Mississippi Rebels vs. Alabama St. Hornets Pick & Prediction NOVEMBER 6th 2023

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The Chris Beard era begins Monday night in Oxford, Miss., and likely will be defined early on by defense.

The 50-year-old former Texas and Texas Tech coach and his Rebels, who host Alabama State Monday night, added transfer Jamarion Sharp and is awaiting the NCAA’s decision on two others on the squad — Brandon Murray and Moussa Cisse.

A pairing of the 7-foot-5 Sharp, who arrives from Western Kentucky, and 7-footer Cisse (Oklahoma State, Memphis) could create havoc in the paint.

Sharp led the nation in blocked shots last season by averaging 4.09 per game. Sisse ranked 27th with 1.94 at Oklahoma State.

“You can pressure the ball a little bit more when you’ve got one of the best shot-blockers in college basketball behind you,” Beard said. “I think our ability to learn how to play with each could, yes, result in a team that I think could force some turnovers.”

After being fired Jan. 5 by the Longhorns over a felony domestic violence charge that was later dropped, Beard was hired March 13 to replace Kermit Davis at Ole Miss, which has not made the NCAA Tournament since 2018-19.

Beard led Texas Tech to the tournament in three of his five seasons in Lubbock, then went 29-13 in his short stint in Austin.

At Alabama State, coach Tony Madlock received good news over the summer when leading scorer Isaiah Range withdrew his name from the transfer portal and decided to stay with the Hornets.

The 6-foot-4 guard averages a team-high 14 points per game last season, which was fourth best in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Range also had range. He led Alabama State in 3-point percentage (42.7 percent) by a player with at least 15 attempts and 3-pointers made (53).

He missed the final eight games of the season due to injury.

“I’ve been a college coach for 27 years, and last year was tough on me, tough on my players, tough on my staff, the worst year I’ve ever had as a college basketball coach,” said the second-year Hornets coach. “But I like the guys we have in the program now and we’re going to see if we can turn this thing around.”

After producing an 8-23 overall record and 6-12 mark in the SWAC, the Hornets also return their only other double-figures scorer — TJ Madlock, the 2022 SWAC Newcomer of the Year, who averaged 11.2 points per game.

–Field Level Media

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