By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Ole Miss athletics director Pete Boone expects basketball to be played at Tad Smith Coliseum today.
There was some question to that Thursday night as strong storms swept through the area. Water reached the coliseum’s floor, and the final 5 minutes, 24 seconds of the women’s team’s game with No. 4 Tennessee were waved off. The Lady Vols were awarded a 66-39 win.
The Rebels take on Alabama, which has already clinched the SEC West title, at 3 p.m. The SEC Network telecast will be shown on WCBI.
The coliseum’s roof has leaked before.
“You’re not going to have leaks if the vents are covered at the top, and it’s my understanding the vents were covered. If you have sideways blowing rain that can make a difference, but you can’t just hope that that never happens. It’s one of those things that have to get fixed,” Boone said.
The university is in the discussion stage for a new arena, a multi-purpose venue, to replace Tad Smith, which opened its doors in 1966.
Thursday’s incident isn’t likely to change anything with the timetable for a new arena.
“When there are compelling issues, there seems to be more of a sense of urgency in discussion. But even if we said we were going to (build a new arena) today, we would still be talking several years down the road. It just takes a while. There are so many issues about location and design. It could be two years in just the construction,” Boone said.
While the game will be played, Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy hopes its played with passion and greater consistency than the Rebels have shown much of this season.
Back-to-back losses at Mississippi State and South Carolina have left the Rebels (17-11, 5-8 SEC) needing to win the SEC tournament if they are to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002.
In a 74-64 loss at Alabama (19-8, 11-2) on Feb. 12, the Rebels trailed by 23 in the second half. They cut the deficit to six points in the final minutes before falling at the end.
The scene played out again at South Carolina. The Rebels trailed by 14 with 6 minutes left, tied the game with an 18-4 run but fell short in the final minute.
“When you look at our team objectively, we’ve been subject to huge swings offensively and defensively,” Kennedy said. “We’ll shoot 60 percent one night and 30 the next. We’ve not been consistent across the board, and that’s why we’re in the position we’re in.”
Ole Miss was picked to finish second in the West by SEC media in October. A 12-3 non-conference record helped the Rebels keep an RPI rating in the 50s and 60s much of the season, staying in position for a possible NCAA run even after an 0-4 start to in SEC play.
Boone says he’ll meet with Kennedy at season’s end to discuss the program’s health and it’s future. In evaluating his coaches, Boone says he considers the body of work, not one season.
Kennedy has three years remaining on a $1.3 million a year contract that would require school pay him three full years of remaining salary if he’s not retained.
“The NCAA tournament is the way college basketball coaches are judged. At the end of the day, it’s did you get to the dance?” Kennedy said. “For our team not to be in the conversation is frustrating, but now is not the time for me to reflect and say what we should have done. That time will come.
“Now we have to prepare to play arguably the best team in our league.”
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600