Bubble Watch: Five Reasons Why Ole Miss Won’t Make the Big Dance

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NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch: 5 Reasons Ole Miss Won't Make It In

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Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

The Ole Miss Rebels earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament with a school-record tying 27 wins last season, and they won more than nine SEC games (12) for the first time in Andy Kennedy’s tenure as coach. So despite a disappointing loss to La Salle in the Round of 32, the 2012-2013 season has to be looked back on as a success.

The Rebels lost some notable frontcourt pieces to graduation after last season, but Marshall Henderson (19.3 points, 2.2 assists, 1.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game and Jarvis Summers (17.2 points, 3.9 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game) have led the charge and been one of the most productive backcourts in the country this year.

Henderson and Summers are the only two players on the team currently averaging more than 7.5 points per game, and if not for the recently suspended Derrick Millinghaus (2.4 assists per game) they would be the top two assisters on the team as well.

The Rebels have lost five of their last seven games, which gives them a 17-11 overall record and an 8-7 record in SEC play with three games to go in the regular season. They’ll surely need to win all of those games to give themselves a good chance to make the NCAA Tournament, and a deep run in the conference tournament may also be required for Ole Miss to lock down a spot in the field and get off the proverbial bubble.

Ole Miss looks likely to fluctuate from being among the “last four in” or the “first four out” in the various incarnations of bracketology over the next 7-10 days. But here are five reasons the Rebels will not make a second straight appearance in the big dance this year.

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5. A Mediocre Conference Record

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Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss can finish no better than 11-7 in the SEC, and that assumes they can take care of business on the road against Texas A&M and Arkansas before finishing the regular season at home against a Vanderbilt team that gave Florida all it could handle Tuesday night.

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4. Marshall Henderson's Shooting Woes

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Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Henderson is averaging a team-high 19.3 points per game this season, but he is going through a shooting slump at an inopportune time. Over the last five games he has made just one-third of his attempts from beyond the arc (21-for-63) and from the floor overall (26-for-78), and if those struggles continue Ole Miss’s chances to make the NCAA Tournament could evaporate before the regular season is over.

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3. Struggles Against the Worst Teams in the SEC

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Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The Rebels went 5-2 against the bottom four teams in the SEC (South Carolina, Mississippi State, Alabama and Auburn) and three of those wins, including both games against the 10-18 Gamecocks, came by four points or less.

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2. A February Losing Streak

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Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

There’s value in finishing strongly, and the Rebels starting a four-game losing streak with a bad loss to Alabama on Feb. 11 will not help their tournament resume.

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1. No "Resume Wins"

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Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The Rebels’ best wins are over Missouri and LSU, so short of earning an automatic bid by winning the SEC Tournament they’ll need to make a deep run and hope the draw shakes out in such a way that an opportunity to play (and beat) Florida or Kentucky, or ideally both, comes.

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