Dreher was one of 11 newcomers to the program this year and it will be a trial-by-fire situation tonight in Hattiesburg.
"I think it will be a good test for us," Downey said. "We've been playing guys on our level and now we're going to play a team that's bigger and stronger than us. They're a little undersized so they will press and play fast and do a lot of things that we'll see in our league, but the difference being they'll be stronger. But that's good, we need to get pounded a little bit and see what happens."
Southern Miss was impressive last year, going 25-9 overall and 11-5 in Conference USA.
Junior guard Neil Watson returns after leading USM in scoring at 12.3 points and 4.4 assists per game. Senior Jonathan Mills led the team in rebounds with 6.1 per game and also returns.
With the talent Southern Miss has, Downey knows his young squad is up against it, but he admitted it will be a little special coaching against his old friend, regardless of the outcome.
"We had those conversations about what we would do and how we would handle things if we were in charge," Downey reminisced. "Our careers have gone different ways, but we have a lot of respect for each other. It will be fun.
"I know he won't take it easy on me though. If he has a chance to whip my butt, he'll whip my butt."
Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, ryan.pr...@wvgazette.com, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.