By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – If there are going to be college basketball rankings it’s better to be ranked than not be ranked.
Ole Miss entered those rankings Monday when voters for the Associated Press Top 25 and the USA Today coaches poll labeled the Rebels among the 25 best teams in the country.
They very well may be.
AP has Ole Miss at No. 23, the coaches at No. 24. The Rebels are certainly playing at high level right now, and the rankings are acknowledgement from those outside the area code.
At the end of the season, it will be not rankings but other numbers – like the RPI – that have more sway with the NCAA tournament selection committee.
No national champion will be crowned by the top 25.
The rankings will further the buzz for this team and will make it a larger part of the national conversation provided the Rebels do what is required to remain in the rankings, and that is simply to win.
If their new status serves to further motivate the Rebels, that’s fine. They just better not forget the motivation it took for them to get where they are.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve done something great here, and we understand what we need to do,” said Nick Williams, a fifth-year senior.
Murphy Holloway on the inside and Marshall Henderson at the 3-point line have become the most recognizable faces of the program, but the Rebels have gotten significant contributions from a number of different directions on any given night. Williams’ 3 for 5 3-point shooting effort against Arkansas is but one example.
Ole Miss is still a long way from the greatness Williams describes, and many challenges are ahead, but in the first two weeks of SEC play the Rebels have shown a number of factors found in great teams: Timely shooting, rebounding, defense, team chemistry and resiliency.
As the Rebels become more of a known commodity what they need is all of the above every night – the consistency which is found in most ranked teams.
That’s what will help Ole Miss pick off a couple of big wins and avoid the pitfalls against some SEC brethren that while holding down the league’s collective RPI rating can still rise up and knock off a team that takes the floor unfocused and unprepared.
Players have shown what they can do for two weeks in the SEC.
Now they need to show what they can do for the duration of the grind of which they love to speak.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Journal. He blogs daily at InsideOleMissSports.com.