Go West

As revealed in a selection show on ESPN2 Sunday night, Ole Miss earned its fourth berth into the National Invitation Tournament field in five seasons, as a five-seed, and will travel to fourth-seeded California Wednesday at 8 p.m. CT.

The Rebels finished the regular season 20-13 overall -- the fourth 20-win season under head coach Andy Kennedy -- but were eliminated by Kentucky in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament Friday.

Ole Miss and California (17-14) are meeting for the first time, in a game to be broadcast on ESPN2.

"This team deserves to have the opportunity to continue to play," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "One hundred out of 347 (teams) get that opportunity. I'm sure our guys will be excited about it."

Ole Miss advanced to the NIT Final Four in Madison Square Garden last season, its second trip to New York City for the NIT Final Four in three years. The Rebels were eliminated by eventual champion Dayton. The other came in 2008, when Ole Miss was eliminated by Ohio State.

Ole Miss is making its fourth appearance in the NIT in five years under Kennedy
Courtesy: Bruce Newman
The NIT was never the end game for Ole Miss. The Rebels have now missed out on the NCAA Tournament for the ninth straight year, with their last appearance in the now-expanded field coming in 2001-02.

The Rebels struggled in conference play, totaling seven wins to nine losses, including two losses to in-state rival Mississippi State and one to league cellar-dweller Auburn.

They also lost at South Carolina, though they avenged the loss in the first round in Atlanta.

"I really wanted to (get to the NCAA Tournament) for Zach (Graham) and Chris (Warren)," junior Terrance Henry said.

"They've been model players in the SEC for four years and they haven't been to a tournament. I wanted to play my heart out and do everything I could to get to the tournament for them."

Ole Miss' only chance to make the NCAA Tournament was to win four games in four days in the SEC Tournament to gain an automatic berth. However, the Rebels were unable to top Kentucky for what would have been the second time this season, instead falling, 75-66. Kentucky was crowned tournament champions earlier today with a win against Florida.

Again landing in the NIT is a disappointment for Warren and Graham, the team's only seniors. Ole Miss has come close to gaining entry into the NCAA Tournament throughout their respective careers, but routinely fell a game or two short.

"(The NIT) is not our goal, but we're basketball players. We came here to play basketball. As long as we've got more games on the schedule, I feel like we'll be ready for it," Graham said.

Warren is two points shy of 2,000 for his career. Only three other players in school history and 23 players in SEC history have reached that mark. Warren said it won't be difficult for the team to get up for another appearance in the NIT.

"I don't think it'll be tough, because I think once we're in the game, people don't want to lose. We don't like to lose. We'll play to win," he said. "Live with it, and what comes the way, play."

If Ole Miss were to advance, it would play the winner of No. 1 seed Colorado and No. 8 seed Texas Southern. Second round games are scheduled for March 18-21.

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