We don’t normally get to choose when to work. We don’t normally get to wait until “everything is right” to perform. The mark of a true leader is making your team better, hitting your expectations even when you don’t have all the ducks in line.
Andy Kennedy gets a chance to show what he can do tonight. Can he will this team of horrible free throw shooters, with no consistent outside shot, to win tonight and keep his team alive? (Horrible is a very accurate word to use. Dead last in the SEC at 60%).
He has done it all year. Ole Miss comes into tonight’s game with an RPI of 58, fifth best among league schools, with what I would describe as a make shift team, at best.
Gone from last years’ team is Chris Warren, who finished with the school record in three point shots made (334), and finished as the 5th best in SEC history. Also gone is his replacement, Dundrecous Nelson, who was too big of a Bob Marley fan for the Oxford Police Department’s taste. Largely absent, is Ole Miss’ only McDonald’s AA, Jelan Kendrick, who has had trouble fitting in with the team and has been suspended for the SEC tournament due to conduct detrimental to the team.
Still, this years’ team is sitting at same record as last, with 18 wins heading into the SEC tournament. Kennedy has been using the strong front court of Reginald Buckner and Murphy Holloway to control the paint, mop up the offensive glass and out defend the opponent.
That will continue to be the plan tonight as Ole Miss faces Auburn at the New Orleans Arena at 6:30pm. The Rebels are currently on a three game win streak, which includes a solid win over a top 50 RPI team, Alabama. Auburn and Ole Miss split their regular season matchups, both winning at home.
The pressure will be on Ole Miss who has an outside shot at the NCAA tournament with a deep run in New Orleans. It will take at a minimum two wins, three to be safe, which will require defeating Auburn, Tennessee and likely the Vanderbilt/Mississippi State winner. Two wins will get the Rebels twenty wins in five of Kennedy’s 6 seasons, which to me is impressive. Appearances in the NCAA tournament have been glaringly absent during Kennedy’s run. Tonight, he has to find a way.
Kennedy may have had better weapons in the past, but now is the time to use any motivation and teamwork the guys have left, and leave it all on the floor. Let’s hope it doesn’t come down to free throws.