If there are going to be any Mississippi men’s basketball teams in the NCAA tournament, they’ve got some work to do in the next few weeks.
Southern Miss (16-3) looks like the best bet to reach the Big Dance, yet the latest projection from ESPN has the Golden Eagles on the outside looking in, mainly on strength of schedule. Southern’s best bet is to win the Conference USA title – a task that’s much easier now that Memphis has left the league.
Thursday’s game at league leader Old Dominion could be an good indicator of whether Donnie Tyndall’s Golden Eagles are ready to step up.
Ole Miss (12-5) punched its ticket last year with an unexpected run to the SEC tournament title. I’m not saying that’s impossible, but it seems much more unlikely this time around.
To get in the at-large hunt, the Rebels need to snag at least one win over a top-50 team – and they have home-and-home dates with Kentucky ahead, along with a home game against Florida.
But there are also seven more chances for Andy Kennedy’s Rebels to lose on the road. As long as Marshall Henderson is suiting up, I’d give the Rebels a puncher’s chance, but that’s about it.
Mississippi State (12-5) has a reasonable path to an NIT berth if it can take care of business at home, starting with Thursday’s game against Auburn. To reach any kind of post-season action in his second season would be a good sign for Rick Ray’s tenure in Starkville.
It seems unlikely that a Mississippi team will grab the SWAC’s automatic one-and-done trip to Dayton this year, judging from their records – Alcorn State 7-11, Jackson State 6-12 and Mississippi Valley State 4-13.
• Solution of the state’s MPACT shortfall seems obvious to me – the legislature leans on the college system to provide an education at steep discount to MPACT students or face big budget cuts. Solved!
• Put enough big red and blue dots on the front of a newspaper and it looks like you’re having a 75-percent-off sale.
• It all depends on where you live. A huge political scandal in New Jersey would be called “a typical Tuesday” in Chicago.
John L. Pitts (firstname.lastname@example.org) is sports editor of the Daily Journal.