Thursday at noon, the fourth or fifth most exciting conference tournament in all of NCAA basketball begins, as the 2012 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament makes it's Big Easy debut in the New Orleans Arena. Our Rebels, after a three-game winning streak and an 8-8 SEC finish earned the
much coveted 7th seed, meaning that, most importantly, a the opportunity to earn a bye was missed.
"Well, this will be a waste of time, right?" No. It's not. This is Kennedy ball, meaning that we're always on the bubble and in demand of the attention of even the most casual of our basketball fan base. That's right, don't fret (or do), because there is still a chance our beloved Rebels can reach the upper echelons of postseason play - the Big Dance - with a handful of SEC tournament wins. And while Kennedy's teams have typically underperformed in the SEC tourney, it's important to note that his team has a relatively easy go at it this SEC tournament.
Here, take a look:
Luckily, Ole Miss has drawn one of its most favorable draws in recent memory by avoiding #1 Kentucky and top 25 Florida until the finals of the tournament. "But, OMTB, are you out of your fucking mind? FINALS?!?!?"
No. And yes.
The Rebels will play Auburn to start its tournament journey. The WarTigerPlainsmanEagles squeaked by Ole Miss in double overtime at Auburn and lost somewhat convincingly in Oxford. There's no reason to believe the Rebels can't win the rubber match.
On to the SEC Quarterfinals.
Facing Tennessee right now is the ultimate fire and ice. They're the weakest of the bye teams, but they are likely one of the hottest teams in the SEC if not the nation. Winners of eight of their last nine, the Vols beat Ole Miss in Knoxville by 12 and haven't looked back since dispatching LSU, USC and Vandy to close its season. Tennessee does have its flaws, however, and Andy Kennedy should be able to leverage our more experienced bigs and the revenge factor to push Ole Miss to the conference semi-finals.
I've heard some Ole Miss fans say that we need to play State in the semi-finals if we make it that far rather than Vanderbilt. I think we can go ahead and write off Georgia. I'd MUCH rather play Vanderbilt in the semi-finals than a Mississippi State team who, at this theoretical point, would have won four games in a row. They'd have a ton of momentum and would most likely put us out to pasture (agricultural reference).
Vanderbilt, meanwhile, has a delightful history of choking away opportunities late in the season especially in tournament play. The 'Dores will have locked up a Big Dance bid by beating State or Georgia proving its worth and will be a better candidate for an upset. If the Rebels make it to this game, it's all about revenge. The 'Dores were the drunken hillbilly to our Ned Beatty in Oxford. It got brutal, and fast, ending in a defeat which downright embarrassed the Ole Miss Rebel basketball fan baseWhen Ole Miss plays motivated and angry, they are a much more dangerous team.
Once in the finals, we lose to Kentucky because their team is probably better than the Charlotte Bobcats and the New Orleans Hornets.
...that, or we lose to Auburn by double-digits to kickoff the tournament. That could happen too. Don't say we didn't warn you.