Photo courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics
Ole Miss’ four-game winning streak vaulted them into the NCAA Tournament conversation, but loses in two of their last three games, including today’s 75-70 loss to Vanderbilt in Nashville, has seemingly burst the Rebels’ bubble.
Playing without their two leading scorers, Scotty Pipen Jr. and Dylan Disu, the Commodores were able to outlast the Rebels despite a last-ditch effort in the closing minutes of the game. An 8-1 run cut the deficit to 73-70 with a half-minute to play, but consecutive threes from Ole Miss missed the mark and the Rebels fall to 13-10 (8-8 SEC).
Ole Miss senior guard Devontae Shuler led all scorers with 25 points, but it was the Commodore bench outscoring the Rebel reserves 39-4 that made the difference in this one.
Entering today’s game, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had Ole Miss as one the ‘next four out’ of the NCAA Tournament field, having surged from 85 to 57 in the NET ranking since January 18th, but today’s loss all but slammed the door on their March Madness hopes.
“A little bit of hope because today’s game was on the road, but it’s still a bad loss as the worst possible time. I’m the doctor that comes into the room with the bad news at this point, and the news is not good in Oxford,” Lunardi said on the SEC Network postgame.
Ole Miss wraps up its regular season next week, welcoming Kentucky and Vandy to Oxford.
In order to climb back into the 68-team field, the Rebels would likely have to receive an automatic bid by way of winning the SEC Tournament. Four additional at-large teams will be included in the field as the NCAA’s contingency plan should a team be forced to drop out due to COVID-19 protocols.
While the 2020 edition of the tournament was canceled in the early days of the pandemic, this year’s tournament will go on with a few adjustments. The games will be held across six venues in Indianapolis in front of 25% capacity crowds.