Tuesday, February 13, 2018
Tonight is a must-win game for the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, even though a victory doesn't help the Razorbacks much.
Ole Miss has an RPI of 103, but it won't be a cakewalk for the Hogs, who have an RPI of 35. Arkansas' final five opponents after today have better Ratings Percentage Index numbers, so the Hogs can help themselves if they can get in and out of Oxford with the win.
One reason it won't be easy is that Andy Kennedy, in his 12th season, has agreed to step down at the end of the season rather than be fired. If this team has any mettle, it will fire up for Kennedy's final games.
The question should be how does Ole Miss Athletic Director Ross Bjork keep his job. Since arriving at Ole Miss in 2012, he's overseen a football program and backed a football coach who were slammed by the NCAA, and now he has a basketball change.
The Rebels are 11-14 overall and 4-8 in SEC play, having lost five consecutive games dating back to the SEC-Big 12 Challenge loss at Texas, 85-72. Since then, they have lost to Tennessee and LSU on the road, and Auburn and Missouri at home.
Kennedy was told in the fall his contract was not being extended, and he has only two years left after this season.
Apparently some fans don't feel like they are getting enough bang for their $2 million.
Kennedy is the all-time winningest coach in Ole Miss history with a 245-153 record, but he hasn't made the NCAA Tournament since 2015 and he's only been there twice since arriving in Oxford from Cincinnati.
What Ole Miss should do -- but probably won't because most schools don't -- is ask itself who it can hire who is better.
It is highly doubtful the Rebels can lure Michael White from Florida to Ole Miss. White played for the Rebels and was an an assistant for Kennedy before landing the head job at Louisiana Tech, then Florida. Last year he led the Gators to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament and was awarded a new contract through 2022, which pays him close to $3 million a year.
White loves Ole Miss, but not that much.
Kennedy is a native of the Magnolia State. He's from Louisville, Miss., was a Parade All-American in high school and player of the year his senior season.
In other words, he knows how to chit-chat and has real pride in his home state.
Yes, he had that episode where he punched a cab driver in Cincinnati, but that was 10 years ago and he hasn't been in trouble since.
Kennedy turns 50 in March and is passionate about his job, but a limited contract is always a killer in recruiting.
Mississippi law doesn't allow for more than a four-year contract for state employees, so to have only two years to get back to winning 20 games a season -- which he's accomplished nine times -- was going to be hard.
Kennedy is 12-8 against the Razorbacks but has lost his last three to the Hogs.
Arkansas is in a position to make a big move for the stretch run to March Madness, but the Hogs need to be prepared for the Rebels to come out gunning for their coach. The Hogs need to get through the first five minutes of Ole Miss' emotion.
The Hogs have struggled away from Bud Walton, but last season they won three of their last four road games in February to go into the SEC Tournament with a head of steam that helped them make it to the finals.
A week later they almost knocked off eventual NCAA champion North Carolina in the Big Dance but couldn't close the door with three minutes to play.
A win won't help them tonight, but a loss sure could hurt.
Sports on 02/13/2018
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