The Rebels, a No. 5 seed who defeated No. 4 seed Monmouth Tuesday night, will travel to face No. 1 seed Syracuse Saturday at 10 a.m. CT.
The Orange easily dispatched of No. 8 seed UNC-Greensboro, 90-77, Wednesday, in a game that was delayed a day due to Winter Storm Stella. Andrew White III led Syracuse with 33 points. The Orange saw four players score double-digit points, including 20 from Tyus Battle.
The last time Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy faced off against Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim in the Carrier Dome was in 2006. Kennedy’s Cincinnati team won 82-65.
“We’re just glad to play,” Kennedy said. “We’ve got upperclassmen who know if we lose it’s done. They’d like to play a little more.”
With its 91-83 win over Monmouth, Ole Miss (21-13) handed the Hawks just their fourth home loss over the last two seasons. Monmouth is 24-4 at home over that stretch.
The Rebels also secured their sixth 21-win season under Kennedy, who is in his 11th season as Ole Miss head coach. The Rebels had three 21-win seasons prior to 2006: one apiece for George Bohler, Rob Evans and Rod Barnes. Kennedy now holds 52 percent (10 of 19) of the program’s all-time postseason wins.
There was thought originally that Ole Miss - Monmouth would, at the very least, suffer the same fate as Syracuse - UNC-Greensboro. West Long Branch, N.J., was expected to get hit hard with snow, similar to Syracuse, with the Rebels even flying into a blizzard warning. However, the game tipped off without a hitch — though game time was pushed back 15 minutes — and the Rebels earned their 14th all-time NIT win, and the first since 2010.
Ole Miss holds a 14-11 record in the NIT. The Rebels are 8-5 under Kennedy.
“Only the Rebels go right into the teeth of a state of emergency, don’t we?” Kennedy said. “Most people flee a state of emergency. We go right into it, man. Wide open. We were fortunate that we were able to get the game in. We’re fortunate that we were able to get out (with a win) and live to fight another day. Proud of my guys.”
The winner of Ole Miss - Syracuse will advance to the quarterfinals March 21-22 to face either Georgia Tech or Belmont. The Orange are 19-14 on the year. Ole Miss, with a win, would also host the third-round matchup at The Pavilion.
The semifinals, scheduled for March 28, will take place at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Ole Miss has advanced to two NIT Final Fours — 2008 and 2010 — under Kennedy.