Following a crushing defeat at South Carolina Wednesday, February 20, all the talk was about whether or not the loss would cost Ole Miss a ticket to the Big Dance. The Rebels remain alive for an NCAA Tournament berth, but their room for error the rest of the way is now zero.
One more loss likely puts Andy Kennedy and the Rebels once again on the outside looking in come Selection Sunday. It would be a very bitter pill to swallow for a team that started the season 17-2 and were at one point ranked as high as No. 16 in the nation.
Despite the upset to a South Carolina club 2-10 in the SEC prior to defeating the Rebels, Jerry Palm still feels it's entirely too early to count Ole Miss out of the NCAA Tournament.
With five games remaining before the conference tournament, Ole Miss really must win all five outings to try and stay off the tournament bubble. With five more wins, Kennedy's team would finish regular-season play 24-7 (13-5 SEC). While 24 wins certainly doesn't guarantee Ole Miss a ticket to dance in March, it should put them darn close.
On the other hand, a loss in any of its remaining games would almost surely knock Ole Miss out of the NCAA Tournament.
The Rebels play Auburn, Texas A&M and Alabama at home, while traveling to Mississippi State and LSU the rest of the season. A loss to Auburn, Mississippi State or even LSU would be a "bad loss" in the eyes of the selection committee, while a loss to Alabama would likely leapfrog the Crimson Tide over the Rebels for a shot to dance. Texas A&M, well that's just a game Ole Miss has to win.
I've said since Jan. 16 that Andy Kennedy's Rebels controlled their own March Madness destiny, and it's never been more true than it is following the debacle at South Carolina.
The NCAA Tournament selection committee takes into strong consideration how a team finishes the regular season. If the Rebels can win their final five games, I think they'll be on the safe side of the bubble.
Win out, and you're likely still dancing in March, Ole Miss.
Drop even one more contest, and you're probably headed back to the NIT without winning the SEC Tournament.