After a hot start that had even the most grizzled fans ready to cast aside all responsibilities and book their first-round NCAA Tournament tickets, Ole Miss basketball’s recent slide has postponed those travel plans. The Rebels’ four-game losing streak ended Wednesday night with a harder-than-it-should-have-been win over bad Texas A&M team, but Kermit Davis’ bunch is still losers of five of its last seven.
If you’ve done the math (and who doesn’t enjoy doing unnecessary math?) we are exactly halfway through SEC regular season competition. Ole Miss finished the first leg of this journey with a 5-4 record, which is good for a four-way tie for fifth place and well ahead of where just about everyone thought this team would be.
The second leg of this journey* gets underway on Saturday when Ole Miss travels to Athens to play Georgia, a team that’s currently 1-8 in the SEC. Things quickly get more difficult, with Auburn, Tennessee and Kentucky looming on the schedule.
*Just a regular journey. NOT a Hugh Freeze-speak journey.
The manner in which Davis finishes the back half of this season could go a long way in telling us what to expect from his tenure in Oxford. The way I see it, there are three primary ways this season can go from here on out.
Into the parallel universe transporter, we go: let’s explore three different timelines.
Timeline 1: The most positive Ole Miss fan you know huffing red and blue freon
I mentioned the games against Auburn, Tennessee and Kentucky, but of those games, only Auburn is on the road, which is likely a loss. What does that mean? Either the Volunteers or Wildcats AREN’T LEAVING THE PAVILION WITH A WIN. MAYBE BOTH. MARK IT DOWN.
The rest of the games? Does Georgia (two games), Missouri (two games), South Carolina and Arkansas look like anything other than 6-0? I THINK NOT, especially when Terence Davis averages a triple double, and Bruce Stevens and Dom get HEATED UP.
Throw in the upset over Tennessee, and you’re looking at 12-6 in heading into the SEC Tournament. We’re playing on Friday, have plenty of rest, and all the pistons are firing. We may not win on Sunday, but it’ll be close.
Sitting at 24-10, we’re gonna be the five-seed no one wants in their bracket. After a gutty first-round win where we didn’t have our best stuff, we trash some overrated four-seed to set up a matchup with a blue blood one-seed in the Sweet 16.
In one of the most heroic performances ever produced by an Ole Miss sports team, the Rebels fall just short against basketball royalty, likely due to some controversial calls down the stretch. NCAA PROTECTING ITS OWN INTERESTS IMO.
After the season, Kermit Davis wins awards, signs an extension, and crushes recruiting. Look out, SEC. There’s a new player in this league.
Timeline 2: How it will probably go down
Ole Miss had entered You Are Who You Are territory. They lack depth, size and skill in the post and it’s shown over the last few weeks. There’s no sign that will be fixed this year.
That means putting a winning streak together will be difficult. You can go ahead and count losses to Auburn, Tennessee and Kentucky, and we’re probably looking at two more losses out of Georgia (two games), Missouri (two games), South Carolina and Arkansas.
That gets us to the most Ole Miss SEC record of .500 (9-9; 19-12 overall) and somewhere in the range of a six to a 10-seed in the SEC Tournament. We’ll play on Thursday and, if we get a good matchup, win before losing on Friday.
That leaves us with a 20-13 record and no atrocious losses. Noting the lack of wins over upper-level competition, the NCAA Tournament selection committee send us to scenic Dayton, Ohio for a play-in game that is allegedly part of the tournament.
We struggle through the play-in game, eventually pulling out a win that takes four years off everyone’s lives. Unfortunately, the Thursday/Friday matchup is terrible, and the Rebels are back in Oxford before Saturday.
Not the worst ending to a rebuilding year.
Timeline 3: Hello, darkness
Hoooo boy. Buckle up, friends.
After putting together a 5-4 finish in the final nine games of conference play (10-8; 20-11 overall), we’re in good position for a sub-10-seed in the NCAA Tournament. All that’s needed is at least one win in the SEC Tournament.
As the six-seed in the tournament, we await the winner of the 11/14 matchup. The good news is that the 11-seed is Missouri, a team we’ve beaten twice, and the 14-seed is Vanderbilt, who is 0-18 in league play. On top of that, the Sports Gods have smiled upon us and given us a favorable draw, assuming we win on Thursday.
Late Wednesday night, Vanderbilt beats Missouri. All we have to do is beat a 1-18 team in SEC play, and the tournament run can begin.
We hold the lead for the entire game, though never able to push it beyond a possession or two. The team plays tight in the final few minutes, with missed free throws and silly turnovers. Despite trying to vomit away the game, we hold a two-point lead with less than five seconds left.
Vanderbilt has one final possession, but they have to go the length of the floor. Suddenly, a man has an idea.
He shouts a word to his players. The referee hands the ball to the player making the inbounds pass. And, well, you already know what happens.
You don’t want to know how we go on to lose the first-round NIT game.