Increased funding, facilities, and expectations lead to turbulent waters for college coaches. Ole Miss basketball coach Andy Kennedy faces an increasingly volatile situation in Oxford.
Andy Kennedy is a polarizing figure in Oxford. You either adore what he has done in Oxford, or you accuse him of not being consistent enough.
In 11 seasons at the helm of the Rebel basketball squad, Andy Kennedy has won at least 20 games in 9 seasons. Kennedy failed to reach 20 wins in the 2008—09 seasons and 2013-14 seasons.
The 2008-09 season was marred by injuries, yet Ole Miss upset Kentucky, Tennessee, and eventual SEC tournament champion Mississippi State on the season.
Flash back to the present, Andy Kennedy’s squad currently sits at 4-3 following overtime losses to South Dakota State and Virginia Tech. The Rebels have lost 3 of their last four, losing a game in Vegas to Utah as well.
Ole Miss entered 2017 with sky-high expectations from their fan base. Newcomer Devontae Shuler and returning star Terence Davis had the fans boiling with excitement, and they have caused that pot to explode with fury, disappointment, and a never-ending supply of what-ifs.
The Ole Miss basketball team is remarkably guard-dependent. Their five leading scorers – Terence Davis, Deandre Burnett, Devontae Shuler, Markel Crawford, and Breein Tyree – are all guards. Combined, they average 65.1 points per game, which is 77.5% of their total offense.
As stacked as they are on the perimeter, Ole Miss leaves much to be desired for in the post.
Dominik Olejniczak was supposed to be the answer down low. Supposed to be’s don’t always happen, though. In the last two games, both of which have gone to overtime, Dominik has totaled just 15 minutes of game time.
Against Virginia Tech, Olejniczak fouled out in just 9 minutes, which would be impressive if he was part of a hack-squad off the bench, instead of a starter Andy Kennedy was depending on.
In the last two games, Olejniczak has 6 fouls, 2 points, 3 turnovers, and just 3 rebounds. He’s a 7-foot-tall post that Andy Kennedy was counting on, but he has 3 rebounds in the last two games.
For the season, Dominik has just two blocked shots, compounded with just 19 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists, and 10 turnovers.
However, it is not just Olejniczak that has struggled. Bruce Stevens, a junior college transfer, has struggled on the defensive end.
Stevens, however, has shown signs of life on the offensive end, which is more than can be said for Dominik Olejniczak. Regardless, Stevens’ outside shooting has been slow to translate, and he is still adjusting to the effort required in order to succeed at the Division-1 level.
More Struggles Ahead?
On Saturday, Ole Miss will travel to Middle Tennessee to face the 6-1 Blue Raiders. Last season, Middle Tennessee throttled Ole Miss in Oxford. The Blue Raiders led 48-19 at halftime before Ole Miss made the deficit more respectable in a 77-62 loss.
This season, Middle Tennessee has already defeated one SEC team – Vanderbilt.
If Andy Kennedy is to pull another stroke of coaching brilliance out of his hat to spark his slumping Rebels, it must start against Middle Tennessee, which will be no easy task.