In his first year at Ole Miss, Kermit Davis has exceeded expectations more than any other power-conference coach

Each time an SEC job opened in recent years, somebody would make the case that Kermit Davis should probably fill it. And the case was usually rooted in the idea that if he could consistently beat SEC schools with C-USA players -- Davis went 5-1 against the SEC in the previous three years at Middle Tennessee -- how good would he be against SEC schools if he had, you know, SEC players?

Answer: Very good.

Saturday was the latest reminder.

And that's because Ole Miss just improved to 13-2 in its first season under Davis via an 81-78 win at No. 14 Mississippi State. The win doubled as the Rebels' 10th-consecutive victory. And when you consider that two of those victories are over teams currently ranked in the top 15 of the Associated Press Top 25 poll, and that both of the Rebels' losses are away-from-home losses to top-45 KenPom opponents, it's reasonable to assume Ole Miss will be nationally ranked when the AP poll updates Monday.

Not bad for a team picked last in the SEC preseason poll.

Yes, this Ole Miss team that's now 3-0 in the SEC and sitting atop the league standings was picked last in the SEC preseason poll -- basically because the Rebels went 12-20 last season and didn't add a single top-100 prospect to the roster. They weren't supposed to be good. But they're undeniably good.

Davis has largely taken the same guys who finished 12-20 last season -- the top four scorers on this season's team were also on last season's team -- and won 13 of his first 15 games. As a result, Ole Miss has gone from being ranked 97th at KenPom in the preseason to being ranked 30th after Saturday's win -- which represents the biggest jump from then to now by any team currently in the top 40.

It really is amazing stuff.

Where things go from here, it's impossible to know for sure. But given that Ole Miss' next two games are at home against unranked LSU and unranked Arkansas, there's nothing crazy about the idea of the Rebels, this time next week, being 15-2 overall and 5-0 in the SEC. And there's also nothing crazy about the idea of Ole Miss fans starting to plan to watch the Rebels in the NCAA Tournament this season for just the third time in a 17-year span because more likely than not, at this point, according to all computer projections, the Rebels will be in the NCAA Tournament this season for just the third time in a 17-year span. KenPom now projects Ole Miss to finish 12-6 in the SEC. And, for what it's worth, no team with three-or-fewer non-league losses and at least 12 SEC victories has ever missed the NCAA Tournament.

Bottom line, there are a lot of coaches doing great jobs this season -- among them Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, Virginia's Tony Bennett, Gonzaga's Mark Few, Tennessee's Rick Barnes, Michigan's John Beilein, Texas Tech's Chris Beard, Virginia Tech's Buzz Williams, Nevada's Eric Musselman, Buffalo's Nate Oates, NC State's Kevin Keatts, Oklahoma's Lon Kruger, Houston's Kelvin Sampson, and the list goes on. But no power-conference coach has exceeded expectations to date more than Kermit Davis at Ole Miss.

The Rebels finished last in the SEC last season.

They were picked last again this season.

But, somehow, they're currently first -- which has those who spent years insisting Kermit Davis would be great at an SEC school looking smarter than ever. Because he is great. Or at least he has been so far. And now this Mississippi native and former SEC assistant is on track to earn SEC Coach of the Year honors in his first season at Ole Miss just like his father, Kermit Davis Sr., did in his first season at Mississippi State back in 1971.

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Gary Parrish is an award-winning college basketball columnist and television analyst for CBS Sports who also hosts the highest-rated afternoon drive radio show in Memphis, where he lives with his wife... Full Bio

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