David Collier is a junior broadcast journalism major in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at Ole Miss.
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It’s only the first game of an 18-game SEC schedule, but Ole Miss’ contest against Tennessee on the road tonight could be a make or break game for the Rebels this season.
Ole Miss comes into the conference slate with an 11-2 record, but missed opportunities for quality wins in the nonconference schedule leave the Rebels needing an impressive showing all year in the SEC to make the NCAA Tournament come March.
The Rebels’ first eight SEC games consist of two games against the Volunteers, two games versus Missouri, a home matchup against Kentucky and a road contest at Florida, so it’s very possible they could have a tough go of it until they figure things out, especially considering their play so far this season away from home.
Both of Ole Miss’ losses came away from Tad Smith Coliseum – at Middle Tennessee and vs. Indiana State in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, and even in their wins away from Oxford, the Rebels haven’t looked like a NCAA Tournament team.
If they want a chance to make the big dance, Ole Miss has to figure it out in a hurry, and a win against the Volunteers could be the jumpstart this team has needed.
If they don’t get a win, they still have a shot to get things back on track, but the tough schedule makes it a difficult task.
The last part of the Rebels’ SEC slate is considerably easier, but by that point in the season, it could be too little, too late for Andy Kennedy and his squad.
That’s why tonights contest is so important.
It’s a chance for the Rebels to show they can be the same team they are at home when they’re on the road.
I’m not going to say it’s a must win for Ole Miss, but it’s about as close to a must win as a team could have this early in the season.