8. Ole Miss Rebels
Picked just to finish 10th in the 2023-2024 SEC Preseason Poll, Chris Beard has the Rebels off to a perfect 12-0 start -- marking them as one of the last three undefeated teams in college basketball.
Although the beginning of the season started choppy with close calls against Detroit Mercy and Sam Houston State, I was beginning to wonder why on earth I put Ole Miss as one of my sleeper teams in early September.
To my surprise, the Rebels-- who although don’t have the strongest schedule in the country -- have followed up their choppy start by putting together quality wins such as wins over white-hot Memphis, UCF and Temple on the road, and NC State at home.
Senior Matthew Murrell (16.9 Pts, 4.3 Reb, 3.2 Ast) continues to be the core of this transfer-heavy group with Auburn transfer Allen Flanigan (16.4 Pts, 7.3 Reb, 3.3 Ast) --whose dad, Wes Flanigan, is an assistant under Beard -- and Saint Peter’s transfer Jaylen “Juju” Murray (15.3 Pts, 2.3 Reb, 3.8 Ast) have had extremely strong starts in the first two months of the season.
Additionally, Beard’s gamble on two-time transfers with Moussa Cisse and Brandon Murray proved to be masterful, as Cisse provides interior rim protection alongside Jamarion Sharp whereas Murray provides more depth as a combo guard.
An interesting fact with this Ole Miss group is that they rank higher in adjusted offensive efficiency (66th) than defensive efficiency (112th) -- a strange attribute considering Chris Beard’s defensive-minded approach -- thanks to shooting 40.6% from behind the arc, placing them at 8th-best in the country, according to the NCAA.
Although conference play might get a bit turbulent for Ole Miss, there is no doubt that this team can make the NCAA Tournament and continue to surprise more people in the upcoming months.