After months flirting with an NCAA Tournament berth, Ole Miss finally closed the deal in the final minutes of the regular season. The Rebels, who trailed Missouri by as much as 10 points in the second half on Saturday, used a monstrous Terence Davis dunk and a pair of clutch Devontae Shuler buckets to rally for a win that all but locks them into the field of 68.
Nothing’s official until next Sunday, but a 20-win SEC team with four Quad 1 wins and no bad losses isn’t getting left out of the Dance.
A sweep of NET No. 17 Auburn and a road upset over No. 21 Mississippi State give Ole Miss top end wins, but the strength of the resume lies in its absence of bad losses. The Rebels have just one loss outside the first quadrant and that was on the road at No. 78 South Carolina (which could move to Quad 1 if the Gamecocks win their first game in the SEC Tournament).
*For those unfamiliar, the NCAA Evaluation Tool is college basketball’s new replacement for the RPI.
Ole Miss looks headed for a No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchup.
Both ESPN’s Joe Lunardi and SB Nation’s Chris Dobbertean have Ole Miss as a No. 9 in the East regional. Lunardi has the Rebels taking on Washington in Columbus, Ohio, while Dobbertean sees a matchup against UCF in Columbia, S.C. In both cases, the Rebels would likely face No. 1 Virginia in the second round.
CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm has the Rebels as a No. 8 seed in the West taking on Utah State in Salt Lake. They’d probably find No. 1 Gonzaga waiting in the second round.
The SEC Tournament is a low risk, high reward opportunity for the Rebs.
At worst, Ole Miss’ trip to Nashville will net a single loss to No. 58 Alabama on Thursday, an outcome that shouldn’t change the resume math in a significant way. Beating Bama won’t change the math either, but it would give Ole Miss another shot at No. 4 Kentucky on Friday. The Rebels were within two points of the Wildcats in the final seconds of a home game last week, so it's within reason that they could put up another fight in Nashville. A win probably pushes Ole Miss to a seven seed, maybe higher.
For what it’s worth, beating the Wildcats could potentially set up a rematch with top-10 Tennessee, which Ole Miss came within 4.3 seconds of beating a couple weeks back.
Put simply, the Rebels have little chance of losing ground in Nashville and an outside shot at climbing.