Day After Observations

Notes and thoughts from the Rebels’ 73-63 loss at LSU …

I’ve seen Ole Miss on the NCAA tournament bubble many times, but I’d rarely seen them so solidly in – according to the leading bracketologists – in late February as they were at the beginning of last week.

The situation is much more precarious now, thought CBS’ Jerry Palm still has the Rebels as a nine seed on the good side of the bubble. I haven’t seen an updated bracket from ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.

The fact of the matter is the Rebels’ aren’t playing like an NCAA tournament team right now. That’s mostly because their shooting. They can’t get out of the 30 percent range, and that’s not going to be good enough to beat good teams.

After Jarvis Summers was 5-for-15 from the floor in a home win over struggling Tennessee last Saturday Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy declared him “off the milk carton” and having returned to a state of productive offense.

I thought that was rather hopeful and perhaps public enthusiasm on Kennedy’s part to try and spur Summers to the level of efficiency he’s shown most of his career.

Summers, though, hasn’t taken that next step. He was 5-for-15 in the loss to Georgia, and at LSU he passed up shots and wasn’t as aggressive as he has been going 1-for-7 from the floor. That carried over to his game at the free throw line where he was just 2-for-7.

Kennedy has called for greater efficiency from the group he calls his “big three” in Summers, LaDarius White and Stefan Moody, but more often of late – even in recent wins when the Rebels had won eight of nine games – it was more like a big one and that being Moody.

Ole Miss is competing in other areas right now. The Rebels held LSU to 29.6 percent shooting in the first half and were plus-9 on the glass for the game.

But yesterday they uncharacteristically turned the ball over 17 times which led to 15 points off turnovers for LSU. That increases your shooting percentage, and the Tigers shot 54.5 percent in the second half.

I’ve been asked several times if this team is Kennedy’s best coaching job, and I’ve answered that it is in many ways, but it’s also incomplete.

Until almost the end of February Kennedy had helped a team with a bunch of new faces overcome a terribly slow start, find itself, make big plays and improve on the go.

The season isn’t finished however, and Ole Miss has placed itself in a dire situation in its quest to do something it’s never done – reach the SEC tournament with a no-doubt NCAA resume. Even in 2013 when the Rebels made the Big Dance they had to reach the SEC finals to get in. Some weren’t sure even that was enough though the selection committee later said Ole Miss would have been invited whether or not it lost to Florida.

The fact of the matter is even with back-to-back losses to Georgia and LSU this week at least one noted bracketologist still likes the Rebels.

Ole Miss has two remaining games against teams it should beat in Alabama (away) and Vanderbilt (home). To this point the Rebels have lost only to NCAA-worthy teams inside the conference. Now isn’t the time to do anything different.

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to John Davis and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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