Ole Miss’ first season under Kermit Davis was supposed to be a dud. The Rebels, picked to repeat their bottom-place SEC finish from a year ago, were too small, too thin and too inexperienced to compete in an increasingly difficult conference. The roster, built around Andy Kennedy’s run-n-gun offense, was a mismatch for Davis’ methodical, defensive-oriented scheme. Davis was a good hire, most agreed, but it’d take at least a year or two before his team was ready to compete.
Throw all that out the window: Ole Miss is going dancing.
After putting together a 20-win campaign that shocked the college basketball world, the Rebels have been announced as an eight seed in the NCAA Tournament. They’ll take on nine seed Oklahoma in the first round on Friday.
The season wasn’t without its ups and downs. Ole Miss lost four of its last five games to close the season, including a one-and-done showing at the SEC Tournament. But winning 10 conference games and ranking in the mid-thirties of the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) was enough to cancel out the weak finish in the eyes of the selection committee, which put the Rebels a spot higher than what was projected by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.
The Rebels will take on Oklahoma, which finished seventh in the Big 12 with a 7-11 conference record, in Columbia, S.C. If they win that, the Rebels probably face No. 1 seed Virginia in the second round (though it’s worth pointing out that last season Virginia became the first one seed in the history of the tournament to lose to a 16 seed in the first round).
The last time Ole Miss made the dance was in 2015, when Stefan Moody led the Rebels to a play-in win over BYU before falling to six seed Xavier.