Thursday, February 14, 2013
Is Ole Miss still a tourney team?
By Luke Lapinski
This has not been a good two and a half weeks for Ole Miss. Entering their game against Kentucky on Jan. 29, the Rebels were quickly becoming the talk of the college basketball world, riding the wave of Marshall Henderson's impressive play and on-the-court theatrics to a 17-2 record and plenty of national attention. Not only were they being projected to make their first appearance at the Big Dance since 2002, they were looking like a team that might make some noise once they got there.
The problem is, they've stopped winning. They ran into Nerlens Noel and a hungry Wildcats team on that evening in late January, and have now dropped four of five. Last night's loss to Texas A&M is the most damaging, because the Aggies (15-9, 5-6 in conference play) are the first SEC team to beat Ole Miss that likely isn't NCAA Tournament-bound.
Suddenly, the Rebels aren't a lock to even make the Field of 68 anymore. They're not done by any means, but they've got work to do. Our own Joe Lunardi had them slotted in at No. 38 prior to Wednesday's loss -- a decent position, but hardly one that's immune to a drop out of the tournament altogether. And their RPI of 47 is likely to dip in the coming weeks as they don't exactly face top tier competition the rest of the way. In fact, their remaining regular season opponents have a combined record of 30-45 in SEC play. That means plenty of winnable games, but very little margin for error.