Mizzou a Must?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Senior forward Murphy Holloway has a preference of who Ole Miss draws for its first game in the SEC tournament this weekend.

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"We want to play Missouri," he said.

He has his reasons, not the least of which is Ole Miss' NCAA tournament hopes hinging on how the Rebels perform here in Music City. They're 23-8 overall and finished 12-6 in league games. However, according to all bracketologists, they're on the wrong side of the bubble.

A win over Missouri would mean a much-needed top-50 RPI win. Holding Ole Miss back, it seems, is the Rebels' 1-4 record against the RPI top-50, as well as two sub-.200 losses to Mississippi State and South Carolina. Ole Miss checks in at No. 56 in the latest RPI, according to RealTimeRPI.com.

Its strength of schedule (No. 148) is a detriment, too, including a non-conference slate in the 200s.

"Win the whole thing," Holloway said. "Leave no doubt."

Ole Miss will get one of Missouri or Texas A&M Friday at 9 p.m. The Rebels earned a double-bye in the tournament due to their finishing tied for second overall in the league standings. Kentucky held the tiebreaker after beating Ole Miss in the only regular season meetings between the teams.

Missouri is the No. 6 seed. The Aggies, the No. 11 seed, defeated No. 14 Auburn on Wednesday. Missouri and Texas A&M will play tonight at 9 p.m.

"We approach it as we need to win Friday night," head coach Andy Kennedy said, when asked of what Ole Miss needs to get done this weekend. "That's all we think about, that's all we talk about. We're doing preparation for both Missouri and Texas A&M.

Murphy Holloway
Bruce Newman

"We're familiar with both, obviously. It just so happens that they're two of the four teams that we played twice. We're very familiar with both. It's just a matter for us of winning Friday. We don't think beyond that."

Missouri (22-9, 11-7 SEC) is considered by most as one of only two locks for an NCAA tournament bid from the SEC, joining top-seeded Florida. The Tigers don't have any bad losses, to go along with a strong RPI (35) and strength of schedule (53), as well as resume-building wins over Illinois, Florida and others.

In short, the Tigers are just the opponent Ole Miss needs to boost its profile. The Rebels last reached the NCAA tournament in 2002.

"Everybody wants to get something done, do something special. Here's the chance," Holloway said. "It would mean a lot to me (to make the NCAA tournament). The school hasn't been there in a while. I'd like to know I went to Ole Miss and did something great."

Ole Miss has an overall record of 26-49 in 50 SEC tournament appearances. The Rebels have reached four SEC championship contests and have a 1-3 record in those games.

Ole Miss took home the tournament title in 1981, defeating Georgia in the championship game. Last season in New Orleans, La., the Rebels beat Auburn in the first round and Tennessee in the quarterfinals before falling to eventual SEC tournament champion Vanderbilt in the semifinals.

"I think we've shown capable," Kennedy said. "It's a matter of consistency with us, as it is with most everyone. I just want them to live in the moment. Forget about the 23, forget about the eight. Forget about the 12, forget about the six. It's about the one Friday night."

Perez to play:

Freshman guard/forward Anthony Perez injured his knee against Texas A&M two weeks ago. He didn't play in any of the Rebels' final three regular season games.

But he'll play Friday.

Kennedy said Perez, who suffered a grade one MCL sprain, has recovered well. He participated in his first five-on-five action this week, and could be a boost off the bench for a front court featuring just three players: Holloway, Reginald Buckner and Terry Brutus.

Anthony Perez
Bruce Newman

"He's come a long way," Kennedy said. "He's responded well."

Kennedy "surprised" by Henderson and Holloway snubs:

Marshall Henderson led the SEC in scoring. Holloway is the SEC active leader in rebounds and double-doubles. They were both left off the All-SEC first team by the league coaches this week.

The last player to lead the SEC in scoring and not make first team All-SEC was Ronald Dupree of LSU in 2001.

"I was a little surprised, but I'm not as big a conspiracy theorist as some," Kennedy said. "I think it is what it is. They could have split the vote. Marshall had good games, bad games. Murph had good games, bad games. I don't read too much into it."

Holloway said he was less surprised by his being snubbed than Henderson.

"Somebody said on Twitter, ‘You don't want to motivate him.' He's motivated," Holloway said. "We've been playing well, but it helps having Marshall wanting to make two or three more 3-pointers a game."

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