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Madlock's Experience to Lead Rebels Down the Stretch

By Brian Scott Rippee
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Tony Madlock has over 20 years of coaching experience at the Division I level. Madlock was in his fourth year as an assistant coach for former head coach Andy Kennedy's staff before assuming the role of acting head coach on Sunday night.

Before that, Madlock spent four seasons at Auburn, getting his first taste of SEC basketball. Prior to his time on the Plaines, he was at UTEP where he coached the likes of Stefon Jackson, Randy Culpepper, who won the Conference USA player of the year in 2010, and Anett Moultrie. Ole Miss went to the NCAA Tournament in Madlock's first season as an assistant in 2014, headlined by All-SEC player Stefan Moody.

Madlock is a Memphis native and was a three-year starter for the Memphis Tigers. He still ranks top 20 for the most games played in program history at 128 and averaged double figures his final two seasons. Following his college career, he played one year professionally in South America.

He and the Rebels will try to finish the season strong after a tough week.

"It has been tough on the guys," Madlock said. "But it is something we will deal with, and we will keep moving forward."

Madlock will try to follow in Kennedy's footsteps and steer the program through the final five guaranteed games remaining in the season.

"AK is a legend here," Madlock said. "He is the all-time winningest coach."

Madlock senses the team is still motivated despite the adversity they've faced.

"We are going to ride with this staff and push forward. It will get better," senior Marcanvis Hymon said.

Madlock's message will be a simple one: to play hard for one another and finish the season in the best manner possible.

"These guys love each other and work hard for each other," Madlock said. "They have a great relationship on and off the court. It's just a matter of it all snowballing sometimes when it goes in the wrong direction, and that is what happened. We will keep working hard and keep moving forward."

The team had a workout on Sunday and had a spirited shootaround Monday night in Columbia. The Rebels prepare for a road test at Missouri, with Madlock's two decades of coaching experience at the helm.

"We had a short workout to get the blood flowing and to try to get away from everything we'd been hearing," Madlock said. "We are going to play hard for each other. That's all we can do."

Rebels Aiming to Break Through On The Road

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Ole Miss has been strong on serve in the sense that it is 4-0 at home in SEC play so far this season. 
 
Inside the confines of The Pavilion, the Rebels have flipped the script from three overtime losses in the non-conference season and have become a tough team to beat at home. The evidence of that is in the Rebels' wins over the likes of Florida, South Carolina and Alabama. 
 
But it has been a different story in the five true road games the team has played this season, in which it is 0-5 (0-4 in league games). Andy Kennedy has made no bones about it. In order for Ole Miss to get where it wants to go come postseason time in March, the Rebels are going to have to break through on the road. At 11-9 (4-4 SEC), the Rebels need more feathers in their cap if they want to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The conference itself is helping them out in that regard.
 
"The great thing about this league this year is that it provides a lot of opportunities," Kennedy said. "We have a lot of opportunities ahead of us, starting this Saturday."
 
The Rebels travel to Texas on Saturday to participate in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.  The Longhorns sit in a similar slot to Ole Miss with a 13-7 (4-4 Big 12) record plopped in the middle of the crowded Big 12 standings, a conference that has been tough from top to bottom just like the SEC. 
 
The Rebels have been close to breaking through on the road and it is pretty clear they're playing much better basketball than they were a month ago. Ole Miss was a Breein Tyree three-ball that was spat out halfway inside the rim away from winning at Texas A&M last Tuesday, and were within two points in the final minute at Arkansas after surviving a brutal storm of shooting.  Kennedy sees them getting closer and knows his team is playing better. 
 
"The way we played against Florida gave us a lot of momentum going to Texas A&M, and we had a chance," Kennedy said. "We knew Arkansas would be tough because their backs should be against the wall because they had lost a couple in a row. They shot lights out. For us to even be in that game, I was a little surprised because they scored 97 points, shot 55 percent from the floor."
 
Ole Miss never held a lead in the second half in Fayetteville, but were right on the doorstep the entire time.
 
"We cut it to two and just could not make the play," Kennedy said. "At home, we have been fortunate enough to do that."
 
So what is it going to take to find tangible success on the road?
 
"Defense," senior guard Deandre Burnett said. "At home, they're (opponents) shooting under 40 percent from the field and on the road they're shooting 48 percent. Obviously, you can't go on the road and beat a team shooting 48 percent. That is what will be key."
 
To back up Burnett's assertion, the Rebels have given up an average of 80 points per game in its five true road games compared to under 73 in all others. Burnett thinks that can change if the team is able to throw the first blow instead of absorbing one.
 
"It's our energy, coming out fast off the jump," Burnett said. "Being able to take a punch and punch back. Credit to them, the teams we have played on the road have been good teams, but in those games, we are right there."
 
What has surprised Kennedy about his team's struggles on the road is perhaps the very thing that gives him hope they'll be able to break through.
 
"Every season you go into it thinking this team will be good at this or whatever it may be," Kennedy said. "What has been surprising to me is the fact that we have not been better on the road. We have been better but not good enough to win. Because we do have experienced guards, typically if you have experienced guards, those are the guys that help you sustain the same level of competitiveness that you have at home."
 
Kennedy plays give guards in his rotation in Burnett, Breein Tyree, Devontae Shuler, Terence Davis and Markel Crawford. Burnett and Crawford are fifth-year seniors. Davis is in his junior season and Tyree has been through the rigors of an SEC season one time before. This group is the core of this team and the experience is there.  Ole Miss is a top 30 team in the country in terms of fewest turnovers at just 11 per game. 
 
"My message will continue to be to challenge the upperclassmen to lead us," Kennedy said. "To find a way to take the next step in our team's maturation."
 
The production has also been there of late. The guards combined for 63 points in Tuesday's win over Alabama with Burnett leading the way with 24. Terence Davis dropped 30 points on Arkansas after a bit of a slump, and the last two weeks and a half weeks have been the best Tyree has played all season. 
 
"Our four veterans, if all four of them play well then we are pretty good basketball team," Kennedy said.
 

Ole Miss has been close and things are trending in a positive direction. Saturday will be another test in Austin, will this be where the Rebels finally break through?

"We know what this team can do," Burnett said. "And we are more than capable of doing it."

The Season: Ole Miss Hoops NCAA First Four

Journey Ends for Five Seniors

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A four-year starter at point guard, one of the most accomplished players in program history, senior Jarvis Summers saw his Ole Miss career come to an end, as did four of his fellow seniors in LaDarius White, Aaron Jones, M.J. Rhett and Terence Smith.

They helped the Rebels to a 21-13 record and the eighth NCAA Tournament appearance and the fifth NCAA Tournament win in program history. Summers, White and Jones are members of a select group, becoming just the seventh senior class to make at least two trips to the Big Dance.

For Rhett and Smith, graduate transfers from Tennessee State and UT Martin, respectively, they experienced the NCAA Tournament for the first and only time, realizing the goal that they set out to accomplish when they began their respective careers at Ole Miss.

"I hate it for Jarvis," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "He's had a tremendous career for us. He's been a leader, he's been steady. He's had a tough year all year shooting the basketball, and I guess it's somewhat fitting that he would end with his struggles offensively. 

"Without Jarvis and without Snoop and without A.J. and without M.J. and without Terence, the five seniors who the journey ends tonight, you know, we're not here. We're not in the NCAA and we're certainly not in the position that we were to have the chance to advance. I'm proud of those guys and what they were able to accomplish."

Summers finishes his career as just the fourth player in SEC history with 1,600 career points and 500 assists. He is also one of only nine players in Ole Miss history with 80 career wins, serving as a mainstay at the point guard position since the early part of his freshman season.

To the end, despite his performance in his final college game, Summers showed true leadership, putting the team before himself, as he has throughout his decorated career.

"It's really frustrating," Summers said. "All this year, I have been struggling, and I couldn't get things going, but I'm not a person who makes excuses. If it's on me, it's on me, and all I can do is move forward."

Whirlwind Week Continues for the Rebels

Ole Miss has gone through a two-day turn twice, as well as a one-day turn when the Rebels played No. 23 Creighton and Cincinnati in back-to-back days at the Emerald Coast Classic, but they haven't gone through a turn quite like the whirlwind, as head coach Andy Kennedy described it, this week.

The Rebels closed out a 94-90 win over BYU, a game that ended around 11 p.m. local time Tuesday in Dayton. The team walked out of UD Arena around 12:30 a.m., flew to Jacksonville and then arrived at their hotel around 4:30 a.m., before starting preparations for sixth-seeded Xavier that included a shootaround Wednesday evening at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.

"Well, for us, it's just about making sure that our guys are physically rested, not only the demands of the travel with such an emotional game, and we had to expend so much energy in order to come back," Kennedy said.

"So we want to make sure our guys are rested physically because we know the challenge Xavier is going to present, rugged, not going to give you anything easy, a little bit different flow than what we faced last night. And we want to give them as much information as possible without bogging us down. We're going to be who we are; Xavier is going to be who they are. We've got to do a good job of imposing our will on the game like we were fortunate enough to do the second half last night."

There are advantages and disadvantages to Ole Miss having played an additional First Four game on Tuesday, while Xavier hasn't played in nearly a week, a 69-52 loss to Villanova in the Big East championship game on March 14.

"The disadvantage that we have per our opponent is obviously what we just described, the physical demands of what it's taken to get here," Kennedy said. "The advantage that we have is we have a win in this tournament. We just scored 62 points in a half. We just overcame a 17-point deficit, which is the biggest since 2007 in this tournament. We've got a lot of guys feeling pretty good about themselves."

The Rebels carry a lot of momentum into Thursday, particularly on the offensive end, having shot 60 percent from the field in the second half to finish the game at 45 percent in the win over BYU. Six Rebels scored in double figures, including all three members of their big three in Stefan Moody, Jarvis Summers and LaDarius White.

Moody led the way with an Ole Miss NCAA record 26 points, including 15 in the second half. Summers posted his second career double-double with 11 points and 10 assists, compared to just one turnover. M.J. Rhett added a career-high 20 points, including 14 after halftime.

"Well, it's definitely not emotionally draining," Rhett said. "We're just going to roll off of how we played in the second half. Being that we can come back from a 17-point deficit, if we can just fix our first half performances and play better in the first half and keep our second half, because we're a second half team for the most part. So if we could just hold down our first half and come back in the second half and do what we do, we'll be fine."

PHOTOS: Ole Miss Basketball Defeats BYU

Photo Gallery

What They're Saying: Rebels Take Down BYU

March Madness reigned in Dayton, as 11th-seeded Ole Miss scored 62 second-half points to overcome a 17-point halftime deficit, rallying past 11th-seeded BYU 94-90 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Tuesday. 

The nation watched, and they reacted to largest second-half comeback since 2007. Here are some Ole Miss-BYU related links to local and national videos and stories, as well as a Tweet roundup:

VIDEO: First Four: Ole Miss stuns BYU via NCAA.com

VIDEO: Ole Miss Rebels' Kennedy, Moody on win over BYU via CBSSports.com

Ole Miss rallies from 17 down to beat BYU in superb First Four game, writes Matt Norlander from CBSSports.com

Ole Miss proves they belong in Big Dance, writes Austin Ward from ESPN.com

Ole Miss's epic comeback over BYU proves drama lives even in the First Four, writes David Gardner from Sports Illustrated

Ole Miss rallies from 17 down in second half to end BYU's season, writes Kyle Ringo from Yahoo! Sports

Ole Miss mounts comeback to down BYU in NCAA Tournament, writes Riley Blevins from The Clarion-Ledger

From brink of humiliation to sweet win, writes Hugh Kellenberger from The Clarion-Ledger

Rebels rally from huge deficit to advance, writes Parrish Alford from The Daily Journal

Rebels roar back to advance, writes Neal McCready from Rebel Grove/Rivals.com

Kennedy's credit, writes Ben Garrett from The Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com

No Quit, writes Ben Garrett from The Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com

PHOTOS: Ole Miss Basketball in Dayton

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Rebels Apply Lessons Learned in BYU Prep

Talking to members of the local media Sunday before leaving for Dayton on Monday, head coach Andy Kennedy and senior guard Jarvis Summers spoke of a familiarity with BYU, their First Four opponent, from watching the Cougars' 73-60 win at Gonzaga in their regular-season finale for both teams and their 91-75 loss to the same Bulldogs in the West Coast Conference Finals.

After a day of travel and preparation, Kennedy and his players went more in-depth on what to expect from BYU, which had won eight games in a row before that most recent loss to Gonzaga. The Cougars boast the nation's second-leading scoring offense at 83.6 points per game, led by senior guard Tyler Haws, the nation's third-leading scorer and the program's all-time leading scorer.

"It's more than him," said Kennedy of Haws to members of the media in Dayton. "He's awfully good. But it's more than him. Their style of play is such that they're going to put pressure on you really with four guys on the perimeter all night. Their pace of play is unlike any we've seen this season. They're truly committed to playing fast."

The next-highest scoring team that Ole Miss has faced this season has been Arkansas, which ranks 15th nationally averaging 78.0 points per game. 

However, when asked if BYU reminded them of any they had played, Kennedy and his players all said Vanderbilt, a team that shot 54.4 percent from the field and 13-for-23 from 3-point range in an 86-77 win over the Rebels in the regular-season finale for both teams in Oxford.

"We've used that comparison because we told them, like Vandy, if you leave them open, they're not like your teammates," Kennedy said. "They're going to make it. So in practice sometimes when we leave them open and the guys miss, we think it's good defense. No, it's not good defense; it's a bad shooter. When you play Vandy, and they're open, they're going to make it. 

"If you leave BYU open, they're going to make it. That's been proven over the course of 30-some odd games. We've got to be really locked-in understanding personnel."

As a team, BYU shoots 46.7 percent from the field and 38.8 percent from 3-point range, both of which are comparable to Vanderbilt, which shoots 47.1 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from 3-point range. 

The Cougars have four different players, including Haws, who have made 44 or more 3-point field goals and has shot 35 percent or better from behind the arc. Junior guard Chase Fischer leads the group in both 3-point field goals made (97) and 3-point field goal percentage (.411).

"We just have to work harder on running teams like that off the 3-point line," junior guard Stefan Moody said. "Just general mistakes that we made that we have to correct this time."

"We just have to man up and play defense hard and communicate and basically just be aggressive and make them score over the top of us," added Summers. "And like he said, just run them off at the 3-point line."

Observations from the Best Seat in the House -- March 15

The men's basketball received a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. The women's basketball team learns its fate Monday. The football team was off for spring break, while the spring sports are in the middle of league action. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was:

- As you know by now, Ole Miss was selected as a No. 11 seed and will play BYU, and should they win, they would play No. 6 seed Xavier in the Round of 64 on Thursday in Jacksonville, Florida. The other pairing in the four-team pod is No. 3 seed Baylor and No. 14 seed Georgia State.

- But in case you missed it, here's a Vine of the team's reaction after seeing they made the tournament (via TJ Werre)

- As Michael Thompson noted on Twitter, with an NCAA Tournament appearance in men's basketball, Ole Miss is the only school to have been to the College World Series, a New Year's Six bowl game and the NCAA Tournament in the last 10 months.

- Head coach Andy Kennedy, who had already accounted for half of the program's 20-win season, now accounts for one-fourth of the program's NCAA Tournament appearances.

- Ole Miss was the fourth-to-last team in the Field of 68, but despite their safeness relative to other teams closer to the cut line, they needed some help, and they got it throughout the conference tournament season, whether it was fellow bubble teams that lost or just one true "bid thief" that emerged.

"I have a dog, and when you clap your hands or raise your voice, the dog crazy, so needless to say, the dog was going crazy a lot on Saturday," said Kennedy of scoreboard-watching this past week.

- Historically, No. 11 seeds and First Four teams have made runs in the NCAA Tournament, none more memorable than Shaka Smart's 2011 Virginia Commonwealth team that reached the Final Four. Ole Miss has showed its capable of such a run, whether it was three top 50 RPI wins away from home, winning six games in a row or playing No. 1 overall seed and undefeated Kentucky to the wire, also away from home. I wrote more about the Rebels' capabilities and their opportunity here.

- Ole Miss is one of five SEC teams in the NCAA Tournament, the fifth-most among all conferences and the most for the conference since 2011, when the league also had five teams in the field. That relative strength of the SEC likely played an important role in getting the Rebels into the field.

- From the truth is stranger than fiction category: As a player, assistant coach and head coach for Valparaiso, Bryce Drew has participated in five NCAA Tournaments. Ole Miss has participated in four of those same five NCAA Tournaments, including the 2013 and 2015 editions.

- On first look, here are a couple of things that stand out about BYU. The Cougars rank second in the nation in scoring, averaging 83.6 points per game, the best among teams in the NCAA Tournament. BYU senior guard Tyler Haws, the school's all-time leading scorer, besting Jimmer Fredette, averages 21.9 points per game, third in the nation and second among players in the NCAA Tournament.

- Also noteworthy: In BYU's first and only other appearance in the First Four in Dayton, the Cougars completed the biggest comeback in NCAA Tournament history, defeating Iona 78-72 after trailing by 25 points in the game.

- Facing a pair of tough road series this past week, the baseball team split its midweek series at No. 8 Louisville and won one of three at No. 1 LSU over the weekend. The Rebels showed flashes of what they could be this season in the 5-3 win over the Tigers in 14 innings on Saturday night, in the SEC Network primetime slot.

- #FearTheStache was trending on Twitter at one point Saturday, as Sikes Orvis went 3-for-6 with two doubles and two RBI, the game-tying run in the ninth and the go-ahead in the 14th, later scoring an insurance run in the same half-inning. He also snagged a line drive for a game-saving double play in the 10th.

- It doesn't get any easier for Ole Miss, as the Rebels host No. 3 Florida in their first SEC home series of the season after a midweek home contest against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Wednesday. The first half of the SEC slate also includes a road series at No. 16 Arkansas and a home series against No. 5 Vanderbilt.

- The women's basketball team is expected to earn a berth in the Women's National Invitational, and if selected to host, the Rebels would play a first-round game on Thursday night. The announcement of the entire WNIT will come late on Monday night. It would be their first postseason appearance since 2009-10.

- Three Ole Miss athletes earned All-American honors at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships, highlighted by Jalen Miller's bronze-medal finish in the men's 60 meters. Phillip Young (men's triple jump) and Brooke Feldmeier (women's 800 meters) joined Miller in earning All-American honors.

- The men's tennis team split its matches this past week, dropping a 4-1 decision to No. 2 Baylor and picking up a 4-1 win over Arkansas, improving to 2-1 in SEC play. Looking ahead, the Rebels play five matches in 10 days, including a home match against No. 18 Florida and a road match at No. 9 Texas A&M.

- The women's tennis team also split its matches this past week, moving to 3-3 in SEC with a loss to Alabama and a win over Auburn. Senior Julia Jones also moved one step closer to history, picking up her 95th career win.

Rebels Land NCAA Bid, 'New Life'

It took three days of scoreboard-watching and the reveal of the first 66 teams in the field on Selection Sunday, but for the second time in three years, Ole Miss is dancing.

The fourth-to-last team in the field, based on the NCAA Tournament seed list, the Rebels were selected as a No. 11 seed in the West Regional and will play fellow No. 11 seed BYU on Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio. Should they win, they would play No. 6 seed Xavier in the Round of 64 on Thursday in Jacksonville, Florida.

"We certainly took a circuitous route to get where we wanted to be, and it was certainly not one that I would have chosen, but ultimately we arrived at our destination," head coach Andy Kennedy said.

"I was surprised to see our name pop up there," senior guard Jarvis Summers said. "I felt like we could have had a better season, but we're thankful and blessed it worked out for us. We have to make something of it now." 

To that point, talking to long-time assistant coach Bill Armstrong, Kennedy said he was not sure there has ever been a team with an NCAA Tournament quite like theirs, having won 20 games in the regular season but having lost seven home games.

"Sometimes it's not so much what you do; it's what the people that you're competing against do," Kennedy said. "I feel like we have had teams that have had equally as strong resumes, but maybe the field was a little stronger, and we got pushed out. 

"This year, we certainly did not close as strongly as I would have hoped, but they talk about looking at your collective body of work. Oregon, having that late run, most especially getting to the conference tournament finals, helped us. The year that Cincinnati had helped us. Winning 11 games away from home helped us."

Teams that have been selected as a No. 11 seed have had some success in the NCAA Tournament, as have teams that have played in the NCAA First Four. Most notably, Virginia Commonwealth reached the Final Four as a No. 11 seed that played in the First Four in 2011. 

Last year, Dayton made a run to the Elite Eight as a No. 11 seed, while fellow No. 11 seed Tennessee, which also played in the First Four, won three games in a row to get to the Sweet 16. 

Two years ago, No. 13 seed La Salle also advanced to the Sweet 16, defeating Ole Miss in the Round of 32.

Ole Miss, Kennedy believes, has shown itself capable of making a run, and it's because of the body of work that was enough to get the Rebels into the Field of 68.

"We have had a formula by which we have shown ourselves to be very capable," Kennedy said. "We have won at Oregon, the only team other than Arizona to have done so. We have won and convincingly at Arkansas. Those are two good basketball teams. We played Kentucky to the wire. We have shown we're certainly capable. We have to stick to that formula."

A big part of that formula? Shooting at a 40 percent rate or higher, and it start with the big three of Stefan Moody, Summers and LaDarius White. The Rebels are 18-4 when they 40 percent or higher from the field, with one of those four losses coming at Dayton in UD Arena, where they will play BYU on Tuesday night.

"Moody has to make shots on Tuesday night," Kennedy said. "Jarvis has to make shots on Tuesday night. Snoop has to make shots on Tuesday night. Collectively, we have to finish around the rim on Tuesday. We have to rebound the ball. We are who we are, just like everybody in the tournament at this point. I'm happy for these guys that they stayed the course."

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 Look for Encore Performance in Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Ole Miss returns to Nashville, the site of its 2013 SEC Tournament title, in much the similar position, perhaps in a more favorable position as it relates to an NCAA Tournament at-large bid.

Despite the loss to Vanderbilt in the regular-season finale, Ole Miss remains a team projected in the field, as a No. 10 seed in ESPN's Joe Lunardi's bracket, and as one of the last four teams in the field in CBS Sports' Jerry Palm's and USA Today's Shelby Mast's brackets.

At this time of year, it's easy to get caught up in all the numbers and bracket projections, but head coach Andy Kennedy and his team are focused on what they can control, which is their opponent-to-be in Thursday night's second-round game against No. 11 seed South Carolina.

"We have a veteran group," Kennedy said. "They have been through these conversations many times. My hope is that they will just focus on what the thing they can control and that's playing well Thursday night. We have a lot of good memories in this building, so hopefully we can conjure some of those back."

Seniors Jarvis Summers and LaDarius White played key roles on the 2012-13 team that made a run to the SEC Tournament title and an NCAA Tournament bid. 

Summers was the starting point guard, only to have his SEC Tournament run cut short due to a concussion he suffered in the quarterfinal against Missouri. When Summers went down, White stepped into the point guard role, starting both the semifinal against Vanderbilt and the final against Florida.

"We're really just taking it one game at a time," Summers said. "We don't really focused on the bubble or the tournament at all. We still have to play the SEC tournament. For me, I'm just trying to maximize the games and enjoy it while I can."

"I haven't been reading anything about the first four out or the last four in," White said. "My concern hasn't been on that. We're just taking it one game at a time."

Ole Miss has not only has its run in 2013 to draw from entering this year's tournament, but it also has its success away from Tad Smith Coliseum earlier this season. The Rebels have three RPI top 50 wins -- No. 22 Arkansas, No. 29 Oregon and No. 34 Cincinnati -- and they all came away from Tad Smith Coliseum

Their 11 wins away from home are the most since that same 2012-13 season, when they picked up 12 wins away from home, including three wins at the SEC Tournament. 

"We're very confident away from home," White said. "Very confident. That's where we play our best ball, I think. It's weird. I mean, I don't know. I can't explain that."

One possible explanation? They shoot the ball better away from Tad Smith Coliseum.

Ole Miss averages 75.1 points per game and shoots 46.5 percent from the floor and 38.5 percent from 3-point range in road and neutral-site games, compared to 71.2 points per game, 39.8 percent shooting from the floor and 30.3 percent 3-point shooting in home games.

"Maybe you do put more pressure on yourself at home," Kennedy said. "I think they'll come in here and play loose and free. I just hope we can make some shots."

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."

VIDEO: Mississippi Graduates, The First of Their Names

Rebels Look to Add to NCAA Tournament Case

The numbers and bracket projections may not be in his favor at this point, but head women's basketball coach Matt Insell is selling the NCAA Tournament selection committee on his team passing the eye test, as Ole Miss enters its regular-season finale on the road at intrastate rival Mississippi State.

Ole Miss has won three in a row for the second time in Southeastern Conference play this season, highlighted by a win over No. 13 Kentucky this past Monday, but the Rebels have only seen a moderate bump in their RPI, up to No. 96 in the latest rankings released by the NCAA.

In the latest bracket projection from ESPN's Charlie Creme, released on Monday, not including Thursday's SEC games, the league had seven teams in the field, with Georgia as one of the "Next Four Out" and Ole Miss not among the teams considered.

"We're sitting here at 17-11 and 7-8 (in SEC play), and I'm looking at these bracketology things, and this is an NCAA Tournament team," Insell said. "The problem here is our RPI is not very high. I hope the selection committee, as they look at it, they will watch the eye test of Ole Miss. 

"You look at Arkansas and Ole Miss, and the bracketologists say Arkansas is in as a 10-seed, and we beat them beat them by 14 points at our place in the head-to-head contest, and we're going to end up with basically the same record."

Ole Miss enter Sunday's matchup at Mississippi State, ranked No. 27 in the RPI, with a 5-11 record against the RPI Top 100, including a 2-7 mark against the RPI top 50, with wins over Kentucky (No. 12) and Arkansas (No. 45).

One of the marks against the Rebels' resume, along with their RPI, however, is their nonconference schedule. The slate included three RPI top 100 opponents, two in the RPI top 58, but it also included nine RPI sub-200 opponents. They won all nine of those games, but playing the games themselves work against their overall resume.

"I have never seen an 8-8 team not get in, but what they'll come back and say our RPI and our out-of-conference schedule wasn't the greatest," Insell said. "We had a young team with eight newcomers. If we would have gone out and played one of the best schedules in the country, we wouldn't be sitting here because we would have killed their confidence before we even got going."

With a win at Mississippi State, Ole Miss would not only add a resume win, a win that would be the Rebels' best road win of the season, but it would also lock them into the No. 7 seed at next week's SEC Tournament in Little Rock, Arkansas, where they might still need to pick up a win, maybe two, to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

"We need to get to 8-8 and we need to win one in the SEC Tournament," Insell said. "If we do that, I think there's no chance we're not in. If we slip up and don't do that, you put in the committee's hands. This team is fighting to get in the tournament."

Kennedy, Rebels Look to Flush LSU Loss

BATON ROUGE, La. -- With an opportunity to perhaps lock itself into the NCAA Tournament, or at the very least enhance its resume, Ole Miss lost back-to-back games for the first time all season, falling on the road at LSU on Saturday afternoon after dropping a home contest against Georgia on Wednesday night.

The Rebels used a 12-0 run to take a 26-15 lead with 5:57 left in the first half. The Tigers cut the lead to 27-23 going into halftime and opened the second half on a 13-2 run to take a 36-29 lead with 15:14 left. 

Ole Miss got to within four on three separate occasions, but they were unable to string enough plays together on both ends of the court to get any closer the rest of the way in a 73-63 loss in Baton Rouge.

"We knew coming in, from a length and talent standpoint, that if this game was pretty, it was not going to be good for the Rebels," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "We needed to make it ugly and dirty it up. In the first half, we did a good job of that, keeping them off-balance and not letting them for us with second-chance points, but the margin shouldn't have been four. We should have been up eight, nine, 10, 11, but we didn't close the half very well."

"In the second half, when you have opportunities on the road, you better take advantage of them. We didn't; they did."

Stefan Moody led the Rebels with 15 points, but he was just 3-for-17 from the field and 1-for-7 from 3-point range. Along with Jarvis Summers and LaDarius White, the Ole Miss big three combined for just 25 points on 7-for-29 shooting.

"We have been in a lot of close games," Kennedy said. "Tonight notwithstanding, we have been very competitive in almost every game, a possession here or possession there, and it's really been the timeliness of Stefan Moody. It's not as if Jarvis and Snoop don't have their moments, but we have struggled in a number of regards with manufacturing offense."

Entering Saturday, Ole Miss was 17-3 in games in which it shot 40 percent of better from the field, with the only losses coming to Dayton, Kentucky and Georgia, all road games, and three games decided by a combined 12 points.

The Rebels did not reach that benchmark, as they shot 38.3 percent from the field, including 4-for-14 from 3-point range, and 13-for-21 from the free throw line, and they committed 17 turnovers, their most in a game since committing 18 in a road win at Arkansas on Jan. 17.

"Why is that?," said Kennedy, referring to the benchmark. "It's because we make free throws at a high rate and we don't turn it over. Today, we shoot under 40 percent, we didn't make three throws, and we turned it over."

Ole Miss, now 19-10 overall and 10-6 entered Saturday as the No. 3 seed in the SEC Tournament and a No. 8 or No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and with the loss to LSU, they fall to the No. 6 seed in the SEC Tournament and will likely see a fall in their seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The last two losses, notwithstanding, Ole Miss remains 8-7 against the RPI top 100, including a 3-5 mark against the RPI top 50, with wins over No. 20 Arkansas, No. 31 Texas A&M and No. 39 Oregon. 

When the new bracket projections come out, the Rebels will likely see their name in the field, although closer to the close line, going into their final two regular-season games on the road at Alabama on Tuesday and then back home against Vanderbilt next Saturday. 

"They're disappointed," Kennedy said. "It's the first time all year we have lost games in a row. They're disappointed. It took me a little bit longer (in the locker room) because now I'm playing psychologist, and the reality is we didn't play well today. We lost against a good LSU team. We have to flush it. We have a Tuesday swing and we have to get ready and close strong in Week 9 (of SEC play)."

QUOTABLE: "You have to be honest, but at the same time, there's not going to be a drill we can do tomorrow to change some of the things we do. We are who we are. Guys who are struggling know they're struggling. I'm a big believer in owning it. Let's own it and let's try to figure out how to fix it. I have played this game and I have coached this game now for number of years. You fix it by seeing the ball go in the basket. You don't allow the negative to weight you down. Your self-talk has to positive. It's easier said than done, when things aren't going well, and you have to man up and close strong. That's what we're going to do." - Andy Kennedy

Rebels Ready for Rematch with Georgia

If recent history is any indication, Ole Miss and Georgia are likely to go down to the wire on Wednesday night.

Four of the last five meetings over the last three seasons have been decided by five points or less, with Georgia winning the last three meetings, including a 69-64 win on Jan. 20 in Athens. 

In their first meeting, junior guard Stefan Moody, the reigning SEC Player of the Week, led all scorers with 26 points on 7-for-16 shooting and a 10-for-10 mark at the free-throw line, but Georgia held the rest of the team to single-digit scoring.

Since their first meeting, the Rebels have won eight of nine, including a six-game winning streak, and head coach Andy Kennedy hopes to see a different, evolved version of his team in their second meeting.

"In preparation for the game, I watched it, and it wasn't easy to watch because we made a lot of miscues," Kennedy said. "I hope we have evolved since that game."

"I feel like we're a different team as far as the way we handle things and how we just go at it coming down the stretch," Moody said. "I guess we're a much better closing team, I would say."

Georgia, on the other hand, has gone 5-4, with a road win at Texas A&M, an NCAA Tournament bubble team, as well as a pair of losses to South Carolina and a home loss to Auburn, both of which are tied for 12th place in the Southeastern Conference standings.

All five Georgia probable starters average in double figures, a veteran group that includes two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore. In league games, the Bulldogs rank second in the SEC in defensive rebounding percentage (.719) and third in rebounding margin (+4.1/game).

"Georgia is the same Georgia in that they really don't have any weaknesses," Kennedy said. "They're a solid team. (Georgia coach) Mark (Fox), unfortunately, has had to deal with some injuries. They've had a number of guys who have had concussions and guys have missed a game here and missed a game there. 

"They had one really bad week where they dropped a couple of home games and in this league, and we certainly have experienced it, if you don't play well you're going to get beat. But they're a very good team who has had our number. We have to make sure we play well Wednesday to give ourselves a chance."

For Ole Miss, Moody, the league's fifth-leading scorer (16.4 ppg), has averaged 20.3 points over his last seven games, including 25.5 ppg in leading the Rebels to wins at Mississippi State and against Tennessee this past week. He went 15-for-30 from the field, including 14-for-23 from 3-point range.

Senior guard Jarvis Summers also finished in double figures for the second time in seven games, scoring 13 points and dishing out eight assists in the win over Tennessee. The other member of the "Big Three," senior guard LaDarius White, has been held to single-digit scoring in each of the last three games since scoring a combined 36 points in road wins at Auburn and Florida.

"I think it's all confidence, honestly," Kennedy said. "He needs to see the ball go in a little bit. I thought it was very promising to see Jarvis back and playing with the pop that I like to see. He still missed some shots, but I thought he was more assertive offensively, and we need Snoop doing that as well. I think shots come, shots go, but I just want him playing in the offense. He looks a little tentative to me and the reason being he's not making shots."

And in weather-related news, here is the latest:

VIDEO: The Pavilion Time Lapse

Rebels Look to Complete Thursday-Saturday Sweep

For the second time in as many weeks, Ole Miss embarks on a Thursday-Saturday swing, returning home to host Tennessee on Saturday after a 71-65 win on Thursday at Mississippi State.

During the previous week, Ole Miss was on the right side of a one-point game in a 62-61 win at Florida on Thursday and on the wrong side of a one-point game in a 71-70 loss to Arkansas on Saturday.

"It was a little bit different because we had played Arkansas before," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "We haven't played Tennessee, and they play an unusual style with that matchup zone."

Junior guard Stefan Moody scored a career-high 29 points and knocked down a career-high eight 3-pointers in the win over Mississippi State. He has averaged 20.0 points over his last six games, upping his season average to a team-leading 16.2 points per game, which ranks fourth in the SEC.

Senior guard Terence Smith has also emerged as a key piece for the Rebels, picking up some of the slack at the point guard position. He finished with eight points and five assists in 17 minutes off the bench in the win over the Bulldogs. He was 2-for-4 from 3-point range and assisted on each of Moody's three 3-pointers in a 1:22 stretch late in the game.

"He was really good for us with his decision-making," Kennedy said. "He made a couple of huge shots in the first half, which kept us afloat when we struggling in other areas... Terence Smith has been very valuable for us."

With the win over Mississippi State, Ole Miss jumped up five spots to No. 33 in the latest RPI rankings released by the NCAA and remains a team projected to be solidly in the field as a No. 9 seed in the latest bracket projections by CBS Sports, ESPN and USA Today.

Ole Miss is 7-5 against the RPI top 100, and Tennessee, ranked No. 82 entering Saturday's game, presents another opportunity for the Rebels to continue to enhance their resume and move one step closer to a return trip to the NCAA Tournament.

"I was excited at the end (of the game Thursday), simply because I didn't think we played well and I was proud of my guys for winning a hard road game when you don't play well," Kennedy said. "We've won four straight on the road, and it's probably the first time in those four I didn't feel like we played well. For us to win under those circumstances, it's something positive we can build on."

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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

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