- John Gasaway, ESPN Insider
2012-13: 27-9 (12-6 SEC)
In-conference offense:1.08 points per possession (third)
In-conference defense: 1.01 points allowed per possession (eighth)
Last season was the best showing Ole Miss has made since 2000-01, when Rod Barnes' Rebels went 25-7 and made the Sweet 16. In his seventh season in Oxford, Andy Kennedy broke through the .500-ish barrier that had stymied his program for so long (all of his previous Ole Miss teams finished 7-9, 8-8 or 9-7 in-conference), secured the league's automatic bid with a thrilling 66-63 SEC tournament title game win over Florida and humbled No. 5 seed Wisconsin 57-46 in the round of 64.
An improved offense fueled the Rebels' rise. Ole Miss scored 1.08 points per possession in SEC play, a figure achieved entirely through three discrete season-to-season improvements. Fewer turnovers, better 3-point shooting and more offensive rebounds made the difference. Except for the bit about the offensive boards, of course, credit mercurial and demonstrative shooting guard Marshall Henderson with driving more than his fair share of that improvement.
Henderson, the Rebels faithful and, not least, the media like to go nuts whenever Kennedy's star hits a 3, and to be sure, he provided 138 such opportunities to go nuts in 2012-13. To the extent that Henderson absorbs an enormous number of possessions as the Rebels' lone perimeter threat, sure, that's manifestly a benefit to this offense. (And I do mean lone. Henderson set a Division I record with 394 attempts from beyond the arc. No other Ole Miss player attempted 100.) But the precise nature of Henderson's contribution seems to be misunderstood.
A good deal of Henderson's value comes down to playing low-low-turnover-rate ball while also drawing fouls like he's a turnover-prone slasher. It's an unusual and highly effective combination. Henderson shoots 88 percent at the line, and if there's a time and a place for going nuts and making derisive gestures toward opposing fans, it's pretty clearly whenever he hits a free throw.
John Gasaway previews the 2013-14 season for Ole Miss, who will try to repeat the success they had in 2012-13.