March 18, 2019 11:31:12 AM
OXFORD - For just the ninth time in 109 seasons, the Ole Miss men's basketball team is heading to the NCAA Tournament.
The Rebels, gathering with a large group of fans at The Pavilion, heard their names called during the March Madness Selection Show on Sunday evening.
"I thought we were safely in, I really did," Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis said.
Ole Miss received an at-large bid and will be a No. 8 seed in the South Region, its highest seed since earning a No. 3 seed during the 2000-01 season.
The Rebels will face No. 9 seed Oklahoma in Columbia, S.C. on Friday. Ole Miss and Oklahoma have met three times throughout history, with the Rebels winning two of the matchups from 1999-2001.
The Rebels find themselves in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four years after one of the biggest turnaround seasons in the nation. In the first year under SEC Coach of the Year Davis and behind the play of All-SEC guards Breein Tyree and Terence Davis, Ole Miss went from 12-20 a season ago to 20-12. The eight-win improvement is the biggest turnaround season among Power 5 schools and ranks 11th nationally. Predicted to finish last in the SEC, Ole Miss tied for sixth with a 10-8 mark in conference play.
"It never gets old," said Davis about reaching the NCAA Tournament. This is the third team he has reached the NCAAs with.
Ole Miss has lost four of its last five games, including to Alabama in the SEC Tournament this past Thursday. Friday's NCAA game matches up the eighth and ninth seeds in the South, and the winner could face ACC power Virginia on Sunday.
"You're just going to play a team that's good, that's won (a lot of games), that's well coached. That's number one," Davis said. "Oklahoma will be like playing a good SEC game. But number two, just be who we are. It still leads up to preparation for that game. You can't skip to the games. We get an extra day on Friday, so we'll go really, really light on Monday. We're just going to come to The Pavilion and do some shooting, and then we'll dive into Oklahoma. You'll have a good amount of time, but you have to go through that same preparation and keep these guys really fresh minded and anxious to play on Friday."
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