When the Pavilion was opened, everything was going to change. I knew it, you knew it, boosters knew it, Ross Bjork knew it, and Andy Kennedy knew it.
Be it fair or not, new, shiny toys such as a basketball stadium that upwards of $90 million were spent on will breed increasing expectations.
We all knew the expectations were coming. I could argue that the expectations are unfounded because Ole Miss has never been a consistent NCAA tournament team and they still have the smallest assistant coach salary pool.
Regardless of what I think, fans and boosters have increased expectations, which is their right. They also withhold the right to call for Kennedy’s firing, just as I have the right to suggest pumping the breaks and removing emotion from a coaching decision.
Andy Kennedy’s Ole Miss team has struggled in 2017/18, and there is no denying that. Andy isn’t hiding it. He’s called the situation a “disaster” following an embarrassing loss to Illinois State.
But just as all looked lost, Ole Miss grinded out an ugly win over South Carolina to open conference play. Sure South Carolina is bad this year – I went as far as to rank them last in the conference. But a win is a win. And (finally) winning a tough game had the potential to springboard the struggling Rebels.
A sudden and astute turn around was not in the cards, however, as Ole Miss produced a dud in their first conference road game, which was against a frequent Ole Miss heartbreaker, Georgia.
Fair or not, Andy Kennedy is now squarely on a hot seat. Ole Miss didn’t extend his contract after last season, which usually means win or you are fired.
Andy Kennedy and Ole Miss play host to arch rival Mississippi State on Saturday. Ole Miss has won 7 of the last 10 against Mississippi State, and 5 of the last 6. But Mississippi State has been rejuvenated this season.
Mississippi State is 13-1, with their only loss coming to a ranked Cincinnati, and they opened conference play with a win over a ranked Arkansas. Ole Miss, and more importantly Andy Kennedy, desperately needs to beat Mississippi State.
After the past year in this rivalry, Andy Kennedy may not be able to survive a home loss in a rivalry that Ole Miss has controlled in recent memory. Losing to Mississippi State at this moment in time would give Andy’s detractors more ammunition that he may not be able to overcome.