Because of the structure of postseason for Division I basketball, every team has a chance until it’s eliminated from its conference tournament where the winner qualifies automatically.
The Rebels still have a chance, just like I have a chance to be Mississippi’s next governor if I enter the race.
The four-day Cinderella run to an SEC title and NCAA berth can happen. Mississippi State and Georgia have done it.
Ole Miss has the talent to do it, which underscores part of the frustration of the fan base. The Rebels have shown that talent in flashes but haven’t strung flashes together.
The more likely scenario unfolding is that seniors Chris Warren and Zach Graham, both 1,000-point scorers, Warren one of the most prolific scorers in school history, will end their careers without an appearance on college basketball’s biggest stage.
Now falling to 5-8 in the SEC following a 79-73 loss at struggling South Carolina, after yet another big deficit, even the little boy tournament is in question.
And maybe that’s the connection here.
Warren, Graham and others have done the NIT, been to New York twice in their careers. They want to dance, but the deck has been stacked against an NCAA at-large bid since the Rebels failed in a handful of RPI opportunity games early along the SEC schedule.
The Kentucky win was impressive – a talent flash – but it can’t carry the day. The season became a situation of needing to win out, of doing something to strengthen the resume, and well, that’s not happening.
Perhaps motivation was a factor Tuesday night when another big man posted a double-double against the Rebels, the third this season, the second in two games.
South Carolina’s Sam Muldrow put up 23 points and 10 rebounds, far exceeding his averages in each category the way Renardo Sidney far exceeded his a few days ago.
There’s a reason October had a healthy share of post-play questions, and that concern is playing out before our eyes.
As pages fall from the calendar and losses mount, motivation may be an even bigger concern.
Maybe pride kicks in, and two very successful careers are extended, more memories made by Warren and Graham.
But getting a mental edge at game time will require players to call on something from within. External motivation is dwindling.
There’s a chance to get back in the NIT, back to New York with outdoor shopping for affordable Rolexes, but the NCAA bid depends on winning it all in Atlanta.
Parrish Alford (email@example.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily about Ole Miss athletics at NEMS360.com.