Ole Miss is still looking OK for the NCAA Tournament, but they're very much backing into it. Saturday night's ugly 86-77 loss at home to Vanderbilt was never really close, and the Rebs have now lost three of their last four. Not exactly the way we wanted to send Jarvis Summers, Snoop White and Aaron Jones off on Senior Night.
In what was likely the last SEC men's basketball game in the porous Tad Pad, it was only fitting that leaky defense -- particularly on the perimeter -- was the culprit. The Rebs were consistently a step slow closing out on Vandy's gang of shooters, who rained in 15 3-pointers on 56.5 percent shooting from outside the arc. They hit nine treys in the first half alone and went into intermission up by 13.
Ole Miss, on the other hand, struggled from long range. They hit just six of their 21 attempts, including a 1-of-7 outing from Stefan Moody, who got half of his 14 points from the charity stripe. M.J. Rhett was the only Rebel with a shooting touch, going 8-of-9 from the field and adding a pair of free throws for a season-high 18 points.
Here are the three big takeaways from the game.
1. The Rebs drop big-time in the conference tourney seeding.
Had Ole Miss won, they would have wrapped up the 3-seed for next week's SEC Tournament. Instead, the loss drops them to 11-7 in conference play and into a four-way tie with Texas A&M, LSU and Georgia. The Rebs come out on the bottom of the pile in that tie breaker, plummeting them all the way to the 6-seed. Instead of a double-bye, Ole Miss will take on the winner of South Carolina and Missouri in the second round on Thursday.
2. NCAA Tournament seeding takes a hit as well.
Three weeks ago, ESPN's Joe Lunardi had Ole Miss as a 7-seed. They came into last night as a 9 and have dropped to a 10 in his latest bracketology update. Lunardi currently has the Rebs playing in Omaha (of all places) in a grouping with San Diego State and Wisconsin (who Ole Miss beat in the Dance two years ago).
SB Nation's bracket projections also bounced Ole Miss back to a 10 and have them in Omaha with Iowa and Kansas.
3. Andy Kennedy's late-season record isn't as bad as it seems.
I'll be honest, I originally intended for that to read "Another late-season skid under AK." There's no doubt that he's had a propensity to drop critical games down the stretch, but the numbers aren't as bad as I anticipated. During his nine years in Oxford, he has a combined .583 winning percentage during the final four games of the regular season. He's gone 3-1 or better four times and gone 1-3 or worse just twice (including this season).
Still, AK needs to find a way to get some momentum going in Nashville if he hopes to make any noise in the Dance.