Basketball—a wonderful, terrible sport—entered into the minds of the Ole Miss faithful singing its siren song in January.
A 3-0 start to conference play including wins over top 25 Auburn and Mississippi State had the Rebels and first year coach Kermit Davis being championed as the surprise team of the season.
Reality has an unfortunate way of crashing these kinds of parties however.
Ole Miss has lost five of its last six games posting a 14-7 (4-4 SEC) record with 10 games left to play. Hope is not hanging by a thread just yet, because before Saturday’s home loss to MSU, the Rebels had a 9-seed in his Feb. 1 edition of ESPN Bracketology.
But what do the latest numbers show? Mainly, that the Rebels stacked up valuable wins and while on a losing streak lately, any kind of turnaround in the last ten games will buoy them into the tournament.
Ole Miss’ tourney resume
NET rank: 39
KenPom rank: 46
Strength of schedule: 35
Record: 14-7 (4-4 SEC)
Record vs. Group 1 teams: 3-6
Record vs. Group 2 teams: 2-1
Record vs. Group 3 teams: 3-0
Record vs. Group 4 teams: 6-0
Record at home: 8-3
Record on the road/neutral site: 6-4
Notable wins: No. 21 Auburn, at No. 26 Mississippi St., No. 29 Baylor
Notable losses: No. 13 Iowa St., No. 20 LSU, No. 25 Cincinnati, at No. 55 Butler, No. 46 Alabama, No. 40 Florida, No. 26 Mississippi St.
Obviously, the big knock here is that the Rebels haven’t had a really nice win since the upset on the road in Starkville. But the good news is that all the losses are pretty good to great losses. No one on the tournament committee is going to fault the Rebels for losses at home against Iowa St., LSU or Mississippi St. - all top 30 NET teams.
Additionally, neutral and road losses to Cincy, Butler, Bama and Florida are all top 60 teams, so none of those really sting or tarnish the resume.
This is why playing in a more competitive league has raised the profile for more teams in conference. If this was four or five years ago, Ole Miss is on the outside looking in.
Ole Miss bracket projections
Joe Lunardi (ESPN): 8-seed
Jerry Palm (CBS): 9-seed
USA Today: 7-seed
Right now, the losses are holding up the Rebels in a decent place. There’s no grenade that caused a problem on the schedule, but there are some remaining in the schedule Ole Miss has to avoid.
We might assume Joe Lunardi could drop the Rebels a spot or two potentially before the Wednesday clash with Texas A&M as teams shuffle around during the week. But for all intents and purposes, the Rebels seem to be a tournament team if they can log some wins now.
The next week has Texas A&M coming into Oxford with a 8-12 (1-7 SEC) record. If you’ll remember correctly, Breein Tyree had a buzzer beater rim out last year in College Station, so revenge will hopefully be on his mind this year. Then the Rebels head to Athens to face the sub .500 Georgia Bulldogs - another game Ole Miss needs to win to avoid an smudge on its decent resume.
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.
Record: 17-5 (6-3 Big XII)
NET rank: 13
KenPom rank: 12
Record: 16-5 (4-4 SEC)
NET rank: 26
KenPom rank: 23
Record: 12-9 (4-4 SEC)
NET rank: 40
KenPom rank: 33
Record: 13-8 (4-4 SEC)
NET rank: 46
KenPom rank: 47
Record: 17-4 (7-1 SEC)
NET rank: 20
KenPom rank: 24
Record: 19-3 (8-1 AAC)
NET rank: 25
KenPom rank: 29
Record: 13-10 (4-6 Big East)
NET rank: 55
KenPom rank: 56
So the Butler loss ends up being the worst Ole Miss has logged this year. Remember when the Rebels were up a few baskets with five minutes left in that game? That loss stings more now than it did then, which is how quickly expectations can change in this game.
For the other losses, there is a potential that all of the six teams could be in the NCAA Tournament come Selection Sunday. Bama and Florida are the most tenuous at this time, but they are both trending in the right direction.
What’s your prediction for how the Rebels close out the last 10 games of the year? Comment or tweet @redcuprebellion to tell us if we’ll be hosting an NIT match come postseason or traveling to the Big Dance.