By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
NASHVILLE – To hear the older guys on any given team talk all the time about the sense of urgency.
Seeing it is sometimes a different matter.
For Reggie Buckner, it was on full display Saturday afternoon in the SEC tournament semifinals.
Not everyone who gets paid to project the NCAA tournament field believed the Rebels’ thrilling comeback win against Missouri in the SEC quarters was going to be enough to get them through the NCAA barrier.
Andy Kennedy received no certified mail Saturday welcoming him to the dance, but the feeling is that’s where he’s headed for the first time as a head coach after six trips to the NIT, five at Ole Miss.
If indeed the ticket was punched in the Rebels’ 64-52 win over Vanderbilt, Kennedy can thank the seniors he thought would carry his team more this season.
Reggie Buckner and Murphy Holloway were the face of the program back in October. Marshall Henderson was an unknown. He had a good-looking juco resume and intriguing success at Utah, but he hadn’t done it in the SEC.
Now he has.
And too often in the month of February there were only meager contributions from the frontcourt while Henderson tried to shoot the Rebels to success.
Buckner has had his effort called into question before.
“I’m never worried about what people say. I’m going to play my game always,” he said. “I was trying to get our team to an SEC championship.”
With Buckner going hard after loose balls, rebounds and altering shots, he helped give the Rebels a chance for that championship today against regular season champ Florida.
“When Reg is active in the middle of the zone … sometimes he kind of just stands there and rests … when he’s active, we’re pretty good,” Kennedy said.
Buckner’s energy and effort presented a picture of a team getting things done both inside and out.
With three players in double figures it was a picture of a team getting contributions from a variety of sources.
In short, it was a picture of an NCAA tournament team.
When bids are announced at 5 p.m. today on CBS, the Rebels expect that picture to be a reality and not the dream that seemed so close but so far away for so long.
Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@ journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at InsideOleMissSports .com.