Rebels look to build on win over Alabama, stay in hunt for postseason bid
OXFORD, Miss. – With 11 games left in the regular season, Ole Miss (11-9, 4-4 Southeastern Conference) has some work to do to receive a bid into the NCAA Tournament. The Rebels took a step in the right direction with Tuesday’s 78-66 home win over Alabama.
With eight of their remaining 11 games coming against teams currently in the RPI Top 50 (and five of those against RPI Top 25 teams), Ole Miss still has plenty of opportunities to build its tournament resume.
The victory over Avery Johnson’s Crimson Tide team, who entered the matchup No. 26 in the RPI rankings, is a much-needed top-50 win for the Rebels. Ole Miss, now sitting at No. 84 in the latest RPI, owns a 3-4 record against teams ranked in the RPI top 50 with wins over Alabama, Florida, and South Carolina.
The Gamecocks started 1-3 in league play but have won three of their last four games, with key wins over Georgia and Kentucky in the past two weeks.
The Rebels defeated the Gamecocks, 74-69, on Dec. 31 to open up Southeastern Conference play, while USC defeated the No. 20 Gators, 77-72, in Gainesville Wednesday night, boosting the Gamecocks to No. 50 in the RPI rankings.
Ole Miss had opportunities in three of its four losses against the RPI Top 50. At Auburn on Jan. 9, the Rebels had a 45-35 halftime lead before ultimately losing the Tigers. They were also neck-and-neck with Arkansas and Texas A&M, losing by four points and two points, respectively, but just didn’t make quite enough plays down the stretch.
At the conclusion of Tuesday night’s win over Alabama, however, Andy Kennedy said he believes the win is a confidence booster for his team moving forward.
“The way which we played against Florida, we had a lot of momentum going into A&M, and we had a chance, but just didn’t quite make the play,” he said.
“Arkansas, we knew their backs were going to be against the wall, simply because they had lost a couple in a row, and they came in and shot lights out.
“For us to even be in that game, I was a little surprised, because they score 97 points and shoot 55 percent from the floor. It was as if they were on roller skates compared to us. They were just so much faster in moving the ball and making plays,” Kennedy explained.
Ole Miss is 0-5 on the road this season, so they’ll definitely have to improve on that in order to make the NCAA tournament. The Rebels have six road games left in the season, with four of the six teams (Texas, Tennessee, Missouri, and Kentucky) currently in the NCAA Tournament if the season ended today.
“At home, we have been fortunate, but we have to can it and take it with us,” Kennedy said about the team’s road performances.
Here’s a look at the Rebels’ NCAA Tournament resume:
Record: 11-9, 4-4 in the SEC
Top-50 wins (3): No. 33 Alabama, No. 40 Florida, No. 50 South Carolina
Top-100 wins – 6
Sub-100 losses: No. 110 Illinois State
Road record: 0-5
Strength of Schedule: 30
Remaining games: Eight of the Rebels’ remaining 11 games come against teams in the RPI top 50, including five games left against RPI Top 25 teams.
Ole Miss travels to Austin to face the Texas Longhorns (13-7, 4-4 Big 12) Saturday. The game is set for 1:00 p.m. (CT) and will be televised on ESPN2.
Courtney is from Memphis and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Memphis in May of 2014. He began his journalism career covering the Memphis Tigers Men’s basketball team, which landed him an intern position on 730 Yahoo Sports Radio and a position with Rivals.com. A freelance writer for the Associated Press, Courtney is also a member of The Rebel Walk team and reports regularly on Ole Miss football and basketball. Courtney, the father of a six-year old girl named Soniyah, prefers to cover NCAA basketball and football, but is happy to report on any other sport that comes his way.