After Ole Miss was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament by Arkansas last Friday night, there was some uncertainty regarding the Rebels’ postseason play.
Following the close 73-72 loss to the Razorbacks, Andy Kennedy sat at the podium – while looking at the final stats sheet – and expressed hope that seniors Sebastian Saiz and Rasheed Brooks would have the opportunity to continue their collegiate careers with postseason action.
“I feel pretty confident, just based on how the numbers look, from an RPI standpoint,” Kennedy said Friday about the Rebels’ chances of making a postseason tournament. “I think we’re going to have that opportunity. I think this team deserves that.”
Kennedy was correct, and on Sunday Ole Miss (20-13) received news that the Rebels will play in the NIT as a No. 5 seed against No. 4 seed Monmouth of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference on Tuesday night (6 p.m., ESPN3) in West Long Branch, New Jersey inside OceanFirst Bank Center.
This season marks the ninth time in Kennedy’s eleven years at Ole Miss that the Rebels have won at least 20 games. Tuesday’s game against the Hawks will be the first-ever meeting between the Rebels and the Hawks. The winner will play the victor of No. 1 Syracuse and No. 8 UNC-Greensboro.
The Rebels are making their 12th overall NIT appearance and sixth under Kennedy. Ole Miss has a 13-11 record all-time in the NIT, including a 7-5 mark under Kennedy. The Rebels have advanced to two NIT Final Fours – 2008 and 2010 – under Kennedy.
Five things to know about Monmouth
- Monmouth has three players averaging in double figures. Senior guard Justin Robinson leads the team in scoring, averaging 19.6 points per game. Sophomore guard Micah Seaborn and senior guard Je’lon Hornbeak are averaging 13.2 points and 11.7 points per game, respectively.
- The Hawks finished the 2016-17 season with an overall record of 27-6, winning 16 straight games to end the regular season. Monmouth won 18 games in conference play for the first time in the league’s history. As a result, the Hawks won the MAAC regular season title, but in the MAAC Tournament, Monmouth lost in the semifinals round to Siena, ruining its chances of an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.
- Ole Miss will be the Hawks’ first SEC opponent since taking on South Carolina in November of this season, where Monmouth lost 70-69 in overtime. The Hawks will welcome an SEC team to their campus Tuesday night for the first time in program history.
- The Hawks are appearing in a national postseason tournament in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history, competing in the NIT for the second year in a row.
- Monmouth has only played three current members of the SEC (South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State) in its history, currently holding a 1-4 record against those teams.
(Feature image credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)