"In a perfect world, I would love to do these tournaments earlier in the season," said Kennedy, whose 7-2 Rebels play Texas State (2-7) at 5 p.m. today. "I think it's a great bonding opportunity. You're in a hotel with your guys 24/7 over a four or five day period. You're playing quality competition. I think it's very beneficial to your group."
"It's a business trip," sophomore center Reginald Buckner said. "We're not going there to have fun. We're going there to get the W."
Senior guard Chris Warren, a veteran of these type events, agreed almost verbatim.
"We just take a business mentality," he said. "It's a business approach and not so much a vacation. If we're prepared for every game, we know we'll be alright."
The Rebels are the obvious favorite in the tournament and should be considered the top team in the field. Ole Miss has already defeated two of the other seven teams participating.
On Dec. 4, the Rebels beat Southern Mississippi 86-81 in Oxford. Last Saturday, the Rebs took care of business against East Tennessee State 71-50, also in Oxford.
USM could also be considered a favorite in the tourney. The Golden Eagles' lone loss this season came at Ole Miss. Southern Miss, 7-1, is coming off an 80-78 road win in Berkeley against California.
Northeastern (2-5) enters the event with a five-game losing streak. Saint Louis and ETSU both come in at 4-5. Appalachian State is 4-4, and Colorado State is 4-3.
"There are some very capable teams in it," Kennedy said. "I hope that our focus is right. The scary thing is the closer you get to Christmas, all kids want to go home. So hopefully by being in Cancun we can distract them a little bit to the task at hand prior to giving them a couple of days off."
Kennedy said the fact that Ole Miss has already faced two of the other seven teams in the field is something that's a bit unusual but one they accept.
"I would prefer not having to play (them again)," he said. "Obviously we were successful against both of them. They're on the other side of the bracket, so who knows how this thing's going to play out? I would prefer having a field that we had not faced as of yet."
The winner of the Ole Miss-Texas State first-round matchup will advance to play the winner of Appalachian State-Colorado State at 8:30 p.m. CT on Thursday (ESPNU), while the losers play at 6 p.m. Thursday (ESPN3.com).
The final round is on Friday, with the tournament championship game scheduled for 8 p.m. (ESPN2). Friday's third-place game will also be shown on ESPN2. The other two final-day games are not televised.
In tournaments such as this, the gyms are normally not nearly filled. Often the teams involved and their small entourages are the only ones that attend.
"All the energy has to come from within," Kennedy said. "You're not going to get anything from the crowd."
Warren said whatever pleasure the team has on the trip needs to come from its time on the playing court.
"Basketball is supposed to be fun," he said. "That's how we try to take it."
Kennedy said it is another significant moment for Ole Miss basketball to take a step, and he hopes his squad is 10-2 when it returns to Mississippi.
"To have an opportunity to play in a national tournament, you jump at it," he said. "It's a great opportunity for us. We're looking forward to playing some quality basketball ourselves."
Today's game, not televised live, is on the Ole Miss Radio Network with David Kellum and Keith Carter calling the action. It's also on satellite radio - Sirius 212 and XM 199 - as well as live on RebelVision.