By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – The college basketball regular season is complete, and what could be celebrated as a remarkable run for Ole Miss is met with uncertainty.
The Rebels just went 23-8 and tied a school record for SEC wins, going 12-6 in the league.
If Andy Kennedy had coached the Rebels in the late-1990s, he’d be talking contract extension and raise, because with a .667 conference win percentage he’d be talking 3 or 4 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Instead the Rebels yet again see their reflection in the bubble, and Kennedy’s future has been called into question.
So the talk is not of a glamourous future but of opportunity in the present.
You hear coaches say it all the time. “When there are games there is opportunity.”
Time to dance?
“Opportunity” will be the buzz word for Ole Miss this week. The Rebels may again be on the edge of earning their first NCAA at-large bid since 2002. One more win may do it.
It is to the Rebels’ advantage that their SEC tournament opponent Friday in Nashville – when the scheduled start time of 9 p.m., will make them the last team to take to the floor at Bridgestone Arena – that the opponent will likely be Missouri.
This assumes Missouri will defeat the Texas A&M-Auburn winner in a second-round game on Thursday.
Missouri comes in with a 34 RPI, second-best in the conference.
The Tigers and Rebels split two in the regular season. Missouri was 2-8 away from home but was pretty good on a neutral floor going 3-1 with November wins over Stanford and Virginia Commonwealth in the Bahamas – plus a 23-point loss to Louisville – and later a win over Illinois in St. Louis.
A second win against the RPI top 50 would help Ole Miss. Both of those wins would be against Missouri, which ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has firmly in the tournament as an 8 seed.
Always in this situation you can look back to single games, to single plays within close losses, that might cast a very different look on the resume right now.
One more bucket in regulation or one more defensive stop against Indiana State, winning at Texas A&M or at struggling South Carolina or Mississippi State, all would have the Rebels with a much stronger argument now.
Yet it’s all water under the bridge, and Ole Miss can only look ahead.
The answer to the question, “How much is enough?” is only “more, more, more.”
Parrish Alford (email@example.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at InsideOleMissSports.com