Ole Miss turns attention to possible NIT bid

Published 6:00 am Saturday, March 11, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NCAA Tournament is no longer a possibility for Ole Miss, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the Rebels’ season is over.

Ole Miss bowed out of the Southeastern Conference Tournament late Friday night as its upset bid of No. 3 seed Arkansas came up a bucket short in a 73-72 loss. Ole Miss likely needed to run the table in Nashville to get an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with a postseason resume that lacked the kind of quality wins needed to make a serious case for an at-large berth, but the Rebels instead fell to 2-9 against top-50 RPI teams.

Now the Rebels (20-13) will wait until after the NCAA Tournament field is announced Sunday to see if they’re selected to play in the National Invitation Tournament. The 32-team field will be announced at 7:30 p.m. on ESPNU, and Ole Miss won’t apologize if it’s picked.

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“The NIT is not a bad thing,” guard Terence Davis said. “We still get to play basketball.”

Getting in seems like a foregone conclusion for the Rebels, whose RPI sits at 75 after the loss to Arkansas. NYCBuckets.com and DRatings.com both have Ole Miss projected as a No. 3 seed in the tournament, which would have the Rebels playing a first-round game at home. Higher-seeded teams in the NIT get to host until the semifinals when the tournament shifts to Madison Square Garden in New York.

Ole Miss’ season will end if it’s left out of the NIT. The Rebels will not consider playing in any other postseason tournament.

“I hope we have a postseason,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “We won 20 games last year and we didn’t make the NIT. I think I feel pretty confident just based on the way that the numbers are a little different from an RPI standpoint. I think we’ll have this opportunity. I think this team deserves that.”

Ole Miss has missed the postseason all together two of the last three seasons and hasn’t played in the NIT since 2012 when the Rebels were upset by seventh-seeded Illinois State. It’s not the tournament Ole Miss wanted, but the Rebels would be happy to keep playing nonetheless.

“Getting to play in the postseason is a big accomplishment for us,” Davis said. “It helps out a lot.”