Ole Miss defeated Mississippi State 87-82 in overtime at Starkville Tuesday night to sweep its season series with the Bulldogs and move to 17-11 overall and 8-7 in the conference.

But if the Rebels want to move into strong consideration for an NCAA Tournament bid, they will have to do much, much more.

The victory moved the Rebels to No. 66 in NCAA RPI rankings. ESPN brackets expert Joe Lunardi does not have Ole Miss listed in his projected field or even among his last eight teams out. Teamrankings.com gives Ole Miss a 4.9 percent chance of making the NCAA 68-team field.

Obviously, the Rebels have a lot of work to do and not much time to do it.

Ole Miss has three regular season games remaining: Missouri (at home Saturday), at Alabama (March 1) and at home against South Carolina (March 4). Outside of winning the Southeastern Conference Tournament at Nashville, the Rebels clearly need to win all three regular season games and then at least a couple in the SEC tourney in order to make the NCAA field.

Meanwhile, Mississippi State (14-13, 5-10) finishes the regular season with road games at Vanderbilt (Saturday) and South Carolina (Feb. 28), before Senior Day against LSU (March 4). The Bulldogs now have lost seven of their last eight to Ole Miss.

Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 12 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.