So it’s on to the off-season for the Rebels. An NIT bid was not a given considering their RPI ranking of 96 according to ESPN.
The question is do Ole Miss fans care? DId you want to see this team advance to something less than the NCAA tournament?
A few fans probably did. The reaction to what we write and post online does not indicate a lot of excitement.
That might have been different if the Rebels had been on the bubble and were a high NIT seed locked into a couple of home games and with an easily visible path to the semis in New York.
The bottom line is it’s hard for people to get excited for the NIT, and it’s hard for them to get excited about a team that played well at home but less so against the SEC’s better teams on the road.
Along those lines nobody who works with the numbers was going to consider the Tennessee game to close the regular season a quality win, but the Vols played some quality basketball in their three games in Nashville, much to the dismay of their in-state rivals, Vanderbilt, which lost in its home city in its first tourney game.
Surprisingly, that loss did not keep the Commodores out of the NCAA tournament. It did drop Vandy to a First Four game in Dayton. This a Vandy team that was considered a Sweet 16 team by many at the beginning of the season.
Watching the Vols in Nashville made me wonder how Ole Miss was able to gear up and win 83-60 in Knoxville.
That was part of the problem with this team. Consistency was lacking.
Maybe that had to do with injuries, guys missing time and not playing together and whatnot, a variety of factors. Whatever, the most consistent part of this team this season was its best part, Stefan Moody.
There was not enough help around him on a given night. Had there been production more often among the supporting cast Moody could have helped this team become part of the NCAA conversation.
Instead, Rasheed Brooks was good early but not late, Tomasz Gielo vice versa. Anthony Perez had flashes, not enough of them, and never caught fire. Sebastian Saiz was good before the injury and really good against Tennessee.
It just didn’t add up to enough to help Moody, but Moody is the reason Ole Miss fans could have maintained some interest in the NIT.
The guy scored 39 against Alabama in Nashville, the second time in three games he had gone over 30 points. He was 8-for-17 from 3 and wowed the crowd with his NBA range shots. Farther actually. Once an Alabama defender elevated with him and blocked the shot. Moody retrieved the ball and knocked down a 3 on his second chance.
All fans stood and applauded his exit as he fouled out with 30 seconds left. Not all Ole Miss fans. All fans. There were a lot of Kentucky fans standing, and they typically have an awareness for quality basketball.
Moody has scored more than 1,000 points in just two seasons, the 37th Ole Miss player to pass the 1,000-point mark but the fifth-fastest to get there. With 731 points this season he’s just the fifth player in school history and the 26th in SEC history to score more than 700 points in a season.
It’s a shame he can’t go out in the NCAA tournament for a second-straight year. A selfish part of me would like to watch him one more time, but it’s also nice to remember his outstanding Alabama performance as his final Ole Miss game.
One of Archie Manning’s most memorable games was in a loss at Alabama.
So, the career of one of the school’s most dynamic basketball players is complete, certainly the most dynamic under Kennedy.
In the long run the program is healthier when it signs and develops outstanding high school talent, but there’s a place for transfers.
What might Stefan Moody have accomplished in four full seasons? …
Football is off this week and will resume spring practice after spring break. This is a marvelous concept and one I think schools should experiment with in the regular season. When you have an open date you don’t even practice. Think of all the school work players could complete.
Some members of the football program are taking part in the Haiti mission trip this week. …
I thought three games against Grambling would hurt Ole Miss in the RPI rankings, and when the dust settles it won’t help.
However, whatever damage comes from having Grambling on the schedule will be slight and not hard to overcome as long as the Rebels keep winning. Just win baby.
There would have been real damage done to the RPI had Ole Miss lost one of the games, and today’s two seven-inning wins had a few tense moments. Not many, but a few. Beating Grambling twice today was more difficult than it was in a 15-2 win in Friday’s series opener.
In terms of the RPI right now – and it’s still early to get too caught up in baseball RPI – the Rebels are No. 3.
When the Rebels won twice against No. 2 Louisville, the Cards were outside the RPI top 50.
Louisville has since picked up a couple of wins against Notre Dame to move into the RPI top 10, according to WarrenNolan.com, so those wins over Louisville are carrying greater weight right now.
For the moment, the Rebels have two wins against an RPI top 10 team. Cheer for the Cards in the ACC, and you’re cheering for the Ole Miss resume.
About today’s games, 7-3 and 6-1 wins. They could have been better.
Starting pitchers Chad Smith and Sean Johnson were both erratic. I thought Johnson looked a little better, and had the games been nine innings and not seven Bianco probably would have left him in a little longer.
Smith allowed seven hits. A couple of them were seeing-eye jobs that found holes, because that’s what Smith does. He’s a ground ball pitcher. While a couple of those got through the also got a couple of double plays from the ones that didn’t.
Smith eventually settled down but was sloppy at the end and loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth before Mike Bianco turned to David Parkinson, the juco transfer left-hander, who from the beginning has been the Rebels’ top set-up guy.
The bottom line is Smith wasn’t sharp against a weak team. Maybe that’s about focus. We’ll see. Lapses like he had in the second inning will be problematic in the weeks to come.
The good news is this team has a solid bullpen.
I was a little surprised to see how quickly Bianco went to Wyatt Short to replace Parkinson. Parkinson gave up a hit to his first batter then got an out on a pop-up at the edge of the grass on between first and second.
After only two batters Short came on and got a couple of strikeouts to strand three.
The bottom line is Ole Miss is 15-1 as SEC Week arrives.
There are two mid-week games at UAB, and the Rebels, will go from Birmingham to Knoxville to open SEC play against the Vols this weekend.
UAB is currently 6-9 with a 185 RPI and 100 strength of schedule. The Blazers were swept at Creighton this weekend, but the series turned on just a few pitches as UAB lost 2-1, 3-1 and 4-3.