/March Madness State, Ole Miss make NCAA field in same season for only second time

March Madness State, Ole Miss make NCAA field in same season for only second time

State will be playing in the tournament for only the second time since 2009. Ole Miss will be there for the first-time since 2015. This will be the second and first time that State and Ole Miss have been in the NCAA Tournament field together since 2002. State will face Liberty University Friday at San Jose, Calif. Ole Miss faces Oklahoma Friday at Columbia, S.C. Here are some thoughts in no particular order. * State will enter as a No. 5 seed. If you’re looking for signs, this is it: In 1996, Mississippi was a 5-seed. This marks the first time that a Mississippi team made it to the Final Four. * The selection show hosts Clark Kellogg, and Seth Davis picked Liberty to defeat State. It could happen, I suppose. But, a look at Liberty’s record doesn’t convince me. The Flames won and finished the Atlantic Sun Conference with a remarkable 28-6 record. However, Liberty lost both of its games against Southeastern Conference teams by nine points to Vanderbilt and nine to Alabama. Liberty also lost to Virginia Tech (16) and Georgetown (10), and beat UCLA (15). Not your daddy’s UCLA. The Bruins won 17-16. * UCLA is the school that State coach Ben Howland has previously taken to the NCAA Tournament (Northern Arizona once and Pittsburgh twice, respectively) This will be Howland’s 11th appearance in the NCAA Tournament as a coach. * In the next round, the winner of State-Liberty faces either Virginia Tech (or St. Louis). State looks easily defeated by either foe. If State plays well, the Sweet 16 is possible. * Most Mississippians are familiar with Liberty as the school of Hugh Freeze or Jerry Falwell. Freeze returned a text message to ask what he knew about Liberty basketball. He said that he had seen them enough to know that Ritchie McKay (Liberty coach) is a good coach. McKay arrived from Virginia, where he was an associate head coach under Tony Bennett. * Virginia’s top-seeded Virginia will likely play the winner of Ole Miss Oklahomaa in the second round. Experts consider the Cavs to be the best overall team in the tournament. * Oklahoma won two games against SEC opponents, defeating Florida by five points on a neutral court, and beating Vandy by 31 in Norman, Okla. While the Sooners won some impressive games, they finished 7-11 in Big 12 Conference. The Sooners beat Wofford 11 to 1, and won over Kansas and Texas. They lost 11 times in their league. Ole Miss fans should not be surprised by Lon Kruger, Oklahoma coach. This is his fifth NCAA Tournament appearance, following the 1994 Final Four appearance with the Florida Gators. Kruger assumed control of the Gators after Florida finished 7-21. Kruger is the second NCAA coach to successfully take over a team below 500 and make it to the Final Four in five years. Rick Pitino did it at both Kentucky and Louisville. Kruger is a coach. * The Rebels’ Kermit, Jr. can coach. Ole Miss is, in a sense, playing with house-money. No one expected the Rebels would be participating in the NCAA Tournament this season. * This will mark Davis’ sixth trip as a head coach to the NCAA tournament. He was a two-time winner at Idaho and Middle Tennessee State.