VIDEO: With run in mind at SEC tournament, Ole Miss focuses on ‘the first one’

Published 4:12 pm Wednesday, March 9, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Is winning this year’s Southeastern Conference men’s basketball tournament Ole Miss’ only shot at returning to the NCAA Tournament?

Ask head coach Andy Kennedy and some of his players, and the opinions are different. But in all reality, it’s highly likely the Rebels need to be the ones cutting down the nets in Bridgestone Arena on Sunday.

Everybody agrees about one thing: Now that its roster is fully healthy playing in a tournament that doesn’t have that dominant team like Kentucky last year or Florida the year before that, Ole Miss (20-11) believes it has one last run in it. But a run — the seventh-seeded Rebels would have to win four games in four days — can’t start without a win in its tournament opener against No. 10 Alabama on Thursday (6 p.m., SEC Network).

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If the Rebels win that one, they’d get No. 2 Kentucky in the quarterfinals Friday with a possibility of a semifinal matchup against No. 3 South Carolina on Saturday, a pair of games against top-50 RPI teams that would boost a postseason resume that has just one top-50 RPI win on it. Ole Miss enters the tournament at No. 89 in the NCAA’s latest RPI rankings.

But those possible matchups can wait in a win-or-go-home scenario.

“Who knows what’s going to happen around the country?” Kennedy said. “Everything will really start changing here in the next 48 hours because everybody starts to get into their conference tournaments. But for us, I don’t really want to think about the magnitude of having to win four games in four days. I just want to try think about let’s win Thursday.”

Ole Miss, which has won two straight games and four of its last five, will have to knock off the Crimson Tide for the second time this season after winning the teams’ only regular-season matchup  Jan. 7 in Oxford.

“We know we need four, but we’re not really stressing that fact,” senior guard Stefan Moody said. “We just know we want to get better. (Thursday) is the first one. That’s the one we need to get.”

Watch Kennedy, Moody and junior forward Sebastian Saiz in the following videos talk about the team’s mindset entering the tournament and another matchup with Alabama (17-13) and senior point guard Retin Obasohan, the SEC’s fifth-leading scorer at 17.7 points a game.

See Thursday’s edition of the EAGLE for more coverage on Ole Miss from the SEC Tournament.