Arkansas has the second seed wrapped up for the Southeastern Conference Tournament late next week. At 8-6 in SEC play, nobody below them in the West can catch the Hogs; conversely Arkansas can't catch 11-3 SEC West champion Mississippi State.
With the top two seeds set, the rest of the West is up for grabs. It's anybody's ballgame.
Ole Miss and LSU check in at 5-9, while the two state of Alabama schools – the Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers – are 4-10.
Ole Miss and Arkansas are just a game behind MSU in the overall records column with State at 20-8 and the Rebs and Hogs checking in at 19-9.
Ole Miss has won 10 of its last 11 games against Arkansas in Oxford, the lone setback by a single point at 66-65 in 2005.
Tonight's a big game for Arkansas as the Razorbacks want that insurance for an NCAA Tournament berth. A win tonight could possibly seal the deal for them.
Ole Miss likely has to win both tonight and Saturday at the SEC East's last-place team, Georgia, if the Rebels want to continue their march to the Madness. Unless, of course, they get the SEC Tournament's automatic bid by winning next week's event in Atlanta.
Most would probably agree winning four games in four days in the Georgia Dome would be asking quite a bit from a team that's struggled since mid-January. A win in the final two regular season games and at least two wins in Atlanta appear to be a more doable task.
Smith, Curtis, Williams, and Parnell will run out of the tunnel and onto the Tad Smith Coliseum court for the final time tonight, unless they are involved in an NIT home game situation in a couple of weeks. All four have unique stories to get to this point.
Smith, a 5-foot-11 point guard and the son of former Kentucky and current Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith, came to Ole Miss in part because of his dad's friendship with former UM head coach Rod Barnes. He wanted Brian to play in Barnes' program. After two seasons, Barnes was gone and Smith spent two seasons under Andy Kennedy.
Curtis has become an efficient and important cog in the Rebs' success the past two seasons. The 6-8 center left Chicago after high school for the deep south and played for a year at Auburn. He transferred to Ole Miss when Tiger assistant coach Tracy Dildy joined Barnes' staff after AU head coach Cliff Ellis was fired, sat out a year by rule, and has had three productive seasons at Ole Miss.
Williams traveled an even longer road to play for Ole Miss. The Miami, Fla., native signed to play tight end for Tommy Tuberville's Auburn Tigers out of high school, but went to a junior college in California instead, decided that was too far from home and he'd just as soon play basketball anyway, played hoops for a JUCO in Florida, and was recruited to Ole Miss as a part of Kennedy's first class in the summer of 2006. "Fear the Beard" became the battle cry for fans and students for the 6-8 Williams during his stay in Oxford.
Parnell was one of Barnes' last major recruits. The 6-8 big man from Arkansas was recruited by many schools, and it came down to Ole Miss and Oklahoma State. Parnell picked the Rebels and has since been a contributor.
Curtis says the Rebels have thought about their last night on the Tad Smith court. But they've thought more about beating Arkansas.
"To me it will be special," he said. "I want to make the best of this night. Mostly we need to win. Everybody knows it's our last game on this court, and we want to play well and go out with a bang here at home. And it's on national TV so that will help elevate us to know everybody's watching."
Smith said he isn't sure if his father, who has a game to coach at Indiana Wednesday night, will be here tonight.
"We just need a win," Smith said. "It's a very important game for us. We're trying to get into the (NCAA) Tournament. For me, Dewayne, JP, and Kenny, it's even more important since it's our last game on this court."
Kennedy said he expects his team to be ready to play from the outset tonight.
"Senior Night, ESPN national TV, and the last home game of the season against Arkansas, so huge ramifications in a lot of areas," Kennedy said.
Senior Night, ESPN, Wear Red
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