His Rebels, who suffered a resume-deflating loss at Mississippi State on Saturday, are now a long shot for the NCAA tournament. Is there still a chance? Sure, albeit a very small one.
The road ahead is daunting, starting with a home tilt with Alabama tonight at 8 p.m. Ole Miss is 21-8 overall and 10-6 in Southeastern Conference games.
“It was a tough loss,” Kennedy said during his time on the SEC teleconference on Monday. “We didn’t play very well. Mississippi State, I thought, played with a sense of urgency in defending their home floor.
“For us, obviously it was a damaging loss to our profile. All that we can do now is try to get ready for the next game. We’ve got two regular season games which will determine where we are as it relates to seeding in the SEC tournament. We know we’ll have to go to Nashville and get some work done.”
“Work done,” as in win the whole thing, most likely.
Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner
USA TODAY images
Because Ole Miss’ loss to Mississippi State, a team with an RPI ranked No. 239, did significant damage. Ole Miss checks in at No. 59 in the RPI.
The Rebels are currently tied with Missouri for fourth in overall conference standings.
The top four teams receive byes in the SEC tournament, to be played next week. Alabama (19-10, 11-5) is tied with Kentucky for second.
“We’ve got to win games,” Kennedy said. “Regardless of what happens for us in the next two regular season games, we’re going to still have work to do.
“My hope is we’ll respond and come out on Senior Night and defend our home floor and then find a way to go and break through on the road.”
Prior to the loss at Mississippi State, Ole Miss was comfortably in the NCAA tournament.
Now, for example, Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com has Ole Miss third behind Villanova, Iowa State and Maryland in his “first four out.” Tennessee, a team Ole Miss beat twice in January, is one of his “last four in.”
The Rebels will round out the regular season Saturday at LSU. First, though, is Senior Night, when Ole Miss will honor Reginald Buckner, Murphy Holloway and Nick Williams.
“I’m proud of all three guys for the time and the energy they’ve put into this program,” Kennedy said. “Nick Williams has already graduated. He’s as solid a kid as I’ve ever had the privilege of coaching here. Murph, if he has a good final spring semester, is on point to get his degree, and Reg is going to need a little extra time.
“All three guys have certainly impacted our program in a variety of ways. As you look back on their careers, I do think they’ve all had moments that we can certainly be proud of.”
Buckner is Ole Miss’ all-time career leader in blocked shots. He’s sixth in SEC history. Holloway became the all-time school rebounding leader against Kentucky. He’s the SEC active career leader in rebounds and double-doubles, and Holloway is just the 23rd player in SEC history to score at least 1,250 points and pull down 1,000 rebounds in a career.
“Right now, it’s about trying to send these seniors out on the right note, trying to protect our home floor and trying to grind out a win,” Kennedy said, when asked about the focus of his team.
“My focus, and I hope the focus of this team, is on Tuesday night and nothing beyond that.”