Ole Miss Basketball, Football and Rebel fans alike are eagerly awaiting a very special week.
Under the leadership of Ole Miss Director of Athletics (AD), Ross Bjork, the entire Rebel athletics program is on the fast track to a level of success unparalleled in recent memory.
The State of Ole Miss Football
Coach Hugh Freeze, after only his initial year at the helm in Oxford, is currently putting together a recruiting class that could end up being ranked as high as Top Five nationally for an upstart team, retaining nearly all of its weapons (minus athlete Randall Mackey). In his first year as the Rebel head coach, Freeze completed one of the most remarkable turnarounds in the country as he went 7-6 with a team that had gone 2-10 and 4-10 respectively the previous two seasons. If the Ole Miss coaching staff lands the 2013 recruiting class that many expect with the starters already returning in 2013, fellow Southeastern Conference (SEC) teams should consider themselves warned. The Ole Miss Rebels will quickly become a force to be reckoned with in the SEC.
The State of Ole Miss Basketball
As for the No. 16 Rebels basketball squad, there may not be a hotter team in the country right now. Head Coach Andy Kennedy was able to bring in the missing puzzle piece this season that had plagued his team for the past six years, holding them back from ever advancing to the NCAA Tournament. However, they are currently at 17-2 (6-0 SEC), and if floor leaders Marshall Henderson and Murphy Holloway can continue to lead the Rebels in the right direction down the conference stretch, Kennedy should find himself a participant in March Madness with a real chance at making some noise.
What's got Rebel fans so excited about what lies ahead in coming days?
A Date with the Florida Gators (Saturday, February 2)
On Saturday, February 2nd (6 p.m. CT on ESPNU), Kennedy's No. 16 Rebels will get their one real chance of the regular season to show the nation what they're all about as they travel to Gainesville, FL for a date with the No. 4 Gators. The SEC isn't as strong from top to bottom as it has been in recent years, so a defining win on the road against the Gators would be a golden star on the Rebels' tournament resume come March. While Ole Miss did knock off a then Top 10 Missouri Tigers club earlier this year, the Missouri win doesn't carry the weight it once did, as the Tigers have fallen in rank.
While not involving any current Ole Miss athlete, the Rebel faithful will certainly have a vested interest in Super Bowl XLVII, as former Ole Miss greats Patrick Willis and Michael Oher will line up on opposite sides of the ball. Super Bowl XLVII will mark the second consecutive Super Bowl a former Rebel will leave the game a champion, as QB Eli Manning led the Giants to a victory in Super Bowl XLVI in 2012 against the New England Patriots. For Rebel fans, it's a win-win situation.
National Signing Day (Wednesday, February 6)
There is sure to be a party in Oxford on February 6, as many expect Ole Miss to land their most highly rated football recruiting class of all time. Currently sporting a No. 12 recruiting ranking by Rivals.com, Ole Miss remains in the hunt for a handful of the nation's top remaining uncommitted recruits. Even if one or two more top recruits decide to don the red and blue for their college careers, the Rebels should easily end up ranked with a Top 10 national recruiting class for 2013. One thing is for sure, Rebel fans will be keeping a close eye on National Signing Day coverage as each letter of intent is signed.
Signing Day Nightcap: Basketball Hosts Mississippi State (Wednesday, February 6)
As if folks in Oxford won't be hyped enough by Wednesday evening after seeing how things shake out with their recruiting class earlier in the day, Mississippi State comes to town that same night to take on the round ball Rebs at 6 p.m. CT on CSS. Bulldog fans may want to bring their earplugs, because the Tad Pad should be rocking with a jubilant crowd by tip-off. Depending on the two prior outcomes against Kentucky and Florida, Ole Miss could potentially come into the game with a 19-2 (8-0 SEC) record, sure to have them ranked in the Top 10 nationally. The atmosphere should provide Marshall Henderson with all the energy he needs to perform well against the rival Bulldogs.
A Trip to Columbia, Missouri, With a Chance to Sweep (Saturday, February 9)
Earlier in the year on January 12, Ole Miss knocked off a then No. 12 ranked Missouri Tiger basketball team in Oxford. While Missouri doesn't currently look to be as strong of a team as they once were, a victorious trip to Columbia would hand the Rebels a season sweep of the SEC newcomer in 2013. Playing a weaker SEC schedule than usual, a season sweep of Missouri (currently 15-4, 4-2 SEC), would only help Ole Miss as they try and build upon their tournament resume the rest of the season.
All of this being said, it's easy to see why the first week in February could be a monumental one for Ole Miss Athletics both for immediate and long terms returns. AD Ross Bjork has to like where his program is heading in still his first full year as the Rebel AD. Come Sunday February 10, it's really quite possible he could have a Top 10 football recruiting class and a men's basketball team (assuming they fall to either Kentucky or Florida) also ranked near the Top 10. However, only time will tell.
Regardless of how the the days ahead shake out for Ole Miss, it's a good time to be a Rebel.
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