I have an admission I would like to make; I am a horrendous speller. Like, completely terrible. Yes, I know, I hear you; you are a bad speller also. Well, you are wrong. You cannot possibly be as bad as me. You cannot possibly understand just how bad at this very basic and essential skill I am. It's messed up.
There is nothing in my life that I am more terrible at then spelling. Oddly, multiplication tables aren't too far behind; people find it hilarious to learn that despite the fact that I have a Ph.D. in chemical engineering, if you ask me the product of seven and six I will have to do some serious work to give you an answer. I am also bad at coloring — basically I am a 41-year-old man who would make a terrible elementary school student.
I was born into a world without spell-checking software — this seems like an endless nightmare now — and as a young student I was constantly looking up words in the dictionary. Thankfully this important piece of technology came along before I entered the adult world. Of course, it still fails me, because I have to get close enough to make it work. Sometimes that is hard.
Business. Terrible. Crowd. Osetkowski. These are just a few examples of words that I find hard to spell correctly on a regular basis, even if they are words that I write all the time. Really, any word longer than five letters is something of an adventure.
This is all a long buildup to tell you that I can spell the ever living shit out of Mississippi, and I feel pretty damn impressed with myself every time I do. I have been able to spell it since I was in the second grade. A game like this, when the Texas Longhorns face the Mississippi Rebels, is a time for me to put this particular skill on display.
The Mississippi Rebels (11-9) come to Austin this Saturday for a late January non-conference contest. The match up is part of the annual Big 12/SEC Challenge, which takes place this weekend. It comes along at a helpful point in the season — nearly splitting in half the long hard slog of conference play — and provides both the teams involved as well as the fans a nice change of pace.
It is an interesting season in the SEC. The SEC historically is a top-heavy league, with programs like Kentucky and Florida more or less smoking everyone else. This year isn't like that.
Kentucky is still good, but not Kentucky good. UK is young like always, but doesn't have anyone like De’Aaron Fox, Jamal Murray, Karl-Anthony Towns, Julius Randle, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, or John Wall -- guys who from the moment they set foot on campus are immediately ready to roll everyone in their path. The roster in Lexington is merely comprised of very good young basketball players, and that isn't always enough to get it done.
Meanwhile, Florida shows some flashes, but they don't defend all that well and are uniquely dependent on the three. When those shots are falling they can beat anyone. When they aren't the Gators aren't very good — although that home loss to Loyola Chicago looks less bad these days.
No, this year the SEC is deep, balanced, and kind of upside down. To this point, Auburn (coached by former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl, and not participating in this weekend's challenge) and Tennessee (coached by you know who) look to be the most consistent teams in the league. Texas A&M, a preseason favorite to win the conference, is really struggling.
Mississippi is somewhere in the middle of the pack. Ole Miss is 4-4 so far during conference play, with a nice win against Florida in which the Gators were merely ordinary from three-point range. The Rebels are a decent opponent for the Longhorns; Texas will surely be favored, but Mississippi is good enough to potentially challenge Shaka Smart's squad.
One thing that coach Andy Kennedy has going for him is that he has a fairly experienced team. Senior point guard Deandre Burnett is a steady playmaker with a nice stroke. He keys a solid offense that won't make many mistakes with the ball.
6'4 junior Terence Davis is the team's most dynamic perimeter scorer. He is a good spot-up shooter, and makes Rebel hay in transition. Senior Memphis transfer Markel Crawford is another player who can get it done in the open court. 6'2 sophomore Breein Tyree is a decent perimeter shooter that Kennedy usually starts, and can run things when Burnett sits.
Mississippi also has a solid scoring threat inside in 6'8 junior Bruce Stevens. Stevens has a nice back-to-the-basket game and the heft to put Mohamed Bamba in a bad spot if the Texas big man gets a little careless. 6'7 senior Marcanvis Hymon is less a part of the offense, but will get put backs and chances while cutting to the hoop. The first big man off the bench is usually 7'0 Dominik Olejniczak. Additionally, Kennedy occasionally uses four guard lineups, taking advantage of Davis' ability as a rebounder and undersized shot blocker.
Ole Miss isn't the greatest defensive squad, but their big guys collectively do a decent job of protecting the rim. On the other end of the floor Rebels know how to score, and seldom hurt themselves. If Texas is struggling offensively, things could be a bit more tricky than anticipated.
The game tips in Saturday in Austin at 1 p.m. CT, and airs on ESPN2.