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On the ground in Austin with Ole Miss basketball

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If the Rebels are playing 10 minutes from my house, I have to go, right?

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi at Texas Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Other than having to keep it weird all the time, which is exhausting, one of the worst parts about living in Austin is how difficult it is to voluntarily subject yourself to the Ole Miss sports experience in person. Because I’m an idiot who doesn’t value my time, I do manage to attend three or four football games each season, but that’s it for yearly in-person viewing of Ole Miss sports.

When I remembered that the Ole Miss men’s basketball team would travel to Austin to face Texas as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge for BASKETBALL SUPREMACY OF ALL THE LAND, you better believe I said, “Oh wow, I should go to that.”

(one month passes)

“Oh yeah, I need to get tickets for that.”

(two weeks pass)

“Did I get tickets? I should get tickets.”

(sometime Wednesday afternoon)

“CRAP. TICKETS, YOU DUMMY.”

As mentioned above, I live close to Texas’ campus, which meant attending this game would not require two flights and dealing with air travel barbarians, as going to football games does. In fact, if I played it smart, I could park for free and experience no game traffic, making for the only kind of successful sporting event trip.

For those unaware, the Lyndon Johnson Presidential Library is on Texas’ campus and offers free parking to visitors. From there, it’s about a 10-minute walk to the Frank Erwin Center, which is home to Texas basketball events and various entertainment shows, like a benefit concert I saw that included the Dixie Chicks playing together for the first time in years and OH BUDDY WAS IT EMOTIONAL. Also, Willie and Lyle Lovett were there and all was right with the world that night.

Anyhow, point being, I parked in the LBJ lot like I was going to learn more about him dictating memos while on the toilet, but I gave them the ol’ “JK, fam, I’m gonna go see if Ole Miss can beat a school that has invested in basketball, offering things like competitive salaries for coaches and legitimate recruiting budgets” head fake. SUCKERS.

I had never attended a basketball game at the Erwin Center, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s 14 years older than the Tad Pad (kisses fist, points to the sky), which means it’s not bringing anything special to the table.

The Erwin Center was renovated and expanded in the early 2000s, which was about the time the Tad Pad realized it was only a matter of time before it lost the battle to rainwater. However, the Erwin Center does have suites, serves alcohol, and doesn’t leak, but it does not have a chimney. DO THOSE POORS EVEN HAVE HEAT IN THE WINTER?

Despite the lack of INDUSTRY, the game went on as scheduled. The initial game vibe was very much #SECBasketballFever, as the crowd did not care for the 1 PM tip-off. That’s mainly because 450% of people in Austin were still at brunch and BRO CAN WE NOT DO THINGS BEFORE TWO IN THE AFTERNOON?

As for the game, we all know how things unfolded. Ole Miss needed its five guards to all play well in order to have a chance against a legitimate team.

RON HOWARD NARRATOR VOICE: They did not (15-40 from the floor).

While I did mention the not great crowd earlier, the lower bowl of the Erwin Center did fill in, and there was considerable enthusiasm for defeating a team that doesn’t play the Nike grassroots basketball game scoped out by the FBI. I should also mention that the NON-SCREAMING WE’RE JUST GETTING OUT OF THE HOUSE SO WE DON’T GO INSANE family of Texas fans sitting behind me apologized for their tiny daughter patting me on the head a few times (note: she instinctively knew I needed the sympathy).

Speaking of the crowd, I did see Mack Brown in attendance. I would’ve taken a picture, but given the amount of money he’s stolen from Texas, I assumed they’d charge me $10 to document that sighting.

Once the game ended and we all filed out of the Erwin Center, there were other photo opportunities that did not include posing with Dominik Olejniczak and his Ole Miss career-high 16 points.

Two hours of their time and real American dollars spent to watch not their team. The GRIND could not be stronger. Well, unless they were Dan Mullen and colluded with NCAA investigators months before they officially notified Mississippi State that they wanted to interview Leo Lewis. But hey, a rival SEC head coach being in bed with NCAA investigators is a boring story, yes?

I don’t know how this all ends for Andy Kennedy. My intuition tells me the Andy Kennedy era ended the moment Jeffrey Vitter was convinced to not roll over AK’s contract last summer (note: Hugh Freeze’s got rolled over and he was in the process of wrecking the football program). Either way, my guess is AK will leave or he will get fired.

In both scenarios, the people who hired Hugh Freeze’s offensive line coach to be the next head football coach will be in charge of replacing the most successful basketball coach Ole Miss has ever had. But I’m sure the guy they pick, in their infinite wisdom, will do just fine with the same limited resources.