still some room for optimism in Andy Kennedy's eighth season as head coach. Marshall Henderson (20.1 ppg) is back after leading the SEC in scoring, although he is suspended for three games, including Friday's opener, for violating team rules. Jarvis Summers (9.1 ppg, 3.8 apg) and LaDarius White (6.4 ppg) bring experience to the backcourt alongside Henderson. Dwight Coleby (6-foot-9, 236 pounds) was one of the top high school players in Mississippi last year and will get his chance to be an anchor down low.
Ole Miss certainly won't be at full strength without Henderson's scoring prowess, but it still boasts a far more talented squad than Troy and should find no issue going 1-0 to kick off the campaign.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ole Miss 72, Troy 60
11/08 10:44:28 ET