Ole Miss, Kennedy blow up the bubble
Notes, quotes and an opinion or two after a weekend off to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in a way only Jackson does (thank-you Malcolm White)…
Just because I stayed away from the laptop doesn’t mean I missed all the hoops. So, first thing’s first:
• Congrats to Andy Kennedy, the winning-est coach in Ole Miss history, and his Rebels. They didn’t take any chances on the NCAA bubble — having had no success at that in the past. No, they blew that bubble up, winning the SEC Tournament for the first time since Bob Weltlich’s 1980-81 team.
The Rebels were “rewarded” with a No. 12 seed and a first-round date with Wisconsin. Frankly, I don’t like that matchup and I’m guessing Kennedy doesn’t either. Bo Ryan’s Badgers will slow the pace down and guard the Rebels as they have rarely been guarded.
It’s a tortoise (Ryan) vs. the hare (Kennedy) matchup. Ole Miss won’t have nearly as many possessions and will have to make each possession count. Can’t stress enough how much more important individual possessions will be in this game.
• You could certainly make a case Southern Miss deserved to be in the tournament after the Eagles’ excruciating double overtime loss to Memphis in the Conference USA finals at Tulsa. USM has the highest RPI of any team not in the NCAA Tournament.
But, you can’t argue this: The Eagles shot themselves out of the Big Dance at the free throw line. All they had to do to beat Memphis and get in the tournament was make free shots. They didn’t, and so they aren’t. Still, can’t say enough about Donnie Tyndall’s first USM team, how hard they play and how far they have exceeded expectations.
Can’t say enough about Memphis either. The Tigers made every big shot down the stretch to avoid USM’s upset bid. The Tigers are a 6-seed who could go deep. Can’t imagine that Rick Pitino likes seeing the Tigers in his bracket.
• Anybody notice what ex-USM coach Larry Eustachy has done at Colorado State this season? The Rams finished 25-8 and will play Missouri in a first-round NCAA game. Win that one and CSU likely go against top-seed Louisville. Regardless, Eustachy is taking his fourth school to the Big Dance.
• Last week began with Ole Miss’s Marshall Henderson winning the C Spire Howell Trophy in a close vote over USM’s Dwayne Davis and Rebel Murphy Holloway.
The week ended with all three showing why they were finalists. Davis scored 63 points in three games of the Conference USA Tournament. Henderson scored 70 points in three games of the SEC Tournament and Holloway contributed 44 points and a whopping 31 rebounds to Ole Miss’s SEC Championship run.
I closed the C Spire luncheon by asking those three finalists to “make us proud.”
They surely did.