It’s the final week of the regular season and Missouri men’s basketball still has plenty to play for.


While dreams of the NCAA Tournament may be out of the picture, the Tigers could be a few victories away from a shot in the NIT.


The next step forward is Missouri’s final regular-season road game and a trip to The Pavilion to face Mississippi.


The Tigers face the Rebels for the second time in just over two weeks, as MU defeated Ole Miss 71-68 at Mizzou Arena on Feb. 18.


Both teams are 14-15 overall. Missouri is 6-10 in the Southeastern Conference, while Ole Miss is 5-11.


MU holds the inside track among the conference’s bottom-five teams, which also includes Arkansas, Georgia and Vanderbilt, to be the lone team that gets a bye in the SEC Tournament next week.


Most scenarios would see Missouri winning out and having to wait until Thursday to play at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. A few stars would have to align for both Arkansas and the Tigers to win out, and the Razorbacks jumping ahead would involve movement at the top of the SEC standings.


Wednesday’s tipoff against Ole Miss is set for 8 p.m. on SEC Network and will be radio broadcast on KTGR (105.1 FM).


Here’s a closer look at the MU vs. Rebels matchup. Below are projected lineups, players to watch, keys to the game and a score prediction.


Projected Missouri starters: Dru Smith, Xavier Pinson, Kobe Brown, Javon Pickett, Reed Nikko


Projected Ole Miss starters: Khadim Sy, KJ Buffen, Breein Tyree, Devontae Shuler, Blake Hinson


Missouri player to watch


There’s not a more consistent player this season for the Tigers than point guard Dru Smith.


The Evansville transfer is the only MU player to start every game this season and has been counted on to come through in adverse moments for Missouri.


Despite Mississippi State’s four-point win over the Tigers on Saturday, Bulldogs’ head coach Ben Howland couldn’t stop lauding Smith's play.


His 19 points against Mississippi State helped keep his team in the game, but Smith admitted his shot selection in the final stretches of the game wasn’t ideal.


There’s a good chance Smith will be guarding the SEC’s second-leading scorer, Breein Tyree, who averages 20.1 points per game. As there’s no room left for error if Missouri wants to play in the postseason, Smith still has to be that consistent figure and help on both sides of the ball.


Ole Miss player to watch


It’ll be senior night in Oxford for Tyree, but a balanced attack saw the Rebels defeat Vanderbilt by 26 on Saturday. Ole Miss’ leading scorer: Devontae Shuler with 18 points.


Shuler is a steady figure in the Rebels’ lineup, averaging 11.6 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game and 3.5 assists per game.


The last time he faced the Tigers in Columbia, Shuler was held to one point in 31 minutes, but he did have eight rebounds to help Ole Miss stay in the game late.


Shuler is an experienced player that Missouri will have to stop, unlike the Commodores, to have a better chance at winning. After all, Missouri only has two true road wins this season.


Missouri’s key to the game


For Missouri, depth is vital.


Ole Miss will be desperate and probably give MU its best shot, as similar rewards could await the winner with nearly the exact same overall and conference records.


Unlike the game in Columbia two weeks ago, Missouri has added back to the fold Jeremiah Tilmon and Mark Smith. The Tigers should use that depth, as on paper, they have a more talented roster.


Tilmon looks to be closer to 100% than Smith does. Tilmon combining with Reed Nikko and Mitchell Smith to gain an advantage rebounding will be key in a game that should be close to the final buzzer.


Ole Miss’ key to the game


The Rebels know Missouri is not the same defensive team that they faced in Vanderbilt.


Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin prides himself on his team’s defense and would be better suited to adjust should the game start to slip away from his team, unlike the Commodores.


Ole Miss needs to force the Tigers’ starters to get into foul trouble. Getting Xavier Pinson and Dru Smith off the floor for significant minutes would greatly help the Rebels, as would limiting the substitutions for Martin’s entire roster.


Final score prediction


Missouri 76, Ole Miss 71


eblum@columbiatribune.com