Offseason Mystery

NEW YORK – Madison Square Garden was enveloped in ambiguity Tuesday.

Ole Miss quickly exited the floor Reggie Miller torched following a 68-63 loss to Dayton in the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament.

The Rebels had missed countless opportunities to win, with none more significant than a Trevor Gaskins failed layup to tie the game with just over 10 seconds left.

Head coach Andy Kennedy took the postgame podium and talked around the subject. Terrico White and Chris Warren were non-committal in their answers, too.

But whether admitted or not, after a frustrating 2009-10 season, change is likely to come for Ole Miss men's basketball.

Andy Kennedy

"We'll see," Kennedy said. "There's going to be some conversations at the end of the year."

Ole Miss was coined an NCAA Tournament team for the better part of the year, even when the Rebels' play didn't support the fact. They lost games they shouldn't, including four Southeastern Conference home tilts where they held leads late in the second half.

There was a 1-5 losing skid after opening league play 4-2, made worse by the absence of Reginald Buckner, the team's most prolific defensive threat.

They also held a slim advantage in the second round of the SEC Tournament against Tennessee, only to seal their postseason fate by losing comfortably in an essential play-in game for the field of 64.

Almost fittingly, a season that held such promise ended abruptly with a berth in the NIT championship game on the line. Though cliché, the Rebels were what they were until the final horn sounded – abundantly talented, fatally flawed.

"This is a long journey, and I'm going to reflect on what we're doing as a staff," Kennedy said. "We're going to reflect on personnel, because at the end of the day, it's my job to put out a team that's competitive and has a chance to compete for an SEC championship. That's a very high standard."

Now begins the evaluation process. Who goes? Who stays? The questions far outweigh the certainties.

White said he plans on sitting down with his parents and coaches before deciding on whether to return for his junior season or opt for the NBA.

Terrico White

He was certainly terrific during the NIT run, especially in wins against Troy and his hometown Memphis Tigers. White combined for 48 points in those two games, while adding a 19-point effort Tuesday.

His backcourt mate, Warren, sat in the home locker room rather leisurely. As media began to surround him, he spread his arms and approached answers dismissively. To be fair, his team had suffered its final defeat, but he's never been one for words.

Still, he did little to spell rumors he was exploring other options as he shrugged off one question after another.

"I don't know the future," he said.

It's a popular phrase these days. Few know what to expect in the coming weeks and months, though much will be dictated by the decisions of Kennedy's biggest stars.

How the roster will take shape in Kennedy's fifth season is anyone's guess right now. Of course, DeAundre Cranston was the team's lone senior. Kevin Cantinol decided to transfer in December. But those are the only sure departures.

The status of Eniel Polynice is blurry, after the junior was suspended for the final game of the regular season at Arkansas for conduct detrimental to the team. He saw his most extensive action since the suspension in New York, where he played 16 minutes.

DeAngelo Riley was also suspended this season, and became a forgotten man after an admirable performance at Kentucky earlier in the year. He was relegated to garbage minutes.

Dundrecous Nelson and DeMarco Cox have already signed their letters of intent, meaning they'll be arriving in Oxford this summer. Both will be called upon to contribute, with the 6-foot-8, 300-pound Cox a needed commodity with limited bodies in the post.

"My frustration is when things get tough and you want to throw it close, it's hard for us to do it right now," Kennedy said. "We have to recruit where we can get a guy that we can throw it close, so we're not living and dying on the perimeter."

Maybe Cox is the answer. Maybe he isn't. But the lack of an additional post presence wasn't the only factor holding this team back from breaking a stretch of eight-straight seasons without March Madness.

Murphy Holloway

The Rebels never had bad chemistry, even though it sometimes appeared that way through the little emotion expressed. The natures of the floor leaders, White and Warren, were reserved. The same could be said for Zach Graham.

Gaskins was the sparkplug, Murphy Holloway the interview. At times, a vocal floor-leader was needed to speak up when things went wrong. There wasn't one, and it showed.

"We came up short," Holloway said. "It's wasn't a great season, but it wasn't horrible. Just bounce back."

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