It will be the first-ever meeting between the two schools and should make for some interesting matchups on the floor and on the sidelines.
Following are some interesting facts and tidbits about the Rebels and Orange as they prepare to tip it off:
• The two coaches in this game have been successful at their respective schools, although Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim has 30 years more experience on the sideline than Ole Miss’s Andy Kennedy.
Boeheim has been at Syracuse- and only Syracuse- since 1976 and has compiled staggering numbers, including a 1,004-356 overall record for a winning percentage of 74%. Kennedy is 254-152 overall, 233-139 in Oxford in 11 years.
Boeheim has 32 NCAA Tournament appearances, racking up 5 final four’s and one national championship in 2003. The legendary coach has never experienced a losing season in his time at Syracuse. On the other hand, Kennedy hasn’t experienced a losing season in 12 years and has two NCAA tournament’s on his resume.
Kennedy and Boeheim have coached against each other twice during the season Kennedy spent at Cincinnati after taking over for Bob Huggins. His Bearcats defeated Boeheim’s Syracuse team 82-65 that season as they started 13-2. They also defeated Rick Pitino’s Louisville squad that year. Cincinnati finished a game ahead of the Orange in the regular season standings but Syracuse won the Big East conference tournament and received an automatic NCAA tournament bid.
• Syracuse is 11-5 this season when you’re rebounding an opponent but are facing an Ole Miss team that led the SEC in rebounding with nearly 40 per game and was fourth in the SEC in rebounding margin at plus-2.8. Rebel senior Sebastian Saiz is averaging a double-double, including 11.5 boards per outing which leads the conference and ranks fifth in the nation.
• The Syracuse backcourt duo of Tyus Battle and Andrew White have experienced record-setting seasons. Battle hit a three-pointer against UNC-Greensboro in a first round 90-77 win Wednesday that gave him 57 on the year, moving him ahead of Carmelo Anthony into fourth on the SU career list for a freshman.
White connected on seven triple’s against Greensboro and now has 109 made three’s this year, a single season record for the Orange surpassing the old record of 107 set by Gerry McNamara. White scored 34 on Wednesday and poured in 40 against Georgia Tech before that.
• Saiz will face a serious challenge inside against SU’s Tyler Lydon, who is averaging 11.5 rebounds over the last six games. He had only registered double-digit rebounds six times in the 26 contests prior to that.
• Ole Miss sophomore Terrence Davis is on a tear, averaging 18.3 points over the last 10 games and 14.2 for the season.
He has the highest increase in scoring average from last year with a plus-12.2 point increase.
• The Tyree name should be familiar to Rebel fans with Breein Tyree a freshman Ole Miss guard. However, there is another interesting Tyree connection between Ole Miss and Syracuse.
Breein’s cousin is former New York Giant receiver David Tyree, who had one of the most memorable catches in NFL history when he secured a wobbly pass from Ole Miss alumni Eli Manning on his helmet against the New England Patriots and played collegiately for Syracuse.
It should be a good one between the Rebels and the Orange with an early tipoff Saturday morning at 10 a.m. local time. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN and will be the only NIT game of the day.
There will be enough baseball and softball action Saturday to feed a flock of thousands and have some left over.
Local baseball teams Alcorn Central, Tishomingo County, Booneville, New Site, Jumpertown and Thrasher will all play on Saturday while the 13th Annual Northeast Mississippi High School Softball Challenge will be staged on five different fields in Booneville.
Six local squads will be involved including Corinth, Biggersville, Kossuth, Tishomingo County, McNairy Central and Booneville.
In games played Friday, Alcorn Central breezed past Wheeler 15-4 at ACHS as Alex Williams homered and earned the win on the hill.
Two different Golden Bear’s had multiple hits, including Williams and Mason Morgan.
Central will travel to Adamsville on Saturday.
Kossuth split a pair of games Thursday night at the Saltillo tournament, dropping a 1-0 decision to Itawamba AHS before topping Amory 7-4.
The Pine Grove Lady Panthers pitched a shutout on the softball field Friday as they took care of Falkner 7-0 with Maddy Ericksen picking up the win.
(Kent Mohundro is the sports editor for the Daily Corinthian)