KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Mississippi is fresh off its first SEC tournament title since 1981 and has the type of fearless scorer in Marshall Henderson that can key a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
Fifth-seeded Wisconsin, which opens its tournament run against the Rebels on Friday in Kansas City, Mo., is one of the best teams in the country at controlling the tempo with its defense and will force Henderson to take tough shots.
No. 12 seed Mississippi is making its first Tournament appearance since 2002.
The Badgers beat a pair of top-10 teams in Michigan and Indiana on back-to-back days before falling to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game Sunday.
Wisconsin is making its 15th straight NCAA Tournament appearance and has won its opening game in each of the last seven seasons.
Ole Miss had to fight through one of the best defensive teams in the country in its SEC tournament final against Florida and proved it could win without reaching 80 points by taking three tight games in the conference tournament.
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ABOUT MISSISSIPPI (26-8): The Rebels were a bubble team before the start of the SEC tournament but took their fate out of the selection committee's hands by earning the automatic berth. Henderson scored 18 of his 21 points in the second half as Mississippi overcame a 12-point halftime deficit to earn a 66-63 victory over the Gators on Sunday. Henderson led the SEC in scoring and has averaged 23.4 points during the Rebels' five-game winning streak. "So much is made about the NCAA Tournament," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. "I was just glad to get the albatross that is the NCAA Tournament off the neck of our program so people can now exhale and get a new focal point."
ABOUT WISCONSIN (23-11): The Badgers have lost in the Sweet Sixteen in each of the last two seasons and are hoping a strong end of the regular season and Big Ten tournament can give them the momentum to make a deep run this spring. After coming out on top in those two battles with Michigan and Indiana, Wisconsin ran out of gas in the second half of Sunday's title game against Ohio State. The Badgers were outrebounded 39-38 and will need to find a way to keep Mississippi forward Murphy Holloway off the glass.
Three points to consider:
1. Holloway is shooting 66 percent during Mississippi's five-game winning streak.
2. Wisconsin G Ben Burst has scored in double figures in 11 of the last 13 games.
3. The Rebels have lost the opening game in four of the six NCAA Tournament appearances in school history.
PREDICTION: Wisconsin 66, Mississippi 65