In the story, Andy Glockner, who covers college basketball for Sports Illustrated, detailed the struggles of West Division teams of the Southeastern Conference. Of those teams, only Ole Miss, currently at 9-3 overall, can make a case for an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament, according to Glockner.
Ole Miss' Rating Percentage Index, a quantity used to rank sports teams based upon a team's wins and losses and its strength of schedule, is No. 54, according to RealTimeRPI – the best of any team in its division.
The Rebels' strength of schedule, which sits at No. 69, includes wins over Murray State, Penn State and Southern Miss. Ole Miss traveled to Cancun, Mexico over Christmas to compete in the Cancun Governor's Cup, ending the tournament with two wins (Texas State, Saint Louis) and a loss to Colorado State.
But while Ole Miss sits atop the West in terms of NCAA Tournament consideration, Glocker said, Ole Miss "has almost no chance of landing an at-large berth." In Glockner's report, all 10 of Ole Miss' division games will be against teams outside the RPI Top 150.
Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy, when asked earlier in the week, believes it's very premature to talk about RPI in late December.
Ole Miss has at least 20 games remaining. The Rebels host Alcorn State today at 7 p.m.
"We put some thought into our non-conference schedule," Kennedy said. "We think we've played some quality teams. We think that'll show over time. I think it's very premature to talk about RPI now, because you're really not deep enough into the season for the parameters of the season to have kicked in.
"Having said that, I really can't control what the other teams do. I can't control what their RPI is. All I can do is try and get our team focused on making sure that we take care of our business. All we can do is focus on winning as many (games) as possible and let this thing play out."
On Monday, in-state rival Mississippi State sat at No. 239 in RPI. That was before the Bulldogs lost to Saint Mary's, 94-72, in Las Vegas. Mississippi State, now 8-6 on the season, was pegged by most media outlets as the favorites in the SEC West.
Auburn, with an RPI Rank of 331, is 3-7 overall. A few of the Tigers losses include UNC-Asheville, Samford, Campbell and Jacksonville. Per Glockner's report, Ole Miss' hopes may come down to home games against Tennessee and Kentucky – teams from the SEC East.
"Honestly, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it," Kennedy said of RPI. "All I can do is coach our team and play the games that are in front of us. We're going to play six teams from the East, which, from an RPI standpoint, have put themselves in a better position than the teams from the West going into the league (schedule). All we can do is play the games and see how it plays out."
Welcoming Alcorn State:
Ole Miss hosts Alcorn State today in the first of a three-game stretch prior to the open of conference play in January.
Alcorn State is winless on the season, having lost each of its nine games by an average of 28.8 points per game. The Braves average 59.2 points to opponents' 88.0. This will be the fourth meeting between Ole Miss and Alcorn State, with Ole Miss holding a 3-0 all-time record in the series.
"We played a team in their league earlier in the year, Mississippi Valley," Kennedy said. "You look at their record and you think, ‘Oh, they don't pose a serious threat.' That's what a common fan would think.
"But as a coach, you understand what they have to go through, as far as a travel standpoint. They've played all road games, so we know they've been tested. They've been in hostile environments before. They've played against high-level teams, and have certainly shown capable."
Ole Miss rectified its rebounding woes in Cancun.
The Rebels bested foes on the boards by an average of 18.7 per game. Zach Graham, a senior, was named to the All-Tournament team after averaging 15.0 points and 8.0 rebounds. Reginald Buckner led the team with 10.0 rebounds per game.
"The positives were that we rebounded the ball over a three-game stretch as well as we have all season," Kennedy said.
"We dominated the glass. We were plus-12 at least in each game. We made free throws, which is something that's really been hit or miss with this team. I was disappointed that we went over to Mexico leading the SEC in assist to turnover ratio. I think we had more turnovers to assists overall, in all three of the games. We shot it so poorly, quite honestly, we were fortunate to get out of there 2-1."
Ole Miss entered the tournament with a -0.6 rebounding margin through its first nine games. After its performance in Cancun, including a 42-23 rebounding advantage vs. Texas State, the season rebounding margin has vaulted all the way to +4.3.
"Obviously, the biggest negative was our inability to shoot the ball, most especially from 3," Kennedy said. "We shot it so poorly, really overall, in the tournament, most especially against Colorado State, it kept us from getting to the championship game with a chance to win that tournament."
The Rebels, who host Southeastern Louisiana Sunday at 6 p.m., are looking to finish the month of December with a 7-1 record before the turn of the year.