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Ole Miss basketball opponent tracker: SEC play is here

And so it begins...

NCAA Basketball: SEC Basketball Tipoff Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

In this weekly feature, we’ll look at the previous opponents of the Ole Miss Rebels basketball team for the 2018-2019 season to see how they are trending, in an effort to track the quality of wins the Rebels are compiling.

Ole Miss finished 2018 on a seven game win streak, closing out 12 of its 13 non-conference games with a 10-2 record.

Undoubtedly, this is a game or two better than most of The Cup expected, so the season has begun to grab more of our attention entering Southeastern Conference play.

All of that work can be undone very quickly as the Rebels will go on the road to Vanderbilt, host top 10 Auburn and then go to Starkville to open its SEC season. A 0-3 start is entirely likely, so the wins already accumulated by the Rebels have become that much more important.

One big change to our opponent tracker is the metric we will be using - NCAA Evaluation Tool or NET rankings. This is a new metric for the selection committee to get away from the Ratings Percentage Index, which is more familiar to fans.

In the past trackers, we used KenPom rankings, but now that NET rankings have sorted themselves out, we’re more confident in them as a reliable metric. When we started crunching numbers, typically the difference in NET to KenPom was +/- 5 spots.

Ole Miss currently sits at No. 44 in the NET rankings, which puts them squarely on the bubble once all the automatic bids are handed out to the 32 conference tournament champions.

Let’s see first how the two Ole Miss losses currently stack up.

Cincinnati Bearcats (12-2); NET: 25

Notable wins: 71-57 vs. Ole Miss (NET: 44)

Worst loss: 64-56 vs. Ohio State (NET: 18)

Upcoming games: @ East Carolina, @ Tulsa

Butler Bulldogs (9-5); NET: 62

Notable win: 61-54 vs. Florida (NET: 33)

Worst loss: 84-76 vs. Georgetown (NET: 97)

Upcoming games: Creighton, @ Seton Hall

A tough loss on the road to Butler seemingly looked not so bad until recently. The Bulldogs dropped two of its last three to fall out of the NET top 50 in the last week including its worst loss to date for the year against Georgetown. This is not a debilitating loss by any means, but some of the shine has come off for sure.

Cincinnati is a great loss, plain and simple. It was a neutral site game that wasn’t a blowout, and the Bearcats two losses are to top 25 NET teams. The only way this loss becomes a problem is if Cincy doesn’t roll through the American Athletic Conference.

And now for the teams Ole Miss has beaten.

San Diego Toreros (11-4); NET: 86

Notable win: 70-64 vs Colorado (NET: 81)

Worst loss: 68-56 vs Santa Clara (NET: 232)

Upcoming games: Pacific

Baylor Bears (8-4); NET: 108

Notable win: 58-49 vs Arizona (NET: 59)

Worst loss: 59-58 vs Stephen F. Austin (NET: 222)

Upcoming games: @ TCU, Iowa St.

Illinois St. Redbirds (7-7); NET: 213

Notable win: 92-89 vs BYU (NET: 116)

Worst loss: 58-56 vs Valpo (NET: 195)

Upcoming games: Evansville, Northern Iowa

Western Michigan Broncos (6-7); NET: 238

Notable win: 89-76 vs Detroit (NET: 189)

Worst loss: 71-66 vs USC Upstate (NET: 324)

Upcoming games: @ Akron, @ Kent St.

Nicholls St. Colonels (8-6); NET: 290

Notable win: 62-61 vs Western Michigan (NET: 238)

Worst loss: 75-63 vs Boston U. (NET: 236)

Upcoming games: Incarnate Word, Stephen F. Austin

Louisiana Monroe (7-5); NET: 160

Notable win: 74-58 vs Stephen F. Austin (NET: 222)

Worst loss: 79-73 vs Tennessee Tech (NET: 336)

Upcoming games: Arkansas St., @ Georgia Southern

Southeastern Louisiana (4-10); NET: 321

Notable win: 62-61 vs Tulane (NET: 300)

Worst loss: 69-58 vs Miss. Valley St. (NET: 348)

Upcoming games: Central Arkansas

Chattanooga Mocs (6-9); NET: 279

Notable win: 80-69 vs Charlotte (NET: 272)

Worst loss: 75-72 vs Tennessee Martin (NET: 327)

Upcoming games: @ East Tenn. St.

Middle Tenn. St. (3-10); NET: 311

Notable win: 76-73 vs Charleston So. (NET: 322)

Worst loss: 83-76 vs FIU (NET: 193)

Upcoming games: FAU, @ Southern Miss

Florida Gulf Coast (5-10); NET: 229

Notable win: 84-78 vs South Dakota St. (NET: 119)

Worst loss: 69-58 vs Colorado St. (NET: 259)

Upcoming games: Liberty, @ North Alabama

YIKES.

So the best win the Rebels have cobbled together is San Diego, and after that, we’re looking at NET 100 or higher rankings. The good news is that Ole Miss avoided all of those land mines and converted them to wins.

The better news for the Rebels is that facing the SEC should only serve to strengthen its ranking moving forward as long as it doesn’t lose more than 10 games. Seven of the 13 SEC teams are ranked 43 or higher in the latest NET with only South Carolina and Texas A&M ranked out of the top 100.

Furthermore, Iowa St. is the last non-conference game of the year and the Cyclones sit at No. 29 in NET currently.

Put very simply: Ole Miss is in position to play itself into the tournament. There is little doubt in my mind that if the Rebels can win nine or more of its last 19 games Ole Miss will hear its name called on Selection Sunday if its non-conference continues to hold up.

But it all starts with Vanderbilt tomorrow night.