Kennedy-led Rebels earn spot in NCAA Tournament

By Austin Bishop
The Winston County Journal

Andy Kennedy is resilient.

No matter what criticism may come his way, the seventh-year head
coach of the Ole Miss men’s basketball team just keeps focusing on
his players and getting the most out of them.

That determination paid off for both Kennedy and the Ole Miss Rebels
on Sunday as they took a huge come-from-behind 66-63 win over Florida
to win the SEC Tournament Championship on Saturday, earning an
elusive spot in the NCAA Tournament.

It was Ole Miss’ first SEC Tournament win since 1981 and the Rebels
first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2002. The Rebels are 151-86
under Kennedy, who has led Ole Miss to six postseason trips
(including five to the NIT). The Rebels reached the NIT Final Four in
both 2008 and 2010. He is also winningest coach in Ole Miss men’s
basketball history, with six of his seven teams winning at least 20
games.

Kennedy, a Winston County native, has shrugged off a lot of the
criticism he has faced at times and kept his attention on his team
and the task at hand.

“I really try to do the best that I can for my employer, the
University of Mississippi, and the kids on my team,” Kennedy told
reporters following his team’s win over Florida. “I’m just really
happy for them, because I see the work every day that they do in
order to put themselves in this position.”

The 26-8 Rebels can tie the single-season school record of 27 wins
with a victory over Wisconsin in Kansas City, Mo. at 11:40 a.m. on
Friday. A win there would set the Rebels up to take on either No. 4
seed Kansas State or the winner of the play-in game between LaSalle
and Boise State.

Andy Kennedy, Ole Miss prevail
OPINION: Charlie Dunagin :
McComb Enterprise Journal

After the Ole Miss basketball team lost to Mississippi State in early
March, the rumors were circulating that this might be Andy Kennedy’s
last year as the Rebel coach.

It didn’t make much sense that some fans were talking about the need
to fire the coach with the most wins in school history in a seven-
year stretch. Ole Miss never has been a basketball mecca. Its arena
is sadly lacking — although they’re planning to build a new one.

But in the world of college sports, success breeds the desire for
more success. Despite winning more than 20 games a season, Kennedy
hadn’t taken his team to the NCAA tournament, his post-season bids
confined to the NIT, so some were saying he needed to go.

All that changed over the weekend. If Kennedy isn’t coaching at Ole
Miss next season, it likely will be of his own volition, not because
he was fired.

Kennedy did a remarkable coaching job in the SEC tournament, seeing
his team come from behind in three games to defeat Missouri,
Vanderbilt and Florida for the tournament championship. That secured
an automatic NCAA bid, although it is now reported that Ole Miss
would have received an invitation even had the Rebels lost to
Florida. But winning the tournament championship makes the invitation
sweeter than squeaking in on the bottom of the list.

The Rebels now have their work cut out in playing a good Wisconsin
team Friday. But if sharpshooter Marshall Henderson is hot, and his
teammates, perform as well as they have lately, who knows?

At any rate, congratulations are due Kennedy and his team.