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Ole Miss basketball’s bubble popped, No. 1 seed in the NIT

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Hopes were dashed Sunday evening for a hot Ole Miss squad.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Mississippi vs Louisiana State Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss is a 1-seed.

In the National Invitational Tournament.

It’s not what anyone in red and blue wanted to see on Sunday evening. The Rebels (16-11, 10-8 SEC) closed strong, went undefeated against top 25 opponents, and posted three quadrant one wins. But ultimately, a few losses to SEC opponents like Vanderbilt, Georgia or Mississippi State caused the numbers to go against the Rebels in the eyes of the tournament selection committee.

The good news is there’s still some more basketball ahead albeit not a chance for a national championship. The NIT will feature only 16 teams this year, down from 32 due to COVID outbreak concerns with every game played in Frisco, Tex. (limited tickets available).

Ole Miss will face Louisiana Tech (21-7) to start the postseason on March 19th and will then face the winner of St. Mary’s and Western Kentucky. There is an outside chance Ole Miss could play Mississippi State in the NIT Final Four, which would suddenly become a much more interesting game. Even more exciting in my opinion would be an NIT championship game between Ole Miss and Memphis, but there is a lot of basketball between now and then.

Additionally, there is a chance, however slim, some teams are ruled ineligible for the NCAA Tournament by Tuesday. Ole Miss, Louisville, Saint Louis and Colorado State make up the four replacement squads who would fill in for a COVID issue on a tournament team. After Tuesday, COVID affected teams will forfeit upcoming games.

The key takeaway for me is the additional games and experience for a team who will lose two of its best players this offseason in Devontae Shuler and Romello White. And ultimately, while its not the Big Dance, there are plenty of teams not playing in nationally televised games. It may not make a significant and positive impact to recruiting, but it sure can’t hurt.