February 22, 2013
After starting out the season 17-2 and winning their first six SEC games — including a 15 point win over Missouri — Ole Miss looked like they may actually have the horsepower to make a run at an NCAA tournament birth.
But since Marshall Henderson became an internet sensation thanks to a well-executed GIF stemming from his venture towards the Auburn student section, the Rebels have been a disaster.
They've lost five of their last seven games, dropping them to 8-5 in the SEC and 19-7 overall, which isn't bad but is a long way from good enough to feel comfortable about their NCAA tournament hopes. The first three of those losses were fairly acceptable — Kentucky (when they had Nerlens Noel), at Florida, at Missouri.
Since then, however, Andy Kennedy's club has lost at Texas A&M, got taken to overtime by Georgia and, on Wednesday night, lost at South Carolina. That's what will happen when the SEC's leading scorer shoots 4-17 from the floor.
"This certainly hurts us. We know that. Thank goodness the NCAA tournament is not selected tomorrow. So we've got opportunities to try to improve," Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy said.
That's great in theory, but where can Ole Miss really improve their resume? Against Auburn or Mississippi State, who are both outside the top 200 in the RPI? LSU is outside the top 100. Alabama has struggled so much that they are 58th in the RPI despite having a 10-3 record in the SEC. Texas A&M is 72nd. And, given that Ole Miss just lost at A&M and just lost at South Carolina (which, coincidentally, is the reason the Gamecocks are no longer outside the top 200), there's no guarantee that Kennedy can lead this group to a 5-0 finish in league play.
Ole Miss is in major trouble if they can't turn this thing around, and frustrations are understandably starting to boil over.
Can Kennedy find a way to get to his first NCAA tournament as a head coach, or is he destined for his seventh NIT in eight season?
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.