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Selection Sunday Primer for Ole Miss

Ole Miss will learn its postseason fate later today, as the Field of 68 will be unveiled on the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship Selection Show at 5 p.m. CT on CBS. 

Since a heartbreaking loss to South Carolina in the second round of the SEC Tournament on Thursday, the Rebels have been relegated to scoreboard-watching, and for the most part, things have gone well.

Many fellow bubble teams lost and failed to lock up spots in the field, while only one true "bid thief," Wyoming in the Mountain West Conference, emerged, shrinking the bubble by just one spot. 

One more true "bid thief" remains, however, and it's defending national champion Connecticut, playing on its secondary home floor in Hartford against regular-season champion SMU in the American Athletic Conference tournament final at 2:15 p.m. CT on ESPN.

When bracketologists adjusted their brackets after the win by Wyoming, which burst the bubble of one of the last four teams in, Ole Miss remained among the last four teams in the field in ESPN's Joe Lunardi's, CBS Sports' Jerry Palm's and Syracuse.com's Patrick Stevens's latest brackets, while USA Today's Shelby Mast dropped them from the field.

"Wyoming winning the MWC steals a bid from someone... and that someone for me is Ole Miss," wrote Mast in his latest bracket projection. "I was torn between them, BYU and Boise St. it's very close but I think what the difference is for me - Boise St. is regular season champ for MWC and BYU won at Gonzaga. It's close for sure and I'm not comfortable with my decision, but, that's life on the bubble."

One possibility, as ESPN's John Gasaway notes, is the final spot in the field may come down to Indiana and Ole Miss, who have emerged as a "distinct class that has no other members." 

He looks at The Bracket Matrix, which compares 100 different projections of the NCAA Tournament field, and Indiana appears in 85 percent of brackets and Ole Miss appears in 80 percent of brackets, which would position the Rebels as the first team out of the field. The next-highest team is BYU, which appears in 90 percent of brackets, and the next-lowest team is UCLA, which appears in 19 percent of brackets.

The Bracket Matrix also measures how closely each bracketologist matched the work of the selection committee. The site itself correctly picked 67 of the 68 teams correctly last season, as did Lunardi, Mast and Palm, while Stevens correctly picked all 68 teams last season.

Selection Sunday sometimes features a surprise inclusion, and last year it was North Carolina State, which appeared in just three of 121 bracket projections collected by The Bracket Matrix. ESPN's Andy Katz suggested a possible candidate in his 3-point shot, where he made three bold predictions for Selection Sunday.

"In terms of the bubble, I'm going with the Miami Hurricanes getting in, and Ole Miss out," Katz said. "One of the things the selection committee will certainly look at will be your best win. Ole Miss has a win at Arkansas, certainly a good win. Miami won at Duke, a much better win. Miami comes in a little bit hotter than Ole Miss, which really struggled down the stretch. Certainly the way they lost that South Carolina game, it was a disheartening loss for Ole Miss, but that may be the reason they're on the outside looking in."

Rebels Playing for Seeding Entering Finale

With the Rebels' 82-74 win at Alabama on Tuesday night, Ole Miss has posted 20 wins for the seventh time in nine seasons under head coach Andy Kennedy. The Rebels recorded just seven 20-win campaigns in the 96 seasons before Kennedy's arrival.

Also, with the win over Alabama, Ole Miss positioned itself to earn the No. 3 seed in the Southeastern Conference tournament with a win over Vanderbilt on Saturday. But the Rebels could also finish fourth, fifth or sixth with a loss, depending on other outcomes in the league.

The No. 3 seed would not only mean a double-bye into the quarterfinals, but it would also place Ole Miss on the opposite side of the bracket from top seed and undefeated Kentucky.

"It was a huge game," said senior guard LaDarius White after the win over Alabama. "It was important and we needed this game."

As far as the NCAA Tournament, the win over Alabama kept Ole Miss around the No. 9 and No. 10 seed lines, depending on the bracket projection, and according to ESPN.com's Eamonn Brennan, the win also locked up an NCAA Tournament bid.

"Either way, both teams are straddling the No. 8/9 seed lines at this late date," said Brennan of Georgia and Ole Miss in his latest Bubble Watch. "For either to miss the tournament, they'd have to drop two straight this weekend and next, and somehow have the dozen-or-so teams between them and the cut line pass them in the next nine days. Not going to happen."

That being said, the Rebels, now No. 44 in the latest NCAA RPI, can eliminate any doubt about their NCAA Tournament hopes and perhaps play their way up a seed line or two, between now and Selection Sunday, starting with a win over Vanderbilt on Saturday. 

There's not much reward playing the Commodores, ranked No. 102 in the RPI, but they have won four in a row and seven of their last nine games, dating back to the start of February.

"We get one more win, we have a secure seed in the NCAA tournament," sophomore forward Sebastian Saiz said. "That was the goal this season -- to get to the NCAA tournament and do well in it." 

Senior Send-Off for Five Rebels

Ole Miss will also honor its five seniors, three fourth-year seniors in Aaron Jones, Jarvis Summers and LaDarius White and two graduate seniors in M.J. Rhett and Terence Smith.

Jones, Summers and White have been a part of three of Kennedy's six 20-win seasons, including Summers who is the SEC active leader in points (1,587), assists (507), minutes (3,762) and wins (83). 

"It's Senior Night, so it's got to be the most important game for those guys who are leaving Ole Miss," Saiz said. "I expect them to come out with a lot of energy and show everybody they have been thankful for their time at Ole Miss."

Summers and White showed signs of a return to form in the win over Alabama, while Jones provided a spark with 10 points on 5-for-8 shooting, to go along with five rebounds, in 21 minutes off the bench.

Summers showed the decision-making that made him an All-SEC type player, dishing out seven assists compared to zero turnovers 32 minutes of action, while White exploded for 19 points on 7-for-9 shooting, including 4-for-5 from 3-point range. For White, it was his first double-digit scoring game since scoring 16 points in a win over Florida on Feb. 12.

"Snoop has struggled in the last two or three weeks," said Kennedy of White. "He has not shot the ball well. For him to go seven-of-nine, four-for-five from three, huge, huge effort for him. My hope is that it will give him the confidence that he needs to finish this thing strong."

Both Sides of Ole Miss and the NCAA Tournament Discussion

The Ole Miss women's basketball team heads to the 2015 SEC Tournament in Little Rock, Arkansas, having won three of its last four games to finish the regular season with a 17-12 overall and 7-9 SEC record and earn the No. 8 seed in the tournament.

The Rebels are a near-lock for the Postseason WNIT, which would be the program's first postseason appearance since the 2009-10 season, but they will likely need to some damage this week to strengthen their case for the NCAA Tournament, starting with No. 9 seed Arkansas on Thursday.

"I feel like we're 100 percent in the NIT," head coach Matt Insell said. "We're going to have to win two games, at least, to solidify ourselves as having a chance to maybe be on the bubble and be in the NCAA Tournament. Beating Arkansas and then coming back and beating South Carolina, I think, would put us in, with South Carolina being the No. 1 seed (in the SEC Tournament). We know that, but Arkansas is our main focus."

Insell pointed to his team's wins over Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky and LSU, four teams ranked in the top 70 of the latest NCAA RPI and three teams projected to be in the tournament. The team not projected in the tournament, Georgia, was at full strength with a 15-2 overall and 3-1 SEC record, when Ole Miss met them earlier in the season.

Insell also noted the Rebels' SEC schedule, which featured two games each against Kentucky, LSU and Mississippi State, three of the top six teams in the league. Despite that schedule, they finished tied for seventh in the league standing.

The numbers, however, are working against them, including a No. 96 ranking in the RPI.

"If you're one of the better teams in this league, you deserve to have a chance to be in the tournament, but the computers say we're not in, and I guess we're going by the computers, and I'm going to keep saying that," Insell said.

ESPN.com Bracketologist Charlie Creme said the NCAA Selection Committee weighs many factors in their selection process, such as RPI and strength of schedule, as well as records against the RPI top 25, RPI top 50 and RPI top 100, among others, and those categories create the discussion points.

"The RPI is by no means everything, but it is how the committee groups teams," said Creme in an email. "At 96 at this point, they wouldn't seriously enter the discussion. No team has ever made it as an at-large with an RPI outside the 70's (and the 70's is even rare). 

"The wins over UK and LSU would be where the committee would start with Ole Miss, but there isn't much else to discuss. Ole Miss isn't currently in my "Next Four" out, which puts them over eight spots away. The takeaway is Ole Miss has to win the automatic berth."

Senior forward Tia Faleru, a first team All-SEC selection, drew on the experience of the 2012-13 Ole Miss men's basketball team, when asked about the NCAA Tournament. That season, the Rebels entered the SEC Tournament in Nashville on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, likely also needing to win at least a couple of games, and they went on to win the automatic berth, eliminating any doubt of them getting in the NCAA Tournament.

"Nobody thought they were going to win it," Faleru said. "They got on a little roll and got all the the way to the championship. Nobody expected them to beat Florida that year either. I remember that like it was yesterday. They won it all, and we were here supporting them. I want to experience the same feeling. Do something impossible. We can do the same thing. It's no pressure on us. The pressure is on everybody else. We're the team no one wants to play."

Rebels to Open SEC Play ' in Grand Fashion'

Ole Miss looks to reverse history, as the Rebels (9-4) travel to No. 1 Kentucky tonight (6 p.m., SEC Network), the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.

Ole Miss is 0-15 all-time against the nation's top ranked team, last playing No. 1 Kentucky in 2012. Kentucky is 102-13 all-time against Ole Miss, including 48-2 in games played in Lexington. The Rebels have one win all-time at Rupp Arena, coming in 1998.

"Excited to get the SEC schedule under way, and we obviously do it in grand fashion in Rupp Arena tomorrow night," said head coach Andy Kennedy on the SEC teleconference Monday. "So I know our guys will be excited about the opportunity, playing in the most storied venue in all of college basketball, against arguably the best team in college basketball. So I know our guys will be looking forward to the opportunity."

The Wildcats are a perfect 13-0, as they pursue the first undefeated season in college basketball since the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers, a team that included Tom Abernathy, the father of Todd Abernethy, the coordinator of recruiting development and acting assistant coach.

By defeating Louisville by eight points, 58-50, Kentucky's school-record run of consecutive double-digits to begin the season ended at 12, a run that included double-digit wins over No. 5 Kansas, No. 25 Providence, No. 6 Texas and No. 18 North Carolina.

"Cal doesn't get the credit he deserves for the job he does," said South Carolina head coach Frank Martin on the SEC teleconference Monday. "I watched them the other day. They're magnificent. They're defending as well as any team in the country, and as well as any team I've seen in a long time."

Their defense, Kennedy said, is what gives gives them an opportunity an opportunity to undefeated this season. Kentucky leads the nation in scoring defense (47.8 ppg), field goal percentage defense (.297) and blocked shots (8.2/game). The Wildcats also lead the SEC and ranks seventh nationally in 3-point field goal percentage defense (.267).

"They're a special defensive team," Kennedy said. I've certainly watched them casually when I could throughout the course of the season, and then as we gear up for them in preparation. That is what gives them an opportunity to do what I know is a topic of conversation not only in Kentucky but throughout the country: Can this team go through the regular season undefeated? 

"It'll be a monumental challenge, obviously, but defensively is the reason that I think it's a valid question, simply because they don't give you anything easy, and as a result teams have really struggled to score against them."

Because of their defense, along with their size and length, Kennedy has stressed the importance of making jump shots, and defensively, keeping them off the offensive glass. Kentucky leads the SEC and ranks ninth nationally in rebounding margin (+10.4/game), leading the league in both offensive rebounds (15.2/game) and offensive rebounding percentage (.460).

"We're going to have to make jump shots, which is not easy to do in any venue, much less Rupp," said Kennedy after the win over Austin Peay on Saturday. "Because of their length and ability to alter everything in the paint, you have to make jump shots. Defensively, you have to do an incredible job off the defensive glass. We've improved on our rebounding margin and guys are pursing the ball more consistently. If you allow them to live off the offensive glass, you have no chance."

Kentucky head coach John Calipari, looking at Ole Miss, stressed the importance of defending jump shots, particularly perimeter shots, noting that the Rebels' three leading scorers, all perimeter players -- junior Stefan Moody (13.9 ppg), senior Jarvis Summers (13.3 ppg) and LaDarius White (12.5 ppg) -- account for 52.6 percent of the team's scoring and 53.2 percent of the team's field goal attempts.

"Mississippi is going to shoot 25 threes in this game or maybe more," said Calipari in his media opportunity Monday. "If they make 20, then we lost our first game. They're shooting 25. Their three guards are their leading scorers and take more than 50 percent of their shots. 

"They offensive rebound 13 or 14 per game. They're going to play a zone where they're changing defenses. It could confuse us. If they're making shots, then we have to try to drive them off the 3-point line. When you're playing teams that are willing to shoot that many, you just don't know."

SEC Appears Stronger Entering Start of League Play

Looking at the SEC as a whole, all metrics point to a stronger league from top to bottom and perhaps more NCAA Tournament bids for a league that received just three bids last season. And it starts with Kentucky's dominance at the top.

"Kentucky has sort of separated themselves in the nonconference from the rest of the world, not only in our league, but from everybody else's league as well," said Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings on the SEC teleconference Monday. "Our league is deep and I think the conference season will be an absolute grind because there are so many teams that are probably competitive and equal enough that a lot of teams can win on any given night."

The SEC is one of four conferences with five teams in the RPI top 50 and one of three leagues with 10 teams in the RPI top 100. The SEC also has five teams in the top 50 and 11 teams in the top 100, according to KenPom.com. Ole Miss is rated No. 93 and No. 67 in the two metrics, respectively.

ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi released his first full bracket of the season, and it included five SEC teams, and in his conference-by-conference forecast, he forecasts four teams from the SEC to receive an NCAA Tournament bid.

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    Tiffany J. Moore said:

    This is amazing with what he have done so far! Hope that he'll achieve more in the future!

    in post Evan Engram Hauls in Midseason Accolades

    Fiftyyears fan said:

    How can you have five straight top 25 recruiting classes and look as bad as Ole Miss has this year. Easy lack of coaching fundamentals. Look at Mason at Vandy, nothing but 2 and 3 star recruits out of high school and he developers players that want to win. Hugh freeze has 3, 4 & 5 recruits and he expects them to win because of what they were in High School. Mr. Freeze you have not been teaching the fundamentals of football or winning in life. Mr. Freeze you have quit on your players because you have some false expectations of what they are instead of what you can develop in them. Either do your job or quit. Oh yea, please quit running your smoke and mirrors offense, everyone has figured it out. Run a physical offense that can open up holes for your running backs and then your pass attack want require 12 are 14 four and five star receivers. Mr. Freeze you have problems and you need to know that you are not smarter than the rest of the coaches in the SEC.

    in post Rebels Unable to Send Senior Class Out on a High Note

    Karen Holden said:

    Not every pass can be caught. Too low, too short whatever. Not every Kelly pass is perfect. Records were broken by receivers also. But they sre not going to catch every ball thrown. The loss to Auburn was not one players fault. You win or lose as a team.

    in post Late Mistake Spoils Chad Kelly's Historic Performance

    Trent browning said:

    Hey I was just wandering if these are the only 2 olemiss players signing. If there are more signing please respond to me ASAP. Also wondering if neil everett will sign any autographs. Thank you very much

    in post Heisman House Tour Heads to Oxford for Ole Miss-Georgia

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