As of today, the Ole Miss Rebels sit at 18-11, with one top-50 win, an RPI of 70 and a strength of schedule (SOS) of just 68. While the Rebels do not have any bad losses, the Rebels do not have a great tournament resume.
The season has largely been one of near misses. For example, Ole Miss whiffed on a top-25 win against Creighton in November. There, the Blue Jays outscored Ole Miss 12-3 over the final 4 minutes in the championship game of the Paradise Jam tournament.
Then, another opportunity was lost when the Rebels blew a double-digit second half lead against a top-10 Baylor team.
Luckily, there are opportunities left on the schedule to fill out the Rebels’ resume
1. Ole Miss Has To Take Care of Business
First and foremost, the Rebels need to win out in the regular season. What that would mean is yet another 20-win season. More importantly, that would mean a top-5 finish in the regular season of the SEC. And the SEC has improved as a league this season.
Ole Miss Rebels Basketball
It all begins tonight in Tuscaloosa where the Rebels hit the road and look to solidify their top-5 status in the league. A win in Tuscaloosa would have looked much better a week ago – before the Crimson Tide dropped games against Georgia and Texas A&M. In any event, road wins will only help the Rebels’ case come Selection Sunday.
Then, the Rebels will have an opportunity to notch a top-50 win when the South Carolina Gamecocks visit The Pavilion Saturday.
Win both games and the Rebels would be 20-11 overall and 11-7 in league play. While a similar resume resulted in South Carolina being left out of the tournament a year ago, the Rebels have closed stronger than the Gamecocks did.
2. Root Against Other Bubble Teams
Rebel fans should also be rooting against other bubble teams.
For example, Ole Miss caught a huge break when Kentucky rallied to beat fellow bubble team Vanderbilt. No team has ever received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament with more than 14 losses. Vandy now has 14 losses and will travel to Florida this weekend.
Also, when Tennessee takes on LSU and Georgia hosts Auburn this evening, Rebel fans will want to root for the two Tiger squads and against fellow bubble[mates], Tennessee and Georgia.
For advice on who else to root against, ESPN’s Eamon Brennan does a nice job in his weekly Bubble Watch of discussing the teams on the bubble. You will notice that he doesn’t discuss Ole Miss, underscoring the amount of work left for the Rebels to do.
3. Win the SEC Tournament
This last one is easy – win and we’re in.
While it may seem like a far-fetched proposition, the Rebels could conceivably win the SEC Tournament. They’ve been playing well as of late. For example, if the Rebels win their next two games, they will have finished the season by winning 6 of 7.
Further, should the Rebels win their next two, they would face the winner of Missouri-Mississippi State in their first game. The Rebels have gone a combined 4-0 against the two of those teams this year.
Thereafter, the Rebels would likely draw South Carolina, a team they would have just beaten. Should Ole Miss win there, they would draw Kentucky and have an opportunity at that elusive top-10 win.
Simply being on the bubble this season highlights the ability of AK to get the best out of his teams. The Rebels were picked to finish 9th in the SEC by the media before the season. Yet, here we are.
This week should be a wild one as major conferences wrap up regular season play. By Sunday, we should have a clearer picture as to whether or not the Rebels have a realistic shot at the NCAA Tournament.