KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Want to know what to expect from Mississippi shooting sensation Marshall Henderson in the NCAA men's basketball tournament today?
Allow Rebels coach Andy Kennedy to provide a scouting report on his brash junior guard, who has made himself — by design, it turns out — into a national curiosity with on-court antics that include gesturing, trash-talking and long-range shooting, often in triplicate.
"It's like watching NASCAR, waiting for the wreck," Kennedy said. "He's going real fast, oops, he didn't wreck there, another turn. For us, it's every day, man. It's normal."
Today, Mississippi's normal will turn into the University of Wisconsin's abnormal. When fifth-seeded UW plays 12th-seeded Mississippi in the NCAA tournament, the Badgers' ability to prevent Henderson from igniting the Rebels with his emotional play and streaky shooting likely will be the deciding factor in whether UW wins its tournament opener for the 11th time in 12 years.
"We know they're an emotional team," UW forward Ryan Evans said. "They feed off of emotion. That can work for you, it can work against you. We're obviously going to try to make it work against you."
Translation: The Badgers are going to make Henderson work for everything he gets. Problem is, that's easier said than done these days. Mississippi won the SEC tournament title over the weekend to push its winning streak to five games, with Henderson scoring more than 20 points in every one of them.
Indeed, the only things hotter than Henderson's shooting are his trending numbers on social media. He often celebrates his 3-point shots by taunting opposing fans or mocking opposing teams. He rips opposing coaches and television announcers in news conferences and on Twitter.
Henderson's swagger isn't likely to get under the skin of a veteran, buttoned-down team such as UW, but his appearance Thursday at the Sprint Center was must-see TV. Although Mississippi officials, undoubtedly trying to avoid a Daytona-like, 12-car pileup, decided not to send Henderson to the podium, he entertained a large group of reporters at his locker.
There were a couple of fender benders during the session, but all indications were Henderson has been told to tone it down after a tumultuous weekend in which he veered dangerously out of control. On Thursday, Henderson came off as Jimmer Fredette with an attitude.
"That's the fun in it," Henderson said. "You get to mess with people's minds. I'm a manipulator of sorts, so that's really the fun part of it."
Asked if that meant most of what he does is calculated, Henderson said, "I don't know. I'm not really good at math. Other than plus-3. I know that one well."
So do his opponents. More than 72 percent of Henderson's shots come from 3-point range, though he is more of a volume shooter than a pure shooter.
UW ranks 10th in the nation in fewest points allowed and is particularly adept at running shooters off the 3-point line, but Henderson clearly is less than impressed.
Asked if UW was a good defensive team, he said, "I guess so. We know that they've got the 10th-best defense or something, but we also know that Florida and Alabama have better defenses than them. Obviously, they're a pretty good team. They're a five seed, they made it to the Big Ten championship (game) and they beat Indiana however many times they played them."
Henderson believes Mississippi is better than pretty good after five impressive, back-to-the-wall victories in a row, even if they did come in the weak SEC.
"I don't know who's a hotter team than us," he said. "Maybe the Miami Heat."
Funny he should mention the Heat, the defending NBA champions who have won 24 consecutive games. Henderson makes no bones about his desire to play in the NBA despite being, in his words, a 6-foot-2 white guy who is not big, strong or overly athletic. He might have added he's a catch-and-shoot off-guard with point guard size.
But after a roundabout journey that saw him attend Utah, Texas Tech and a junior college before landing at Mississippi, Henderson is looking at the tournament as a launching pad for a pro career. His loose-cannon, I'm-the-villain act is designed to draw attention to himself.
"I'm trying to get paid here soon because I'm tired of doing all this stuff for free," he said. "This is where you make the money. This is where you make a name for yourself and go down in history."
Henderson's teammates appreciate him because his scoring was the missing piece a veteran team needed to reach the NCAA tournament. But for all of his head-bobbing, trash-talking and fan-baiting antics, Henderson said he doesn't trash-talk opposing players or the referees much.
"I really don't talk a whole lot," he said. "Until afterwards."
If UW's defense does its usual job, chances are Henderson won't have a lot to say.