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."
Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
March 10-16, 2015
- Ole Miss returns to the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time in school history and has an all-time record of 4-7 in the Big Dance.
- The Rebels are making their second appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the last three seasons under head coach Andy Kennedy, who is making is his ninth trip as a player and coach.
- 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.
- Ole Miss ranks third in the nation in free throw percentage, hitting 77.8 percent of its attempts. The Rebels have hit 387 of their last 492 (.787) attempts from the line. Junior G Stefan Moody leads the SEC and ranks eighth in the nation shooting 90.1 percent from the free throw line.
- Head coach Andy Kennedy recently passed Alabama's Wimp Sanderson for the third-most wins in SEC history with by a coach in his first nine years in the league at one school with 191. He trails only Kentucky's Joe B. Hall (205) and Florida's Billy Donovan (193).
- Junior G Stefan Moody earned All-SEC first team honors from the league coaches after leading the SEC in scoring at conference games at 18.6 ppg. Moody also lead the league in steals averaging 2.0/game.
- Senior G Jarvis Summers led the league in assists in SEC play at 5.3/game and has posted 88 assists in his last 16 games. Summers is the SEC active career leader in points (1,618), assists (513), minutes (3,823) and wins (83), and is just the fourth player in SEC history with 1,600 career points and 500 career assists.
- Ole Miss finished a five-game week on the road with a 2-3 mark, splitting a series with No. 8 Louisville before dropping the opening series of SEC play to No. 1 LSU.
- Senior Sikes Orvis led the Rebels in nearly every statistical category this week, and led Ole Miss to a thrilling 14-inning victory over No. 1 LSU Saturday night. Orvis drove in the game-tying RBI in the top of the 9th before doubling in the game-winning run in the 14th.
- He also snagged a line drive in the bottom of the 10th and caught the go-ahead run off of third for a game-saving double play.
- In the series finale, Orvis hit a towering three-run home run that went an estimated 431 feet, his fourth of the season.
- Will Stokes picked up two saves against top 10 teams during the week. The right-hander pitched a season-high five innings, allowing just one run on two hits to go along with a career-high four strikeouts, to collect the save against No. 8 Louisville.
- Stokes entered the game vs. No. 1 LSU in a pressure-packed situation on national television. In the bottom of the 14th, the Rebels held a two-run lead, but LSU had the tying run on base and the winning run at the plate with one out. However, Stokes was able to bear down and get a key strikeout before forcing a flyout to left field to end the thrilling ballgame.
Track & Field
- Jalen Miller earned a bronze medal in the men's 60 meters to lead the way for Ole Miss at the 2015 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships this past weekend in Fayetteville, Arkansas. On the weekend, Ole Miss athletes broke two school records and scored team points in three different events.
- Three Rebels garnered first team All-America status from the USTFCCCA by placing top eight in their events and scoring team points.
- Miller finished third in the 60-meter final with a time of 6.57 one day after he was the top qualifier in a school-record 6.54. It was the first defeat of the season for Miller in the 60, but he has now run 6.60 or better an NCAA-best 10 times (in 11 races).
- Phillip Young had a career day in the triple jump, posting an indoor personal-best 53-4.5 to finish eighth. With that jump, he moved into the No. 2 spot in the Ole Miss indoor record books.
- Freshman Brooke Feldmeier scored a point with an eighth-place finish in the women's 800 meters in 2:05.80. The Olympia, Washington, native capped a phenomenal rookie season by being one of only 13 freshmen women to place top eight at the NCAA indoor meet. Her time of 2:04.30 in the semifinals broke her own school record that she set in a runner-up finish at the SEC meet.
- Ole Miss tied for 28th in the men's team standings, just one point shy of a top-25 finish. The women tied for 52nd.
- The No. 13 Rebels split a pair of matches last week, losing to No. 2 Baylor in a close 4-1 match and then defeating Arkansas 4-1 to improve to 10-4 overall and 2-1 in the SEC.
- Senior Nik Scholtz picked up a big win against Baylor, knocking off the No. 4 ranked player in the nation, Julian Lenz, in straight sets.
- The Rebels won their 28th straight against Arkansas.
- Stefan Lindmark won his 15th match of the year and remained undefeated in the SEC at 3-0.
- The No. 16 Rebels split their matches this past weekend, falling to No. 6 Alabama in a close match and then edging No. 31 Auburn 4-3 to improve to 11-4 overall, 3-3 in the SEC.
- Sophomore Zalina Khairudinova clinched the win over Auburn, as the Rebels improved to 27-15 against the Tigers all-time. She is now 6-0 at No. 6 singles and 2-0 in SEC matches.
- Senior Julia Jones earned her 95th career win, beating 74th-ranked Pleun Burgmans of Auburn in straight sets. Jones improved to 22-6 overall and 12-3 at No. 1 singles.
- Junior Mai El Kamash put the Rebels on the board after they had dropped the doubles point, with a straight set win at No. 4 singles. It marked her 20th win of the year.
- In its third spring tournament, The Ole Miss men's golf finished in a tie for fifth place with a score of 881 (294-302-285). The Rebels, who began third and final round in 10th place, fired the second-lowest team score with a 3-under par 285.
- The Rebels also posted the second-lowest team score with a 6-over par 294 in first round action, led by junior Forrest Gamble and sophomore Ben Wolcott who each shot a team-best 1-over par 73.
- Senior Blake Morris finished in 18th place with a three-round score of 217. Morris carded four-straight birdies on the back nine to finish with a 3-under par 69 in the final round. Gamble and Wolcott finished in a tie for 22nd place with a three-round score of 219.
- In its second spring tournament, the Ole Miss women's golf team finished 14th with a score of 954 (318-319-317 --954). Alison Hovatter closed in 44th in the individual standings with a three-day score of 234. Ole Miss individuals also played well Stani Schiavone and Madisen Bentley finishing tied for 18th with 54-hole scores of 228.
- Kaitlin Voll, also playing as an individual, posted a career-low in the second round, firing an even par 72. Her round of 72 was one of two even par rounds on the weekend for Ole Miss as Stani Schiavone carded a 72 in the second round.
- Stani Schiavone received news that she earned the Taylor Medal - the highest academic honor one can receive at Ole Miss. She is the second Ole Miss women's golfer to earn the award in the last three years, joining former teammate Kathryn Fowler as women's golfers to receive the award. Less than one percent of Ole Miss' student population receives the prestigious honor.
- Sophomore Alison Weisz competed in the NCAA Championships in smallbore and shot a 569.This marked the second year in a row for Weisz to compete in the NCAA Championships. She qualified in air rifle as a freshman in 2014.
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.
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."
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."
Ole Miss saw its stay in Nashville to come to an end in heartbreaking fashion, falling in the final moments to South Carolina 60-58 in the second round of the SEC Tournament Thursday. The Rebels, now 20-12 and ranked No. 55 in the latest NCAA RPI, will be scoreboard-watching, as they await to learn their postseason fate on Selection Sunday.
"We have now taken destiny out of our own hands, and so now we just have to wait and see what the other teams that are in the equation have done," head coach Andy Kennedy said.
Despite the loss to South Carolina, ESPN's Joe Lunardi, CBS Sports' Jerry Palm and USA Today's Shelby Mast all have Ole Miss among their last four teams in the NCAA Tournament field, which would mean a date in Dayton for the NCAA First Four for an opportunity to play their way into the Field of 64.
Another bracketologist, Syracuse.com's Patrick Stevens, has the Rebels as his last team with an NCAA Tournament bye, placing them safely in the Field of 64 and avoiding Dayton.
South Carolina head coach Frank Martin, who has now played Ole Miss twice this season, shared their opinion, when asked if the Rebels are an NCAA Tournament team in his opinion.
"Our league is really, really good," Martin said. "Ole Miss better be in that tournament, and not only be in it, they better be in it with a good seed. I understand if you look at our record, you're probably going to sit there and say, Well, look at our body of work. We're a pretty good basketball team. And it's not like us beating them is any different than what happens in every other conference in America."
Members of the 2012-13 team that last made the NCAA Tournament, seniors Jarvis Summers and LaDarius White were less certainty, showing true honesty and candidness in their answers, when asked about if they had done enough to get into the NCAA Tournament.
"Honestly, I really can't say," said Summers, who completed a four-point play to briefly give the Rebels a 58-57 lead with 3.3 seconds left. "I really feel like we haven't because we haven't just, you know, played good this year, and it starts with me. I have had an up-and-down season and I just really put all this on me because on I'm the senior leader and I just didn't get it done."
"I really don't feel like we done enough, but if we do make it, I feel like we backed our way in," added White, who led the Rebels with 17 points.
As Stevens noted on Twitter, 76 Division I games remain between now and the bracket announcement on Sunday, some of which include fellow bubble teams and potential bid thieves, all of whom may have an impact on Ole Miss' precarious position on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
"The Rebels are now right on top of the cut line," wrote ESPN's Eamonn Brennan in his latest Bubble Watch. "Their road wins at Oregon and Arkansas remain impressive, and a neutral-court win over Cincinnati doesn't hurt. But this late slide has only magnified the bad losses on the other side of the nitty-gritty sheet, and ceded some uncertainty on what used to be very solid ground."
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."
The men's basketball team returns to the site of its 2013 SEC Tournament title, looking to punch its ticket to the NCAA Tournament. The women's basketball team awaits its postseason fate, the baseball team hits the road for its longest road trip of the season, during which they will play two top-15 teams, and the football team opened spring practice. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was:
- The Ole Miss men's basketball team split its final week of the regular season, finishing with a 20-11 overall and 11-7 SEC record, tied for third place in the league standings. However, by virtue of a tiebreaker, the Rebels will be the No. 6 seed in the Nashville, where they await the winner of No. 11 seed South Carolina and No. 14 Missouri in the nightcap of Thursday's second-round games.
- With the win over Alabama on Tuesday night, Ole Miss picked up its 20th win of the season, the seventh 20-win season in nine seasons under head coach Andy Kennedy. The Rebels recorded just seven 20-win season in the 96 seasons before Kennedy's arrival.
- Against Vanderbilt, Ole Miss shot over 40 percent and committed just six turnover, but they were unable to overcome a hot shooting night from the Commodores. As a team, Vanderbilt shot 54.5 percent from the field and went 13-for-23 from 3-point range, tying its season high for 3-point field goals made.
"They put on a clinic," Kennedy said. "They've been shooting the ball well. They're as good a shooting team as we've faced maybe in the nine years here. Basketball is a game of rhythm. You have to disrupt theirs and establish yours. We didn't tonight. We were a step slow. We've been a step slow all year, and I've had to create defenses. We were moving slow, and they were making shots. We didn't have any answers."
- Looking ahead, Ole Miss returns to Nashville, the site of its 2013 SEC Tournament title, and faces the same path this week, but with an additional second-round game against the winner of the South Carolina and Missouri matchup. Georgia awaits in a possible quarterfinal matchup, a team Ole Miss played in last year's quarterfinals.
- As far as the NCAA Tournament, despite the loss to Vanderbilt, 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. Here's more from Palm, who had the Rebels among his teams "on the fence" in his latest Bubble Watch.
- Earlier in the week, after the win over Alabama, ESPN's Eamonn Brennan considered the Rebels a lock in his latest Bubble Watch, but after the loss to Vanderbilt, he rescinded that. Here's more from Brennan.
"I don't know what has transpired around the country, but our name has not been mentioned one time in any bubble conversation," Kennedy said. "It probably will now. We've probably put ourselves in a precarious situation where we need to look at what other people do."
- One of my favorite sports data and analytics sites, Team Rankings, projects Ole Miss as a No. 12 seed and gives the Rebels a 55 percent chance of making the NCAA Tournament. With one win in Nashville, Team Rankings gives them a 51.3 percent chance, and with two wins, it jumps up to 77.0 percent.
- Bid thieves shrink the NCAA Tournament bubble. And as Brennan noted in his latest Bubble Watch, they are most likely to come from high-major leagues this season. Bubble teams breathed a collective sigh of relief when Northern Iowa won the Missouri Valley Conference on Sunday, making it a two-bid league instead of a three-bid league. On a similar note, bubble teams would also probably like to see Gonzaga win the West Coast Conference automatic bid.
- After a strong end to the regular season, the Ole Miss women's basketball team fell short in a 72-61 loss to Arkansas in the second round of the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament. The Rebels, now 17-13 and likely Postseason WNIT bound, will learn their postseason fate on Monday, March 16. It would be their first postseason appearance since 2009-10.
- Here's a couple of great stories related to the Ole Miss pep band, which stepped in as a replacement to act as Kentucky's band, which was unable to make the trip to Little Rock for the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament due to inclement weather. For our story, click here. For the stories from The Clarion-Ledger and The Lexington Herald-Leader, click here and here.
- The Ole Miss baseball team claimed its third weekend series of the season, sweeping Saturday's doubleheader before dropping Sunday's series finale. The Rebels, now 8-6, face a pair of tough road series this week, a two-game midweek series at No. 11 Louisville, and a three-game weekend series at No. 2 LSU.
- The star of Saturday's doubleheader sweep was sophomore right-hander Brady Bramlett, who struck out a career-high 12 batters, joining some elite company in the process. His 12 strikeouts were four shy of tying the school record, the most in a game by an Ole Miss pitcher since Drew Pomeranz struck out 15 in a win over Georgia on April 9, 2010. It was also Bramlett's second digit strikeout game of the season, becoming the first Rebel to record multiple double-digit strikeouts games since Pomeranz, also in 2010.
"He's always fired up and ready to go," said junior left-hander Christian Trent of Bramlett. "I thought he was going to get the record two weeks ago. I thought he was going to get the record today. He was on pace for 27, but 12 is still impressive. I'm sure he will take 12."
- The No. 17-ranked Ole Miss women's tennis team swept the weekend, not dropping one singles or doubles match in 7-0 wins over Arkansas and Missouri. With the weekend sweep, the Rebels improved to 10-3 overall and 2-2 in the SEC. Senior Julia Jones, ranked No. 14 in the nation, won both of her singles matches, improving to 21-5 overall and 11-2 at No. 1 singles this season and picking up her 93rd and 94th career wins.
- The No. 9-ranked Ole Miss men's team dropped a 4-2 decision at Alabama, their first outdoor match in more than a month. Their other weekend match, a road contest at rival Mississippi State, was postponed and will be rescheduled for a later day. Next up is a marquee nonconference home match against No. 5 Baylor on Tuesday.
- The Ole Miss football team began spring practice Tuesday. Here Some storylines to follow, as the Rebels get into the heart of spring practice after Spring Break: The three-way quarterback battle, some position changes on defense and the return of Laquon Treadwell and Denzel Nkemdiche from injury. Check out some notes and quotes already on the blog and stay tuned to more coverage.
- NFL hopefuls Cody Prewitt, a projected second-round pick by CBSSports.com, and Senquez Golson, a projected fourth-round pick, continue to impress in pre-draft workouts, most recently at Ole Miss' Pro Day on Thursday. Three other hopefuls, Deterrian Shackelford, Carlos Thompson and Deterrian Shackelford also made some impressions. For more, check out my recap of Pro Day.
- Ole Miss played a couple of tribute videos before Saturday's home men's basketball game against Vanderbilt. Here's one to Tad Smith Coliseum, and here's another to graduating seniors Jarvis Summers and LaDarius White, two Mississippi natives and the first members of their respective immediate families to graduate from college.
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."