The Rebels looked solid in their 70-62 win against Kentucky on Tuesday night. Still, the offense wasn’t amazing, and the defense was stiff, allowing Kentucky to hang around until the end. This is just what this team is. Defense first, offense second and hope that shooting is slightly above average. Anything better would have been achieving the near impossible for this team, and anything less would have been getting blown out.
However, this is March, and that means at one point this week you were probably trying to calculate if the team can somehow go dancing into the NCAA tournament this year. Despite Tuesday’s win, the Rebels lost the Vanderbilt game on Feb. 27. So, what are the basketball team’s actual chances to make it to the tournament?
The first question to ask is: Can the Rebels get an at-large bid if they win just a couple more games? That answer is now a flat-out no. There is a 0% chance. Yet, some students you might speak to, such as graduate accounting student John William Harwick, might try to rationalize the alternative.
“If we win the rest of our regular-season games and then make it to the semifinals or maybe even the finals of the SEC tournament, there’s a chance,” Harwick said. If you want to be nice, tell your friends that’s not the case. Because in fact, it is a delusion. As an Ole Miss fan, hope can be either euphoric or crippling, and there’s no in-between.
Some hope is warranted, though, just not for the regular season. If the team can win the SEC Tournament on March 11-14, they will receive an automatic bid to March Madness. It’s as simple as that. The last time the Rebels won it all was in 2013.
Ole Miss winning the SEC Tournament for the first time in eight years is unlikely, but who doesn’t like to take a chance? Here’s how they can do it. Any team the Rebels play, the game has to flow through the stout defense. If the defense isn’t forcing tough shot selections for the other team and is giving them easy lay-ins, the game is over. This offense doesn’t have the firepower to shoot its way to a win.
Additionally, the team has to continue to force turnovers and convert them to quick transition buckets. I speculate that head coach Kermit Davis loves these points the most because the only “play” we run on offense is the three-man weave at the top of the key. For offense production, the game has to run through not senior guard Devontae Shuler or junior guard Jarkel Joiner, but forward Romello White. When he is a presence in the paint, opposing teams face trouble, and that opens up shots for the leaders like Shuler and Joiner to take.
If we don’t win it all, wave goodbye to the team on the season and maybe even give the players a salute. Although Davis’s third year has not met expectations, the team still had some fun and won some big games.
Bask in that hope this weekend when the team plays its last regular-season game Saturday against Vanderbilt at home on March 6.