Following Wednesday’s 15-point loss at Alabama, Ole Miss largely does not control its own destiny in terms of seeding for the SEC Tournament. Technically, the Rebels could have supplanted themselves as the No. 5 seed with a win over Alabama, but because of the loss, Andy Kennedy’s squad could hypothetically fall all the way to the No. 9 seed.
Seeding is so important in the SEC Tournament because if the Rebels are holding out any hope on an NCAA Tournament bid, they’ll largely have to run the table in the SEC Tournament or at least make it to Sunday. The difference between the No. 6 and No. 7 seed is paramount; for starters, it delays a contest with Kentucky until a potential championship game, and it would ensure that the quarterfinal matchup would feature either South Carolina or Arkansas, as opposed to a Florida team that’s hitting its stride.
If this seems heady and tough to follow, don’t worry – only two out of 14 seeds are confirmed with Kentucky at No. 1 and Florida at No. 2. Everything else from South Carolina to Missouri is fluid, meaning there is a plethora of potential scenarios for the Rebels to thrive in.
Best case scenario for Ole Miss:
Georgia loses on the road to Arkansas Saturday afternoon, and Ole Miss upsets South Carolina Saturday night. This will land Ole Miss with the No. 6 seed. If this happens, Arkansas will jump SCAR because it owns the tiebreaker and assume the No. 3 seed. Ole Miss will then play the winner of Auburn/LSU and, barring any upset, will face Arkansas in the quarterfinals. Arkansas is a team that thrives in the comfort of its own gym, winning 83 percent of home contests but just 54 percent on the road – giving the Rebels their best shot at a quarterfinal matchup with perennial SEC powerhouse Florida.
Worst case scenario:
Georgia upsets Arkansas, Vanderbilt beats Florida and Ole Miss loses to South Carolina. The Rebs would fall to the No. 8 seed (and potentially No. 9 if TAMU upsets Kentucky) and would face a Texas A&M team that has already beaten Ole Miss on the year. Should Ole Miss defeat Texas A&M, it’ll meet a rested and hungry Kentucky team in the quarterfinals. John Calipari’s team has excelled in the SEC Tournament in years past, and it’ll have extra motivation to thrash the Rebels as the Wildcats vying for a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
What will likely happen:
Arkansas, one of the best home teams in the SEC, will beat Georgia Saturday. Conversely, the Rebels likely will not upset South Carolina; a team that beat them by 11 this year and boasts one of the nation’s top scorers, Sindarius Thornwell. Ole Miss has had troubles all year long with high-volume scorers, be it Malik Monk, Antonio Blakeney or even Mississippi State’s Lamar Peters. Should Ole Miss lose and fall to the No. 7 seed, it’ll have to knock off Tennessee or Texas A&M – teams that have both defeated the Rebels already. On the other side of the first-round matchup will await Florida, who the Rebels do not want to see that early in the tournament. Barring any upsets, Ole Miss likely will not be attending the Big Dance this year.
Practicality aside, Ole Miss badly needs an upset over South Carolina Saturday night. Despite the positive seeding externalities of an upset, senior and captain Sebastian Saiz deserves a respectable sendoff. For a player who has impacted his team and campus so heavily, a win this weekend would only be fitting. As mentioned above, avoiding Florida and Kentucky is significant because on Wednesday, the calendar flipped from February to March. With March comes madness, but also magic. The Rebels just need a shot to make it happen.