Vanderbilt at Ole Miss

Ole Miss players believe if they win tonight against Vanderbilt they’re in the NCAA tournament. I agree. If they lose they put themselves in a position of needing to win a game or two in the SEC tournament next week in Nashville.

(Advance: Players believe they’re in with a win.)

If you have worries about tonight’s game history and matchups support your concerns.

Vanderbilt starts three freshmen, but they’re seasoned freshmen now. They shoot a lot of 3s — and shoot them at a good percentage — and that will make them difficult to defend for a team that plays as much zone as Ole Miss does.

The Rebels haven’t guarded the 3 well this season, but neither have the Commodores.

Ole Miss needs Moody and others to hit shots in this game.

As for history, not since 2002 has Ole Miss won enough games in the regular season to earn an at-large bid. Two years ago Ole Miss reached the NCAA tournament and ultimately upset 5 seed Wisconsin because it not only made a run in Nashville it won the whole thing. There were some who wondered if reaching the SEC finals would have been enough that year. The selection committee chair told us on a conference call that Ole Miss would have been in the field regardless of what happened in the SEC championship game against Florida. Chances are, though, that NCAA experience would have meant a trip to Dayton for a play-in game.

In 2002 the Rebels lost six of their last nine — including a first-round SEC loss to South Carolina — leading to Selection Sunday but made the cut anyway. It’s not as easy now for power conference at-large bids as it was then.

Where: Tad Smith Coliseum (8,867)

When: 8 p.m.

TV: SEC Network

Satellite Radio: XM 191. Sirius 113.

Series: Vanderbilt leads 74-43.

Last Meeting: Ole Miss won 65-62 in Oxford last March 8.

Coaches: Ole Miss – Andy Kennedy (212-124, 10th year; 191111 in ninth season at Ole Miss). Vanderbilt – Kevin Stallings (433-267 22nd year; 319-204, 16th season at Vanderbilt).

Notes: Ole Miss will honor Jarvis Summers, LaDarius White, Aaron Jones, Terence Smith and MR Rhett tonight in senior recognition activities. … Andy Kennedy’s 191 wins are third-most in SEC history by one coach at one school. He trails Kentucky’s Joe B. Hall (205) and Florida’s Billy Donovan (193). … Stefan Moody is shooting 91.4 percent from the free throw line, best in the SEC and sixth in the nation. … Moody is averaging 20.1 points over his last nine games and an SEC-best 18.8 points in conference play. … After going 14-for-23 from 3-point range in wins against Mississippi State and Tennessee, Moody is 5-for-24 from the arc. … The Rebels have won four straight in the Vanderbilt series.

Ole Miss (2010, 116 SEC)

C – M.J. Rhett 6-9 Sr.. 6.7p 4.8r

F – Aaron Jones 6-9 Sr. 3.4p 2.6r

G – Terence Smith 6-4 Sr. 4.2p 1.8a

G – LaDarius White 6-6 Sr. 10.9p 3.2r

G – Jarvis Summers 6-3 Sr. 12.2p 4.7a

Top Reserves: G Stefan Moody, G Martavious Newby, F Sebastian Saiz

Vanderbilt (18-12, 8-9 SEC)

G – Wade Baldwin IV 6-3 Fr. 8.6p 4.4a

G – Mattthew Fisher-Davis 6-5 Fr. 6.7p 2.2r

G – Riley LaChance 6-2 Fr. 12.3p 3.2r

C – Damian Jones 6-10 So. 14.5p 6.3r

F – James Siakam 6-7 Sr. 9.0p 5.8r

Top Reserves: F Luke Kornet, F Jeff Roberson, F Shelton Mitchell

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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