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Ole Miss basketball still a projected 8-seed despite loss to South Carolina

Easy does it... hold it together... deep cleansing breaths...

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Anxiety is a heck of a thing.

It causes more acute attention to the details, a poring over of the tiniest minutiae. Your expectations wildly adjust as worst case scenarios become seemingly more real in your mind.

Yes, this is the madness of March, and the Rebels are here for it.

A road loss to quadrant two South Carolina is not helpful right now, but the Rebels seemingly balanced out that loss by beating Auburn last week if you look bigger picture.

Now, five regular season games, a conference tournament and about 23 days separate the Ole Miss program from Selection Sunday.

So what do the latest numbers show? Mostly, the quality of wins and lack of bad losses has gotten the Rebels a good position to stay in the NCAA tournament.

Ole Miss’ tourney resume

NET rank: 34

KenPom rank: 42

Strength of schedule: 48

Record: 18-8 (8-5 SEC)

Record vs. Group 1 teams: 4-6

Record vs. Group 2 teams: 5-2

Record vs. Group 3 teams: 3-0

Record vs. Group 4 teams: 6-0

Record at home: 10-3

Record on the road/neutral site: 8-5

Notable wins: No. 20 Auburn (twice), at No. 26 Mississippi St., No. 33 Baylor, No. 71 Arkansas

Notable losses: No. 14 Iowa St., No. 16 LSU, No. 25 Cincinnati, at No. 50 Butler, No. 53 Alabama, No. 31 Florida, No. 26 Mississippi St., No. 81 South Carolina

Here’s some good news potentially - if South Carolina can improve another six or seven spots, it would be considered a quadrant one loss according to selection committee metrics. Otherwise, it’s not a terrible loss for the resume, but it really doesn’t help the confidence of fans nor the confidence of those predicting these brackets.

The Auburn win had the very good writers at RCR feeling like we were playing for a better seeding in the tournament at this point. Lo and behold, this entire season could tailspin without some kind of respectable finish the final five games.

But let’s look at what the experts are saying is likely to happen should the season end today.

Ole Miss bracket projections

Joe Lunardi (ESPN): 8-seed

Jerry Palm (CBS): 8-seed

The Rebels are still in good shape with the analysts who see Ole Miss as a solid 8-seed given their 18-8 overall record and 8-5 conference record. An above .500 record in the five major conferences should be a fairly strong argument save the Pac-12 this year, so the Rebels essentially need two more wins to solidify its position there.

What the Rebels stand to gain is somehow pulling off an upset of either Kentucky or Tennessee coupled with 2 or 3 more run of the mill conference wins down the stretch to move into a 7-seed. There’s also the conference tournament to consider where Ole Miss could improve its standing with a deep run and an upset.

But for now, an 8-seed is more than enough to please Rebel fans who were expecting an NCAA tournament berth this season.

A look at Ole Miss’ losses

Let’s look at some of the numbers for the teams Ole Miss has fallen to so far this year.

Iowa State

Record: 19-7 (8-5 Big XII)

NET rank: 14

KenPom rank: 13

Mississippi State

Record: 19-7 (7-6 SEC)

NET rank: 26

KenPom rank: 23

Florida

Record: 15-11 (7-6 SEC)

NET rank: 31

KenPom rank: 27

Alabama

Record: 15-11 (6-7 SEC)

NET rank: 53

KenPom rank: 60

LSU

Record: 21-5 (11-2 SEC)

NET rank: 17

KenPom rank: 22

Cincinnati

Record: 20-4 (9-2 AAC)

NET rank: 25

KenPom rank: 31

Butler

Record: 15-12 (6-8 Big East)

NET rank: 50

KenPom rank: 51

South Carolina

Record: 14-12 (9-4 SEC)

NET rank: 81

KenPom rank: 80

The good news about South Carolina is that its final five games are not the most daunting in the nation - @ MSU, Alabama, @ Missouri, @ Texas A&M and Georgia. The ‘Cocks are important to the Rebels right now as their improved metrics will decrease the affect on Ole Miss’ worst loss on the year.

All of the other losses remain very strong and aren’t overly concerning. What is concerning for Ole Miss is KenPom projecting a 2-3 finish and only a 57 percent chance of winning its season finale on the road against Missouri.

The Rebels can’t win today against Georgia, then lose its final four games and feel comfortable about its postseason chances. Two or more wins in the final five, and I think fans can start breathing easy on Selection Sunday.

So how will the Rebels finish the final five games of the season? Is a Kentucky or Tennessee upset in Oxford a possibility? Comment or tweet @RedCupRebellion with your take on the bracket and how Ole Miss is shaping up this season.