Ole Miss Hopes To Make Some Positive Tournament History

March 13, 2001

By RALPH D. RUSSO
AP Sports Writer

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi center Rahim Lockhart is preparing for the NCAA tournament knowing his next college basketball game could be his last.

The senior hopes to instill the same sense of urgency in his younger teammates.

"Playing in the NCAA tournament is a special privilege," Lockhart said Monday. "They have to know that you have to leave everything out on the floor when you play in this tournament. You don't want to walk off the floor knowing that you could have given more."

After a one-year hiatus, the Rebels are back in the NCAA tournament. As the third seed in the Midwest, Ole Miss (25-7) will play No. 14 Iona on Friday night at Kemper Arena in Kansas City. Mo.

As far as tournament history goes, Ole Miss has few fond memories.

The Rebels are appearing in just their fifth NCAAs, and only once have they advanced past the first round.

Being ousted from the 1997 tournament by upstart Valparaiso on Bryce Drew's buzzer-beating 3-pointer is, unfortunately for the Rebels, Mississippi's NCAA claim to fame.

The Rebels are 1-4 in NCAA tournament play, with the only victory coming in 1998, when Mississippi was making its third straight NCAA appearance under then-rookie coach Rod Barnes.

Barnes had taken over for Rob Evans, who helped rejuvenate a program that was an afterthought on its own campus following years of losing.

When Evans bolted for Arizona State after the 1997 season, Barnes, Evans' assistant and a former Ole Miss point guard, was promoted.

After slipping to last in the SEC West and settling for an NIT bid last season, Barnes' Rebels have been one of the nation's biggest surprises in 2001.

Lockhart and fellow senior Jason Flanigan, along with junior Jason Harrison were part of that 1998 tournament team.

"Last year it was kind of a struggle for us to accept that we were not going to be in (the NCAA tournament)," Lockhart said. "This year it was a relief to not be worried about making it."

Lockhart and Flanigan were freshman when Ole Miss, as a fourth seed, fellvictim to Valparaiso. The experience has made them keenly aware that just because an opponent isn't well-known doesn't mean they can't play.

"Everyone in the tournament is a good team," Flanigan said. "We can't overlook anyone."


 

 

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