Ole Miss will be short-handed for NIT game
By Jake Thompson
The Oxford Eagle
OXFORD — A depleted Ole Miss roster took a couple more hits days away from its first round game in the National Invitational Tournament.
On Wednesday, Ole Miss men’s basketball head coach Kermit Davis announced that KJ Buffen opted out of playing in the NIT and starting guard Devontae Shuler’s status for Friday’s game against Louisiana Tech was unclear a little more than 48 hours from tipoff.
Davis did not give a reason for Buffen’s decision and was less than forthcoming when asked about the junior forward’s future with the program heading into the 2021-22 season. Ole Miss plays Louisiana Tech Friday at 8 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
“KJ Buffen has opted out of the NIT and let me just say this, I’m just excited about coaching the guys that want to represent Ole Miss and look forward to playing in the postseason,” Davis said. “Those guys that we had practice (on Tuesday), they were really excited and looking forward to going. … I’m just going to leave it at wanting to coach the guys and talking about the guys who want to be in our program.”
Averaging 8.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 22.4 minutes per game, Buffen became a spark to the Rebels’ offense late in the season. He joins forwards Khadim Sy and Dimencio Vaughn who left the program ahead of last week’s Southeastern Conference Tournament.
When it comes to the All-SEC guard Shuler, his status is more cut and dry. Shuler did not practice with the team on Tuesday as he was with his family while his mother recovered from having surgery.
Davis was hopeful to have his leading scorer join the team in Frisco, Texas on Thursday or sometime Friday. Shuler will have to go through COVID-19 protocols upon rejoining the team, which could hinder his chances of playing in the first round.
With Shuler potentially out, Jarkel Joiner will see an even bigger increase in playing time and responsibility.
“Jarkel will have to play a lot of point,” Davis said. “Matthew Murrell and Austin Crowley’s minutes will go up. I think Luis Rodriguez will take a big jump and Romello White will have to play like the best player in the tournament. He’s capable of that.”
NIT ON TV
Thursday, March 18
6 p.m. ESPN – North Carolina State vs. Davidson
8 p.m. ESPN – SMU vs. Boise State
Friday, March 19
6 p.m. ESPN2 – Buffalo vs. Colorado State
8 p.m. ESPN2 – Louisiana Tech vs. Ole Miss
Saturday, March 20
11 a.m. ESPN – Dayton vs. Memphis
4 p.m. ESPN – Mississippi State vs. Saint Louis
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