By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
NEW YORK – Ole Miss guard Eniel Polynice has been back from his suspension for three games, but he’s not made the impact he made at times earlier in the season.
For the season Polynice has appeared in 32 games, starting seven.
He did not start the Dec. 2 Arkansas State game, a run-away road win, but played nine minutes in the second half. Kennedy called his first-half absence a “coach’s decision” and did not elaborate.
“It’s unfortunate that that happened, and EP’s still a big part of our team. When he comes in, he meshes with us,” junior guard Zach Graham said.
Before the suspension Polynice had started six straight games. Only in the last two games of that stretch did his minutes show noticeable decline. His suspension came after he played just 17 minutes in the regular season home finale against LSU.
On the year, Polynice has played 25 minutes or more 21 times. Kennedy says Polynice is back in good standing and that his decreased playing time is due to his teammates’ performances.
“I’m passionate sometimes to the point of being combustible, but I move on. I’m a basketball coach,” Kennedy said. “I put the guys out there that I feel like give us the best opportunity to win. Zach’s played well. Trevor’s played well. Chris is our all-league guy. Terrico’s been playing well. So there’s only so many minutes. So when you get out there you better be productive. You may not get as many opportunities. That’s really all it is.”
Polynice was not suspended but did not play in the Rebels’ lone SEC tournament game, a 76-65 loss to Tennessee.
In three NIT games, Polynice has averaged 8.0 minutes, 2.0 points 1.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.0 turnovers.
In spite of his decreased playing time, Polynice still ranks sixth in the SEC with 3.9 assists per game.
– ESPN’s Ron Franklin admits a bias in favor of Ole Miss. He also admits knowing how to deal with it.
A long time ago a mentor of mine told me, “The thing you have to remember if you have to get up and look yourself in the mirror the next day and ask yourself if you did a good job with the telecast, if there was objectivity on both ends and if you covered all the angles. That makes it easy.”
A graduate of Ole Miss, Franklin will handle the play-by-play for tonight’s game against Dayton.
“In my heart, I knew who I want to win,” he said.
Franklin saw more of Ole Miss when he covered ESPN’s prime time Saturday night football games. More recently he’s worked with the network’s Big 12 coverage, which keeps him closer to home. He’s lived in Texas for the last 40 years.
Franklin was in Oxford for the NIT second-round game against Memphis.
“My sister is there, two of her sons with her family. I have an aunt who is 96 who lives there. It’s so much fun to go back and see friends and family. It’s home. It will always be home.”
– Some Dayton and Rhode Island players may be offended by the term “mid-major,” and they’ll get no argument from North Carolina coach Roy Williams.
“Mid-major? It’s a trap. They only discuss that when they’re playing somebody bigger. That’s what I think about it. Would you think of Butler as a mid-major program right now? I guarantee you Michigan State does not. It doesn’t mean anything to me.”
Depth for North Carolina was thin at the beginning of the season, Williams said, and that depth was thinned further with early injuries, contributing to the Tar Heels’ 5-11 ACC mark.
While many teams deal with initial disappointment over playing in the NIT, Williams said his team, that won the NCAA tournament last year, did not.
“We were in that last bracket on Selection Sunday night, and I was as nervous as ever. We wanted to play. If somebody invites you to play, you’re supposed to go play, whether that’s basketball or golf.”
The Tar Heels have won five of their last seven games, including a 75-74 win on a layup at the buzzer at Mississippi State. They take on Rhode Island in Tuesday’s second game.
Rebels vs. Atlantic 10
– Ole Miss is 8-7 against teams that currently comprise the Atlantic 10 Conference.
The Rebels have wins against Charlotte, Fordham, La Salle, St. Louis, St. Joseph’s and Temple but are 0-1 against Dayton, losing in 1980.
The A-10 was ranked No. 7 in RPI among conferences but put three teams in the NCAA tournament – Temple, Xavier and Richmond.
“People hate the term mid-major. You throw that on everybody who’s not BCS, and it’s all based on football. If you’re not a BCS football league they consider you mid-major. The A-10 has great support. Basketball is their sport, and man, they put a lot of emphasis on it,” Kennedy said.
The A-10 makes up half the NIT Final Four field with Rhode Island against North Carolina in Tuesday’s second semifinal game.
Kennedy and the NIT
n Kennedy has not gotten the Rebels to the NCAA tournament, but he’s 7-2 in three NIT appearances.
Under Kennedy Ole Miss is 6-0 in NIT home games, 1-1 on the road and 0-1 at Madison Square Garden.
Kennedy was also 2-1 in the NIT as interim coach at Cincinnati in 2006.
Recent NIT results
– 2009 – Semis: Baylor 76, San Diego St. 62; Penn State 67, Notre Dame 59. Final: Penn State 69, Baylor 63
– 2008 – Semis: Ohio State 81, Ole Miss 69; Massachusetts 78, Florida 66. Final: Ohio State 92, UMass 85.
– 2007 – Semis: West Virginia 63, Mississippi State 62; Clemson 68, Air Force 67. Final: West Virginia 78, Clemson 73
– 2006 – Semis: Michigan 66, Old Dominion 43, South Carolina 78, Louisville 63. Final: So. Carolina 76, Michigan 64.