Will playing in Kansas City be Sweet for the Ole Miss Rebels again? Three of the four teams that will play in next week’s West Regional semifinals, otherwise known as the Sweet 16, have been set. Tonight’s matchup between the No. 12 seed Rebels and No. 13 La Salle Explorers in the Kansas City Regional at the Sprint Center will decide the fourth team to travel further west.What’s at Stake: Ole Miss can accomplish two significant milestones with a win over the Explorers, members of the Atlantic 10. A victory would mean the most wins in a single season for the Rebels as well as their second trip to the Sweet 16. The 2000-01 team won 27 wins and advanced to the school’s first Sweet 16 out of Kansas City’s Kemper Arena. Ole Miss got to Sunday by defeating Wisconsin 57-46 in the second round Friday.
La Salle has already won two games in the NCAA Tournament, having defeated Boise State 80-71 in Dayton, Ohio in a play-in game and then defeating No. 4 seed Kansas State 63-61 Friday. The Explorers (23-9) are making their 13th appearance in the NCAA Tournament but their first since 1992. La Salle does have a rich basketball tradition and Kanas City has also been very good to the Explorers in the past as well. La Salle won the 1954 NCAA Championship in Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium, beating Bradley 92-76 behind Tom Gola, who was named Most Outstanding Player. The Explorers finished national-runners up in 1955 and won the 1952 NIT title.
Ole Miss enters the contest, that can be seen on Tru TV at 6:40, averaging 77.3 points per game, while allowing 66.7 to its opponents. La Salle, a team that uses four guards in its starting lineup, is averaging 72.4 points on offense and allowing 66 to opponents.
Who’s Next: The winner of tonight’s matchup will play No. 9 seed Wichita State in the Staples Center March 28. The Shockers upset No. 1 seed Gonzaga 76-70 Saturday night. No. 6 Arizona and No. 2 Ohio State will play in the other semifinal matchup that day, with the winner advancing to the Elite 8 March 30, and a chance to play in the Final Four in Atlanta.
(March 24, 2013)