Start Spreadin' the News - Rebs to NYC!

Was Ole Miss' 81-72 win at Virginia Tech the best the Rebels had played all year? Certainly it appeared to be their best road game of the season. Now they move on to the biggest stage of them all - Madison Square Garden.

These Rebels are playing like they did, maybe better, before Jermey Parnell got hurt in the first SEC game of the season. Before they lost their first game of the year that same night at Tennessee by two points.

Before they lost two close ones at home to Auburn and South Carolina. Before they found themselves again, which still seems to me to have happened in the second half at Kentucky.

Down in a big way early in that one, 27-4 at one point and 31-14 at halftime, Ole Miss was within a made 3-pointer of beating the Wildcats on their home floor. You could just see the Rebels coming back together as a team that night, that half.

Three straight wins to close the regular season. A dramatic two-point overtime loss to eventual champ Georgia in the SEC tourney. Most then said there was no NCAA Tournament bid upcoming. Some said the season wasn't even worth worrying about anymore. Bring on more baseball and spring football.

But these hoops Rebs had other plans. Now three NIT wins later, they are making quite a name for themselves as they head to face The Ohio State University in New York City Tuesday night.

At 24-10 they are the second winningest team in Ole Miss men's basketball history. They won't be able to catch 2000-01's school record of 27 wins and an NCAA Sweet Sixteen finish.

But they have a chance to leave their own mark in Ole Miss sports history. They have a chance to hang a championship banner from the rafters of ole Tad Smith.

And maybe as importantly as anything else, they taught us to stick with a team through the thin, because the thick might just come around again before a season is actually over.

Mississippi, Ohio State, Florida and Massachusetts. The Buckeyes looked good in their home win over Dayton following the Rebels' win at Virginia Tech. Florida and UMass won road games on Tuesday night at Arizona State and Syracuse respectively.

Maybe the seedings were wrong. Then again, maybe the Gators and Minutemen and Rebels just dug down deep and wanted to finish strong this season.

That wasn't an easy situation the Rebels were in at Blacksburg. The place was full - 10,000 strong. As Andy Kennedy said postgame, Hokie students and fans really embraced the NIT as a chance to make something special happen for their team and school.

On the Hokies' way to New York, a never quit bunch of Ole Miss Rebels showed up with a different twist to this particular story.

I'll tell you when I knew the Rebels were headed to the Big Apple. I said it out loud when David Huertas nailed a trey to break a tie with just under 12 minutes left that made it 49-46.

Oh, I didn't know for sure. But I saw something at that moment in this game that I've seen from this team since the second half at Kentucky.

Confidence. Poise. Leadership. Drive. Determination. A team that grew up. A coaching staff that appeared to get some important things figured out, both internally and externally.

And they basically became unflappable again, like they appeared to be early this season when they started 13-0 and were ranked as high as 15th nationally. Now they've won six of their last seven games and are headed to New York City.

"And now we change our goals," Kennedy said postgame. "Now we don't talk about getting to New York. We talk about winning a championship."

What a memory this team is creating for themselves and for Ole Miss.

What a lesson we should all learn from them about sticking with a team and supporting them and helping them reach their goals no matter how bleak things may look or feel at times.

The Ole Miss Rebels are New York bound. Start spreadin' the news!

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