If I had been a wagering man I would have lost money Saturday. I would have thought it easy money to take the bet that Stefan Moody would have gotten at least 20 points against a young and beleaguered Tennessee team that was without its best player, again, Kevin Punter.
Moody needed only 20 points to become the fifth player in Ole Miss history and the 26th in SEC history to score at least 700 points in a season.
Moody scored 12, and the Rebels defeated the Vols easily, 83-60, because Sebastian Saiz had a big day with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
Saiz will need more of those big days for the Rebels next year when Moody is gone, but that’s a story for another day.
For now, Moody, the SEC’s scoring leader at 23.4 points a game, has at least two more games to get eight points. If I was a betting man I’d have the chance to win my money back.
At least one of those games will be in this week’s SEC tournament in Nashville. I expect at least one more to be in the NIT. It’s Andy Kennedy’s job to remain positive and hopeful about the Rebels’ chances for an NCAA at-large bid to keep his players from mailing it in in Nashville. The realist in me says there’s no chance a team with a mid-80s RPI reaches the Dance short of winning the whole thing in Nashville.
Back when the season started I thought Ole Miss could position itself for an NCAA tournament run. A couple of key losses along the way have kept the Rebels from doing just that. Don’t lose an 11-point lead with five minutes left against South Carolina, and you win that game.
Carolina’s sporting a 52 RPI right now which would be helpful to the cause, but as much as missing that win, it’s the MSU loss in Starkville that is also dragging things down. The Bulldogs are playing better of late, and they are also doing damage to Alabama hopes, but their 144 RPI is certainly hurting the Rebels’ resume.
Speaking of stinker losses, let’s go back to November on a neutral court when the Rebels lost 68-62 to George Mason which has gone on to reach a 10-20 record at this point and compile a 191 RPI.
A 75-63 loss to RPI 33 Seton Hall doesn’t hurt, but it’s a win that could have helped greatly, another opportunity lost in November.
What should not be lost in the discussion is that Andy Kennedy has again coached the Rebels to twenty wins.
The problem is that number carries for less significance in the tournament conversation than it once did.
Kennedy has done this with a team that has one great player and a few nice pieces around him, but it’s not a team that has can’t-miss NCAA depth of talent.
That needs to change in recruiting. In Marshall Henderson and Stefan Moody twice Kennedy has been able to land impact transfers who can score.
Next up is Deandre Burnett, the Miami transfer, who is sitting out this season. He averaged seven points as a redshirt freshman at Miami in 2014-2015. Before that he was a Parade All-American in 2012 when he averaged 37 points a game at Carol City High School in Miami Gardens, Fla. Then there was a year of prep school, then Miami. Thirty-seven points a game seems like a long time ago, but at 6-2, 194 there’s size and athleticism to work with. We’ll see.
Back to the resume …
Kennedy always schedules well. He has a nice mix of neutral site games and road games in the pre-conference schedule.
As he’s pointed out, this year he’s not getting much mileage out of a win at Memphis – which is 16-14 with a 153 RPI – and at UMass (30 miles from the Minutemen’s home gym) which is 12-17 with a 173 RPI.
The mid-major road trip that in the past has yielded strong opponents at Middle Tennessee State or Arkansas State also carries no gain for the Rebels. Rick Ray’s first season at Southeast Missouri State has not gone well at 3-24 and a 344 RPI.
That’s also killing the Rebels in the strength of schedule conversation.
Kennedy deserves credit for another 20-win season and .500-plus SEC season, but with a little more talent around Moody this team would have overcome the stinker losses and be headed to the NCAA, not the NIT.
On to baseball …
It’s way too early to be talking about baseball RPI, but when it isn’t too early the Rebels will get a lot of mileage out of their last two non-conference weekends.
Louisville’s RPI is only 60 right now, but that will change when the Cards get into ACC play.
The Rebels picked up a nice 8-2 win over Coastal Carolina on Saturday, but it remains to be seen how Coastal pans out. Typically, they’re pretty strong, and their No. 18 ranking by D1Baseball.com is a nice statement for this year’s team.
Coastal is just 5-5 right now but has played an ACC-heavy schedule with wins over Duke and Virginia and a loss to North Carolina State. The Chanticleers also split two games with Ohio State and lost Friday to RPI 147 Cincinnati, which Ole Miss plays this morning at 10 to wrap up its three games in Conway, S.C. It was the first win of the season for Cincinnati after it opened with eight losses.
About the Coastal game …
Eight runs on 11 hits for the Rebels who put up three in the first. There’s been good offense for two days. Maybe it’s a trend.
Ole Miss had four doubles in the game, two of them by Tate Blackman, who went 3-for-5 with three RBIs. Will Golsan and J.B. Woodman also had doubles, and Errol Robinson and Holt Perdzock had multi-hit games.
Chad Smith had a good start with two runs allowed over five innings. He was scoreless for three straight in the second through fourth innings.
Again, the bullpen was stellar. David Parkinson followed Smith and was hitless and scoreless for two innings.
In the meantime the Rebels built enough of a lead to close with Brady Feigl, so Wyatt Short is fresh going into today.
The RPI numbers will sort themselves out, but assuming Ole Miss wins the right number of conference games – 16 to 17 – it will be in the conversation for regional host based on the last two weekends.
Ole Miss has a No. 10 RPI right now according to WarrenNolan.com, but that’s going to change this week. After today, it’s next five games are against Southeast Missouri State (twice) and Grambling (three times) who have RPI’s of 199 and 284 respectively.
And finally …
Football begins its first full week of spring practice and then will take off for spring break.
I mentioned last week that it’s a pretty boring spring practice given the fact that there’s no quarterback drama and the key components that will form next season’s offensive line aren’t around right now.
Boring is good.
Well, Breeland Speaks, a rising third-year sophomore, did his best to spice things up with last week’s DUI arrest.
I don’t know the particulars, but I was surprised to see Speaks on the wrong side of the law, especially after he clearly described to us in New Orleans his intentions to stay out of the spotlight, bury his head and work during bowl prep. Remember, his role was a lot different after Robert Nkemdiche’s suspension.
Speaks had a good game, so did DJ Jones, and you left that game feeling good about the Rebels’ defensive line in the Post-Nkemdiche Era.
I wasn’t hanging out with Speaks, and so I don’t know the gory details of the DUI. However, I did find it interesting that Hugh Freeze sent out such a long and passionate statement about Speaks’ arrest. It was much more than the “we know about it, and we’re gathering facts, internal punishment, etc.”
I think Freeze was surprised to get an arrest report on Speaks too, and Freeze was trying to communicate his own disappointment while getting across the message that Speaks, too, was disappointed in himself.
That’s one way to read it.
The other way to read the Freeze statement could be simple frustration with one of his players stepping out of bounds when the program has received its fair share of off-field news coverage through the NCAA investigation.
I’m thinking the Freeze statement is about the first interpretation. ….