3-point shot: Ole Miss on upswing

December, 2, 2011
12/02/11
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1. Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy has had a hard time catching breaks since he arrived in Oxford. The Rebels have dealt with injuries, defections and early-entrants and an inability to be consistent enough to be an NCAA tournament team. Whether or not Ole Miss can get there in 2012 is still to be determined. But the Rebels finally closed out a game in a frenetic situation as they beat DePaul on the road on a Murphy Holloway layup. Holloway, who played at Ole Miss, transferred to South Carolina and then came back, had committed a silly foul the previous possession before coming up with a decisive steal and layup. The Rebels got blitzed by 30 by Marquette in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands but did finish off Miami in overtime last week. DePaul may be in the bottom fourth of the Big East but the win will still do wonders for the Rebels’ confidence. “It’s the first road win versus a Big East opponent ever in Ole Miss basketball history,’’ said Kennedy late Thursday night of a random fact that seems hard to digest. “Sometimes you’ve got to win ugly.’’ The Rebels aren’t going to be better than Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt or likely Mississippi State or Alabama. But can Ole Miss be more productive than Tennessee or Arkansas or Auburn? This squad has a shot to be a top-six SEC team.

2. The Colonial Athletic Association has been disappointing through the first month of the season. Drexel (2-3) was the preseason favorite but the Dragons haven’t been completely healthy and don’t have a quality win. Other contenders like George Mason, VCU and Old Dominion have either not had their full complement of players or simply are rebuilding and aren’t ready to win elite games. The best win by the CAA so far may be Northeastern’s victory at St. John’s, hardly a NCAA-bound victory since the Red Storm are likely a lower-half Big East squad. “We don’t have that juggernaut team that stands out,’’ said ODU coach Blaine Taylor. “But once we get our people back, the same with Drexel, George Mason and you’ll see VCU play better than people will see how good the (CAA teams are). Our teams have been up and down that doesn’t mean in the long haul that we won’t have real good teams once we get to January and February.’’ The CAA had its second Final Four team in six seasons when VCU earned a bid last April.

3. The MAC last had multiple NCAA tournament teams in 1999 when Miami was a 10-seed and Kent State was an 11. The league once had a flurry of NBA-level-talented players who for whatever reason didn’t make it to the Big Ten. But the MAC slump has been going on for a dozen years. That is, possibly, until now. The MAC has already picked up significant wins: Akron at Mississippi State, Ohio at Marshall, Kent State at West Virginia, Miami and Buffalo beat Dayton (which won the Old Spice Classic). Bowling Green beat Temple. Will any of those wins get the MAC an at-large berth? Probably not. But the MAC is at least proving that it is no longer a weaker comparison to the Horizon League, the Missouri Valley or the Colonial.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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