Ready or Not ...

Monday was like any other for Ole Miss head basketball coach Andy Kennedy.

He walked into the meeting room of the sparkling basketball practice facility in his usual gym shorts and t-shirt. His shoes were the same, too. Kennedy usually rocks Air Jordans, albeit a different style any given day.

He sat down casually and began to chat with reporters. There was obvious disappointment in his answers of how this season unfolded, but he was quick to note basketball games were left to be played.

Yet, amidst the everyday environment, the sting of again being passed over by the NCAA selection committee hung heavy. Ole Miss (21-10) missed the Big Dance for the eighth-straight season, as announced Sunday.

"They're all hard," Kennedy said of falling short of the NCAA Tournament. "I have very high goals for the group, and they're all very hard to overcome when we felt like we had a chance. All we could ask for was an opportunity and we didn't do what we needed to do.

"We have no one to blame but ourselves."

Kennedy is never one to mince words.

When posed a question, he gets to the point and openly shares his thoughts. The National Invitation Tournament was never the overall goal. This team was poised for better things, but the chips didn't fall and yet another opportunity was squandered.

Kennedy, though, doesn't have time to constantly dwell on past disappointments. As he'll often point out, he's a basketball coach, and it's his responsibility to put Ole Miss in a position to win each and every game.

So, next up is a home date with Troy (20-12) Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the first round of the NIT.

The practice schedule remained the same this week. Ole Miss held daily workouts and film sessions in preparation for its upcoming opponent. These days are all about winning and finishing an up-and-down season strong.

To put it simply, Ole Miss has its sights set on Madison Square Garden.

"Ultimately, at the end of the day, it's about creating a memory for these kids," Kennedy said. "That's the goal, because that's the only one left to achieve. So our focus will be to get back and get over it. Life moves on. That's part of the process. Let's go out, play Troy, and see where this thing goes."

Ole Miss, who tied for the SEC Western Division crown, is making its 15th postseason appearance.

Kennedy has led the Rebels to NIT berths in three of his four seasons, with the last coming in 2008. The winner of tonight's game will meet the winner of Memphis and St. John's on an undetermined date, Friday, Saturday or Monday.

No. 1 seed Arizona State fell to No. 8 Jacksonville State Tuesday night so, barring wins, Ole Miss has home court advantage throughout the NIT.

"I told our team, ‘I'm a basketball coach. As long as there's basketball left to be played, I'm going to do my job and prepare you guys for the game. You're here for a basketball scholarship. It's your responsibility to adhere to your part of the equation. As long as there's basketball left to be played, let's go play. Let's represent the university and every time you go play, you're representing yourself.'" Kennedy said.

"As we get closer to game time, I hope the competitive nature will take over. Teams that have the most success in the NIT are the ones who have the best opportunity to move forward the quickest."

The Rebels are 10-8 all-time in eight previous NIT appearances, including an 8-1 record in NIT home games. Ole Miss owns a 6-0 all-time record against Troy and a 56-22 mark against current Sun Belt teams.

Kennedy is the second head coach in school history to guide an Ole Miss team to at least three postseason berths in his first four seasons.


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