It’s not the one they’d hoped for, but the Rebels will be playing in a postseason tournament. Ole Miss has been named a five-seed in the NIT, the field of which was announced on Sunday night. They’ll open the tournament against four-seed Monmouth on Tuesday in West Long Branch, N.J.
If the Rebels win, they’ll likely face No. 1 seed Syracuse.
It’s the first time the Rebels will play in the NIT since 2012, when Jarvis Summers, Murphy Holloway and the rest of a two-seeded Ole Miss team were upset on their home court by seven-seeded Illinois State.
And yes, Andy Kennedy is excited about accepting this invite.
“I hope we have a postseason,” AK told the Oxford Eagle after being bounced from the SEC Tourney. “We won 20 games last year and we didn’t make the NIT. I think I feel pretty confident just based on the way that the numbers are a little different from an RPI standpoint. I think we’ll have this opportunity. I think this team deserves that.”
As of Sunday night, WarrenNolan.com had Ole Miss at No. 77 in the RPI rankings. The Rebels finished the season 20-13 against the country’s 71st-ranked strength of schedule and went a 10-8 in conference play. Things could have begun to get interesting with the NCAA bubble if they’d beaten Arkansas in Nashville on Friday night, but clutch defensive plays from the Razorbacks in the final minute carried them to a 73-72 win (the Hogs went on to advance to the tournament finals, where they were destroyed by Kentucky on Sunday).
Monmouth went 27-6 and was by far the best team in the MAAC, but a loss to Siena in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament knocked them out of NCAA contention. This from SB Nation, which wrote about how Monmouth’s loss illustrates the downside of the auto-bid format:
The Hawks are the best team in their conference, and it is not close. In Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency-based ratings, they are 78th in the country. Nobody else in the MAAC is above 106th — eight percentile points lower. Monmouth’s regular season dominance aligns with the analytical view that they blow the rest of the MAAC out of the water.
It’s far from an ideal draw for Ole Miss, but the Rebels are just happy to be back in the postseason.
“It's been awhile since we've played in the NIT,” Kennedy told The Clarion-Ledger. "I think it has merit. ... It's difficult to get into the NIT. Last year we went 20-12 and couldn't get in. There's 351 Division I basketball teams. There's 68 that go into the NCAA Tournament, there's 32 that go into the NIT.
“That's 100 out of 351. My math is not great but that tells me you finish in the top half of college basketball. It's not easy.”
Here’s the full NIT bracket
Click to enlarge.