Ole Miss' NCAA Tournament hopes were officially put on life support two weeks ago in the closing moments of a 14-point loss to Georgia. As the SEC Tournament begins, the patient's only chance at resuscitation is to win it all in Nashville.
That already daunting task was made even more difficult over the weekend when a last-minute standings shakeup left the Rebs stuck on Kentucky's side of the bracket. As the seven-seed, Ole Miss will face 10-seed Alabama on Thursday, then, if it wins, turn around and play the two-seed Wildcats on Friday.
John Caliper's team is nowhere near as scary as it was last season, sitting at 13-5 in SEC play with head-scratching losses to Auburn and Tennessee marring its resume. But Kentucky is still the No. 22 team in the country, still has the second best record in the conference (behind one-seed Texas A&M), still stocked with NBA talent, and, lest we forget, smoked Ole Miss by 22 points when the two teams met in Lexington back in early January.
For a better tale of the tape, let's take a quick look at the advanced stats comparison.
|Strength of schedule||35th||168th|
|Record against top 100 RPI||12-6||3-9|
|Adjusted scoring margin||14th||109th|
|Effective shooting %||51st||259th|
|Def. effective shooting %||11th||160th|
|Total rebound %||33rd||134th|
Of course, a rematch with Big Blue assumes the Rebs get past Bama, which is far from a guarantee. Ole Miss' 74-66 win over the Tide two months ago was a two-point game with about three minutes left, and the Rebs had the added boost of playing its first ever game in The Pavilion. Still, Avery Johnson's team is moving in the opposite direction of Andy Kennedy's, having lost four of its last five games.
We're not pulling the plug on the Rebs' chances just yet—they've shown signs of life in recent weeks. The Rebs have won four of their last five and closed the regular season with decisive wins at home against State and on the road in Knoxville. There's also that Stefan Moody guy, who still leads the SEC in scoring and can flat out win games by himself. He had 23 points against Kentucky earlier this season, and don't forget that he was a matter of electrolytes from handing the Wildcats their only regular season loss in 2014-15. The last time Moody took on the Tide, he dropped 21 points and this brutality.
The Rebs running the table in Nashville sure as hell ain't likely, but crazier things have happened.