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Everyone was shocked to see Ole Miss lose at home to North Alabama 66-65 on Tuesday afternoon. Everyone except for Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis, that is.
After what was his team’s most embarrassing loss since he arrived in Oxford in 2018, Davis said the writing was on the wall for the Rebels to lose to the Lions.
“We had really told our guys to be very tough and physical in practice the last two days. Not a good game day practice today. You could see it coming. We did everything in our power, but I take full responsibility,” Davis said after the loss.
“Give them credit. Their team played. Even when we had the game up one with a chance to close it out, we couldn’t. It won’t be as Merry Christmas as we’d like going into the break.”
While you can respect Davis’ honesty, his admission that he saw a loss coming to a North Alabama team ranked outside the Top 300 in KenPom heading into the matchup is extremely telling.
UNA has only had a Division I basketball program since 2018 and was 0-19 against the SEC heading into Tuesday’s contest at Ole Miss.
Davis saying he couldn’t get his team to match the physicality and intensity of a woeful North Alabama team paints a very clear, and ugly picture of where the Ole Miss basketball team currently stands.
A Critical & Concerning Time For Ole Miss Basketball
Davis’ seat was warm heading into the season, but it has to be engulfed in flames at this point with the Rebels sitting at 8-4 on the year heading into conference play.
Kermit Davis led Ole Miss to the NCAA Tournament in his first season at the helm but didn’t even sniff a March Madness bid the following three seasons. The 63-year-old has posted a record of 52-52 after winning 20 games in his debut campaign in Oxford.
Davis is signed through the 2025 season and is being paid, on average, $3 million per year since signing his last extension last November.
It doesn’t take an accountant or college basketball savant to realize Ole Miss could be paying another coach a tenth of that to post a .500 record over three and a half seasons.
What Should, Or Better Yet Can, Ole Miss Hoops Do In The Future?
What has to be most frustrating for Ole Miss basketball fans is that nobody is expecting Davis – or any other coach – to make the Rebels a powerhouse. Ole Miss is a football school first, a baseball school second, and then there’s a large gap between baseball and men’s basketball.
All Ole Miss basketball needs, and what fans crave, is for the program to be consistently on the bubble and not be completely irrelevant before Christmas each year. It would help if Ole Miss played an attractive style of basketball, too, but Davis hasn’t been able to produce that either.
While men’s hoops are in a ridiculously bad spot at the moment, money plays a major factor here as well, especially in this new NIL world.
Boosters and donors are giving their money to the football program, just like they are at every other SEC school not named Kentucky. No NIL money makes it impossible to recruit top-tier talent.
It doesn’t matter who is coaching Ole Miss basketball, if there is no NIL money to give players then the product on the floor is going to reflect it.
Ole Miss is also paying head football coach Lane Kiffin around $9 million a year and that number will increase each offseason as long as he remains in Oxford.
This leaves the Ole Miss athletics department with a difficult decision to make.
If Ole Miss parts ways with Davis before his contract expires he’ll be owed millions. Then the athletics department has to decide just how much it’s willing to invest in the basketball program, which at that point wouldn’t be an attractive job for any coach in the country with an above-average resume.
The fact that Ole Miss stuck with Davis after he posted a combined record of 29-31 overall and 14-22 in the SEC over the last two seasons sends a pretty clear message about where priorities lie in the athletics department in Oxford.