Andy Kennedy's Ole Miss Rebels need not worry, despite dropping four of their last five basketball games. Seriously.
Let me explain.
Prior to a January 29 tilt with Kentucky, the Ole Miss Rebels were off to their best start in school history (17-2, 7-0 SEC). Things couldn't have looked brighter for Andy Kennedy's club, ranked as high as No. 16 nationally prior to taking on the Wildcats.
Then, things began to unravel a bit in Oxford.
Beginning with a 87-74 home loss to Kentucky (17-7, 8-3 SEC), the Rebels have now lost four of their last five: 78-64 at Florida (20-3, 10-1 SEC), 98-79 at Missouri (18-6, 7-4 SEC) and 69-67 at Texas A&M (15-9, 5-6 SEC). The lone victory in the past five outings came at home against a much-maligned Mississippi State team, 93-75.
As of Valentine's Day, the Rebels certainly weren't feeling much love (18-6, 7-4 SEC).
However, the Marshall Henderson-led Rebels don't need Cupid to shoot any arrows their way.
Ole Miss is going to be just fine, actually they're going to be better than fine.
Saturday, February 16, the Georgia Bulldogs (12-12, 6-5 SEC) travel to Oxford.
After playing Georgia, Ole Miss' remaining schedule shakes out like this:
@ South Carolina (12-11, 2-8 SEC)
Auburn at home (9-15, 3-8 SEC)
Texas A&M at home (15-9, 5-6 SEC)
@ Mississippi State (7-16, 2-9 SEC)
Alabama at home (16-8, 8-3 SEC)
@ LSU (13-8, 4-6 SEC)
Assuming they have no trouble with Georgia, the Rebels should be 19-6 overall and 8-4 in the conference with only six games remaining in the regular season.
As of February 14, Alabama is the only remaining opponent with a winning conference record.
Honestly, the worst Ole Miss should fare is 4-2 over their final six games, although a 5-1 finish is entirely possible. A 4-2 finale after the Georgia game would leave the Rebels with a 23-7 (12-6 SEC) regular season record, one which should easily secure Andy Kennedy with his first trip to the big dance at Ole Miss.
Currently tied for fourth in the conference standings with Missouri, it's paramount that Ole Miss finds a way to finish the regular season as one of the top four teams in the conference.
Finishing among the top four in conference play is important because it would assure them of a bye all the way to the quarterfinals of the SEC basketball tournament. More importantly, it would mean the Rebels would only have to win two games for an appearance in the conference championship game.
The combined record of the four conference teams—which Ole Miss lost to—currently sits at 70-25, as opposed to a 72-75 overall record of the six teams the Rebels will play after Georgia. That's a big difference.
Florida will be the eventual one-seed in the conference tournament, essentially leaving Alabama, Kentucky (now minus Nerlens Noel), Ole Miss and Missouri with the best shots to land the final three first and second round byes during the conference tournament.
While the remaining regular season competition shouldn't be too tough, Andy Kennedy does need to pull his team together as a unit because stiff competition awaits the Rebels come postseason play.
Simply put, the Ole Miss Rebels are in absolute control of their postseason destiny.
The big question is how strong will they finish?
We'll know after their March 9 finale in Baton Rouge.
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