Mississippi head coach Andy Kennedy speaks to an official during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the second round of the Southeastern Conference tournament against South Carolina, Thursday, March 12, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Phot
Steve Helber
March 13, 2015

Mississippi has done just about everything possible to play its way out of NCAA Tournament consideration.

The Rebels (20-12) appeared to be cruising toward a second trip to the tournament in three years before losing five of their last eight games, including a stunning 60-58 loss to South Carolina on Thursday in the Southeastern Conference tournament.

Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy still believes his team has a decent shot at making the field of 68 teams, but said here will be a lot of uncertainty until the brackets are announced on Sunday.

''We have now taken destiny out of our own hands, and so now we just have to wait and see what the other teams that are in the equation have done,'' Kennedy said.

It's a familiar spot for a program that has lived on the NCAA Tournament bubble for most of the past decade - and usually on the wrong side of it. The Rebels have been to the National Invitation Tournament five times and the NCAA Tournament just once in Kennedy's eight seasons.

If Ole Miss has to settle for a sixth NIT in nine seasons, it won't have anyone to blame but itself. The Rebels had a 58-57 lead over South Carolina on Thursday night with less than a second remaining when LaDarius White fouled Tyrone Johnson on a desperation 3-pointer. Johnson hit all three free throws to give the Gamecocks the win.

Kennedy said nobody felt worse about the play than White - a senior who has had a big role with the team in all four of his seasons - but it was indicative of how the veteran Rebels have surprisingly struggled in crucial situations.

''For a team that has as many upperclassmen as we do, as many minutes have been logged, I think our awareness failed us at times and as a result, it's got us in this precarious situation,'' Kennedy said.

White was brutally honest in the minutes following Thursday's loss when asked about the team's NCAA Tournament chances.

''I really don't feel like we've done enough,'' he said.

That remains to be seen. Ole Miss ended the season poorly, but also had some good moments earlier in the year. The Rebels beat Arkansas on their home court and pushed No. 1 Kentucky to overtime before losing. There are also solid wins against Oregon, Cincinnati and Texas A&M.

But for a program that's used to being so close to the NCAA Tournament before falling short, the next few days won't be much fun.

Kennedy said that regardless of what happens on Sunday, he's proud of how his team competed, even if the last four weeks haven't gone as planned.

''That's the price of competition,'' Kennedy said. ''If you don't want to live in this world, then don't compete because it's the price of competition. The highs are high and the lows are low.''


Follow David Brandt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP

You May Like

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)