INSIDER: Kennedy's Rebels Eye Return To Postseason

By Joey Jones

Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations

 

It’s been six years since Ole Miss made an appearance in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, but second-year head coach Andy Kennedy has directed the Rebels back into the national spotlight with consecutive 20-win seasons and on the verge of an invite to this year’s “Big Dance.”

 

Kennedy, a homegrown hoops prodigy out of Louisville, Miss., is in fact the only coach in the 98-year history of Ole Miss Basketball to guide his teams to back-to-back 20-win seasons in his first two years at the helm. With a 21-9 record to follow up last year’s 21-13 ledger, Kennedy owns the school record with 42 wins in his first two seasons. Not a bad record for the second-youngest head coach in the SEC who turns 40 on Thursday.

 

Entering the SEC Tournament and a first-round game with Georgia, many national experts place the Rebels among several schools “On the Bubble” for selection into this year’s NCAA Tourney. And after being picked in the preseason to finish at the bottom of the SEC Western Division, Ole Miss has put together an impressive rsum in 2007-08.

 

Consider these accomplishments and statistics:

(All RPI information taken from RealTimeRPI.com)

 

                     No. 42 RPI

                     No. 8 Non-league RPI

                     21-9 overall record (best win percentage since 2000-01 Sweet Sixteen team)

                     5-3 record vs. RPI top 50

                     7-4 record vs. RPI top 62

                     7-7 in Road/Neutral games

                     Ranked in top 25 for 6 weeks

                     Senior captain Jermey Parnell missed 5 SEC games with ankle injury during mid-season slide

                     9 wins vs. potential tourney teams (Vanderbilt, Clemson, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Florida, South Alabama, Winthrop (Big South Champs), New Mexico, Lamar)

 

Among 27 teams listed as “On the Bubble” by ESPN.com and CBS Sportsline, Ole Miss is the only “bubble” team with a winning record against RPI top 50 squads. The Rebels own the third-highest non-conference RPI among those teams and the eighth-highest overall RPI.

 

Ole Miss compares favorably with other “bubble” teams and could be in position to make the program’s seventh trip to the “Big Dance.”

 

Says The Sporting News senior writer Mike DeCourcy, “Ole Miss ... is so clearly an NCAA Tournament team it'd be laughable if the Rebels didn't make it.”

 

A strong SEC Tournament showing wouldn’t hurt matters, as Ole Miss is jockeying for position with fellow SEC hopefuls Arkansas, Florida and Kentucky. And a first-round victory over UGA in the Georgia Dome on Thursday wouldn’t be such a bad 40th birthday present for the young coach leading the Rebel charge, either.


 

 

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