A team that has a good group of guards can win a lot of games.
What makes Ole Miss so intriguing heading into the 2017-18 season is that they have a great group of guards.
The leader of that group is Deandre Burnett. He led the Rebels in scoring and assists last season, which was his first in Oxford after transferring from Miami.
Entering his senior season, Burnett is one of several contenders that can lead the league in scoring. That’s assuming there are enough shots to go around in one of the deeper backcourts in the SEC.
In addition to Burnett, the Rebels return potential SEC Player of the Year candidate Terence Davis, up-and-coming sophomore Breein Tyree, and an impact transfer in Markel Crawford.
Oh, they also add a 4-star freshman in Devontae Shuler who should compete for minutes.
Inside the Numbers
As mentioned, Burnett led the Rebels in scoring (16.5 ppg) and assists (3.2 apg) last season.
He did this despite being banged up at times throughout the season. He missed three games as a result of lingering injuries.
But when Burnett was healthy, he was a scoring machine.
He had 10 games of 20 or more points, including a magnificent 41-point performance against Oral Roberts in which he went 12-of-19 from the field (9-of-12 from 3-point land).
Burnett played out of position for a large part of the season, forced into the role of running the offense due to the lack of a true point guard. With Tyree’s continued development, Burnett’s primary role will be off the ball as a scorer, which will serve him and the Rebels well.
But while Burnett put up attractive scoring numbers last season, he wasn’t particularly efficient. He averaged right at 12 field goal attempts per game, but only made 35.5 percent of his field goal attempts.
He was a solid 3-point shooter, making 37.6 percent of his attempts. He’s capable of improving those numbers.
Turnovers were also a problem at times last season. Burnett led the team with 2.8 turnovers per game, but with him not forced to run the offense, that number should diminish this season.
There are few teams in the league that have the type of explosive scoring ability in the backcourt that the Rebels possess.
Between Burnett, Davis, Tyree and Crawford, Andy Kennedy has multiple guys that can score 20 or more any given night.
Offense certainly won’t be a problem for this team.
But as much as these guys can score, will they be able to prevent the other team from scoring? The Rebels finished 12th in the league in opponent points per game last season.
If they commit to defending better, this is an NCAA Tournament team. And as the leader of this team, Burnett must set the tone on that end of the floor.
Nevertheless, a healthy Burnett is required viewing.
His ability to put the ball in the basket should keep Rebel fans excited, opposing coaches and fans distressed, and himself firmly in the conversation for SEC Player of the Year should the Rebels finish near the top of the league.