Saiz Injury May Mean No Moody or Ole Miss in March

Posted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) on January 21st, 2016

If Ole Miss‘ current three-game losing streak didn’t put the fire out on the Rebels’ already-slim NCAA tournament chances, then Sebastian Saiz‘ torn retina might do the trick. Andy Kennedy will be without his best big man for at least two weeks as Saiz recovers from surgery for an injury he suffered back in December against Memphis. The eye issue didn’t affect the junior’s play as he stayed in line with what has been a breakout year. Saiz is nearly averaging a double-double (12.8 PPG, 9.8 RPG) and hasn’t wilted in SEC play, scoring in double figures and grabbing at least six rebounds in every game.

Sebastian Saiz' absence could be devastating for Ole Miss (

Sebastian Saiz’ absence could be devastating for Ole Miss (

A player like Saiz is a big loss no matter the circumstance, but is especially painful for Ole Miss for a number of reasons. First, Saiz is the Rebels only consistent offensive threat in the post and is by far Kennedy’s best rebounder. Second, the Rebels are about as thin a power conference team as you will find. Kennedy’s rotation generally has maxed out at eight players and only six players average more than 20 minutes per game. Also thin? The Rebels’ shot at making a second consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament. The picture looked fairly rosy a week and a half ago when Ole Miss ran out to a 2-1 SEC start and stood at 12-3 overall. The aesthetics of the overall record covered for the fact that the Rebels’ best win was an away game at Memphis and that they were carrying a disappointing loss to George Mason (KenPom #196).

A three-game losing streak since then has put a tremendous amount of weight on that thin resume, and Saiz’ absence threatens to break it. The Rebels’ looked primed to grab a good win against South Carolina on Tuesday night until they coughed up an 11-point lead with just over four minutes to go and lost in overtime. In the process, Ole Miss was outrebounded 49-37 in what could be a sign of things to come without Saiz. Marcanvis Hymon will take on an increased role (42 minutes against the Gamecocks) and while he is athletic and, in the words of Kennedy, can “get an SEC rebound,” he struggles to defend without fouling and doesn’t bring much on the offensive end at this point. Anthony Perez will also see more playing time, but the senior has had an incredibly inconsistent career in Oxford.

The real victim in all of this, besides Saiz and Ole Miss fans, is the general college basketball observer. The likelihood that Ole Miss isn’t in the tournament field means that the world will not get to enjoy Stefan Moody in March under the brightest lights. The senior, who pulled up with a leg injury at the end of the South Carolina game, is simply one of the most exciting players in the country. He’s the fifth-leading scorer in the nation at 24.3 points per game and at times seems like he has range out to the halfcourt line. The JuCo transfer led the Rebels furious comeback to knock off BYU in the First Four last year, and it’s a shame that it appears unlikely he’ll get a chance for more March heroics this year.

Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) (231 Posts)

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