After watching a 6-0 lead turn into an 8-7 loss to Arkansas on Friday in the Southeastern Conference Tournament, No. 10 Ole Miss is headed back to Oxford to await its postseason draw when the NCAA field of 64 is announced on Monday.
The Rebels (41-18), who won the Western Division title with 40 regular-season wins, are all but a lock to host their first regional since 2009. Whether or not Ole Miss will get one of the eight national seeds is much more fuzzier picture.
Only Florida finished higher than Ole Miss in the SEC’s overall regular-season standings, and finishing runner-up in arguably the nation’s best conference — the SEC is No. 1 in conference RPI — is a strong starting point. The Rebels, who won seven of their 10 series in league play, are 24-15 against the RPI top 100, 15-12 against the top 50 and 6-7 against the top 25 while playing the nation’s 16th toughest schedule.
“I think we’re very deserving if we were to get one,” pitcher Sam Smith said.
One of those top 25 wins came against Vanderbilt (No. 8 RPI, Warren Nolan) on Thursday in the SEC Tournament, but Ole Miss missed a chance to add a couple more top 50 wins to its resume against Arkansas (No. 30), which sent Ole Miss to the loser’s bracket with a 2-1 win on Wednesday.
The Rebels have made their case to be one of the country’s top eight teams. It’s out of their control now.
“We’ve played well and won a lot of ballgames in a good conference,” senior catcher Will Allen said. “We think we’ve done enough, but it’s not up to us. It’s up to the committee, and we’ll go from there and see what happens.”
Florida, Virginia, Florida State, Oregon State, Indiana and Louisiana-Lafayette are safe bets to grab a national seed with a host of other teams vying for the last two. The SEC is likely to receive two national seeds, which is where things get dicey.
Perfect Game managing editor and national analyst Kendall Rogers projected Ole Miss as the final national seed before any games had been played Saturday, but LSU is still playing in Hoover. The Tigers have been on a tear lately to put themselves back in the discussion for a national seed, going 7-3 in their last 10 games and outscoring their opponents 74-7 during their six-game winning streak.
LSU’s win over Arkansas on Thursday coupled with the Rebels’ latest loss to the Hogs bumped the Tigers to No. 12 in the Warren Nolan RPI, two spots ahead of Ole Miss. LSU, which took two of three from the Rebels in Oxford during the regular season, is 14-12 against the top 50, 5-8 against the top 25 and could give the selection committee something to think about if it leaves Hoover with a championship trophy.
TCU, Miami, Cal Poly, South Carolina, Rice and Oklahoma State are also in the mix.
Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco likes how his team’s resume stacks up.
“To be the No. 2 team in the No. 1 baseball conference in the country, when you look at what we’ve done against the top 50, when you look at we’ve done week in and week out, when you look at how consistent we’ve played, when you look our road game, when you look at all the matrix that they look at, I think we’ve played really well,” Bianco said.
The Rebels will find out in three days if it’s good enough for the top eight.
“I don’t know what the other teams (have done),” Bianco said. “I know that we’ve played well and feel that we’re deserving, but I don’t get a vote. That’s up to those 10 people that look at all the other teams. Hopefully we’ve done enough. If not, then we just get ready to hopefully play at home on Friday and then go from there.” (May 24, 2014)