If Ole Miss basketball is a metaphor for anything this season, it’s a lot like learning how to drive for the first time.
Things are exciting at the start, a new beginning, then you realize ‘wow, this truck is really moving (4-0 start), and I’m about to get on the highway.’ That highway was the Alabama Crimson Tide, and oh boy, was that a wake-up call.
The other obstacle in your quest to learn to drive is over-confidence. You’ve got this, clicking off miles (four-game win streak in February), and not a worry in the world as you barrel down the interstate toward a night out with friends (NCAA Tournament). Then suddenly a Samford and Son lookin’ ass truck (see: MSU) cuts you off and causes you to nearly lose control, ride the rumble strips in the shoulder, and make you take a few deep breaths as you get back on the road.
So here we are - three games to most likely decide the fate of the postseason chances of the Ole Miss Rebels (12-9, 7-7 SEC). We covered on our podcast last week the Rebels would stand in good position if it could get to 10 SEC wins but needed to avoid losses to MSU and Vanderbilt. Now, we know the Rebels face a daunting three game stretch and literally need a three game win streak to get back strongly in the conversation for the Big Dance.
It starts tonight with the No. 24 Missouri Tigers in CoMo, and the Tigers will undoubtedly be looking for revenge from a 21-point beatdown Ole Miss dropped on them earlier this month in Oxford. For the Rebels, it’s another huge opportunity for a quadrant one win on the road, and a chance to regain momentum heading into a road contest vs. Vanderbilt on Saturday.
The Commodores are an incredibly scrappy team who have played close game after close game against more talented teams. They seemingly continue to get better and better under head coach Jerry Stackhouse, and Saturday’s game may be the culmination of a lot of work in Nashville this season to get competitive.
Finally, a senior night in Oxford against Kentucky can’t have anyone feeling confident. The Wildcats are playing significantly better as of late, and they will in no way feel pressure on the road. It’s Devontae Shuler’s final game in the Pavilion, and for Ole Miss fans, the hope has to be he has saved a show stopping performance at that point to make the season end on a high note.
We have said it before at the Cup, but it bears repeating - it seemed like this squad played best when it had nothing to lose and everything to gain, when its back was pressed against the wall, the team was essentially counted out, coach Kermit Davis rallied the Rebels and won four straight. Now it’s time for an encore.