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The SEC Tournament's Worst Losses: Vanderbilt Meets Ole Miss in the Semifinals

Vanderbilt will get to avenge an early-season loss when they meet Ole Miss in the SEC Tournament semifinals. Can they upset the Rebels and their high profile gunner Marshall Henderson?

Yep. Awesome.
Yep. Awesome.
Andy Lyons

Editor's note: tomorrow's 16-hour turnaround has us scrambling for a proper preview. Fortunately, much of what we said about the Rebels back in January still applies. However, a few details differ:

1. Marshall Henderson will either shoot his team into, or out of this game.

2. Reginald Buckner, who came up huge with a 14-point, 11-rebound, three block performance when these teams met in January, is the player primed to give Vanderbilt the most problems. While Vandy can shut down almost anyone on the perimeter, a big, physical player like Buckner can bully Josh Henderson and Rod Odom inside.

3. The Rebels have very little to gain with a win, but a potential NCAA Tournament berth to lose if Vandy finds a way to defeat them. On the other hand, the Commodores will be playing for pride and to create the foundation for a run in 2014. That doesn't sound like much, but it's carried them to a 6-1 record in their last seven games. That makes them one of the SEC's hottest teams right now.

4. Vanderbilt played for revenge on Friday against Kentucky, and they played their best game of the 2012-2013 season in their upset win. They'll have a similar motivation in hand after Henderson's 35-foot prayer lifted the Rebels to an unlikely victory at Memorial Gym.

That said, here's what we wrote about Ole Miss and the blueprint to beat them back when the SEC season was still fresh.

Ole Miss (23-8, 12-6 SEC, unranked)

Relevant Loss: vs. Indiana State (KenPom #82, CBS RPI #43) 85-87 (OT)
Other Horrible Losses: at Mississippi State, at South Carolina.

The 10-6 (now 18-14) Sycamores picked up their second straight win over a SEC opponent (aw.) in December, holding off an Ole Miss rally to stretch past the Rebels in overtime. Indiana State erased an early 10-point deficit to hold an 11-point lead at the half, but Mississippi fought back to tie the game at 75 at the end of regulation.

State ran out to an early lead in overtime that the Rebels couldn't overcome. A Reginald Buckner layup cut ISU's lead to two-points with three seconds remaining, and a Jarvis Smith steal gave Ole Miss a chance to win it at the buzzer, but Smith's desperation three missed the mark to give the Sycamores the biggest win of their season.

Key to Destruction: Offensive support. Manny Arop led all scorers with 27 points, but the rest of his starting lineup all chipped in to keep Indiana State afloat. Every starter scored in double digits (and took at least nine shots) to help the Sycamores rally from an early deficit and then turn back Ole Miss's attempts to get back into the game. 6'4" guard Jake Odum was especially useful, scoring 16 points while adding eight rebounds and eight assists in the win.

This is a dynamic that Vanderbilt will need to find if they are going to compete in the SEC. The Commodores have had little offensive balance on their squad, often relying heavily on Kedren Johnson and Rod Odom to carry the scoring burden. That makes this team predictable and gives opponents an easy plan to follow if they want to foil the 'Dores. If Vandy can get double-digit performances out of guys like Kevin Bright, Kyle Fuller, and Josh Hendersontonight, they'll have a solid chance at pulling the upset at home. Hell, with Johnson nursing a shoulder injury, they might need those guys to step up just to make this one close.