Before the season started it was my belief that the return of Murphy Holloway to Ole Miss would allow the Rebels to make a run at the NCAA tournament.
That assumed that some other factors would play out as well, which has happened. They've found enough scoring, not scoring in abundance, but enough to win when they've played defense, and they've been pretty good defensively in the post. Again, Holloway factors in there.
But the Holloway factor is biggest on the glass. Rebounds are up from 36.3 to 38 a game, offensive rebounds from 12.2 to 13.0.
What doesn't show up in the numbers is the sheer energy that Holloway brings - even while recovering from the late-December ankle injury.
He's a constant presence in the training room between games, and there's no doubt the ankle and the fact that he's a constant focus for opposing teams have contributed to a decline in his own rebound numbers over the second half of the season.
Holloway leads the team in rebounding average at 8.9, but his presence combined with Reggie Buckner's own improvement have helped Buckner's rebound numbers jump from 6.4 a game last year to 8.4 this year. Buckner has more offensive rebounds than Holloway with 91 to Holloway's 80 through the 30 games played.
A year ago Buckner had 73 offensive rebounds in 33 games played.
Holloway's presence has also allowed Terrance Henry to move to the perimeter. As a result, Henry's rebounding numbers are down from 6.0 last year to 4.4 per game this year, but his ability to be an athletic match-up problem on the perimeter has helped his scoring jump from 9.7 points to 12.3.
Even over the second half of the season Holloway has been prone to burst out with big numbers. In his first two games back, when the ankle had been rested, he had 25 rebounds. Over the next 14 SEC games he reached nine rebounds or more just five times.
But he jumped up for 11 rebounds to go along with 14 points against South Carolina, and his 11 rebounds helped him complete another double-double at home against Auburn, a game in which he scored 12-straight points in the second half to fuel an Ole Miss comeback in a 61-54 win.
He averaged 11 rebounds in the two Auburn games and heads into Thursday's third meeting coming off a doube-double with 16 point and 16 rebounds last Tuesday against Auburn, and nine points and nine rebounds in last Saturday's finale against Alabama.