Well, the four game losing streak (due in part to key injuries) really did a number on Ole Miss' NCAA Tournament hopes. With an RPI in the low 50s entering conference play, the Rebels had positioned themselves decently enough that a good conference record could propel them to their third berth in four years. Alas, Sebastian Saiz was stabbed in the eye with a pirate sword (or something like that), and Stefan Moody pulled his hamstring late in a matchup against No. 11 South Carolina (which saw the Rebels blow an 11-point lead when Moody went down).
Following Ole Miss' 80-63 home win over Auburn on Wednesday night, ESPN's daily RPI predictor has them sitting at 95.
So what would it take for the Rebels to make the Big Dance? Well, a lot. A whole lot. Their only real hope is get an auto-bid by winning the SEC Tournament, but in theory there are other ways they could claw back onto the bubble.
Here's the RPI picture as it stood before last night's Auburn win. This information is from RealTimeRPI.com, the site I use the most for rankings information. I wouldn't put too much stock in their predictor, since it fluctuates wildly from game to game, but they still provide accurate basic info.
So as you can see, Ole Miss has two puzzling losses (home against No. 175 George Mason and on the road against No. 179 State) and two significant wins (consecutive home games against No. 61 Bama and No. 77 Georgia). The losses aren't awful, since they came against teams that were at least in the top 200. Unfortunately, the wins weren't all that great, since they didn't come against top 50 opponents. Ole Miss just hasn't made a case that it belongs in the tournament, and it doesn't really have many chances remaining to do so.
Sure, the Rebels could go on a tear where they win a lot of games in a row. If they could magically get to 11-7 in the league, there would at least be a case for them. That just seems pretty unlikely at this point.
The bigger problem is they only have two opponents with RPIs in the top 50 remaining on the schedule. There just aren't many opportunities for the signature wins the selection committee likes to see. Usually, the non-conference gives Ole Miss a couple of games against teams with good RPIs, but this year's scheduling and an early tournament loss took that off the table. They need to earn their way to the Dance in conference play, and they aren't doing it so far.
I will say that if they managed to finish the regular season at 10-6 or so (a very tall task), they would put themselves into a better bracket situation to win the tournament or at least beat a team or two that could help their RPI. There's just a lot of unknown right now, but this team is fun to watch regardless of their postseason hopes. Stefan Moody is outstanding, and some of the young guys are really coming along. If nothing else, the emergence of Marcanvis Hymon, coupled with Donte Fitzpatrick-Dorsey's quickness, gives Rebel fans something to be hopeful about for next season.
We'll have a more in-depth article up towards the end of the year about what next season's team looks like, but think about this starting five:
PG: Donte Fitzpatrick-Dorsey
SG: Deandre Burnett (the Miami transfer who is sitting out this year)
SF: Rasheed Brooks
PF: Marcanvis Hymon
C: Sebastian Saiz