By: Jeff Roberson
Hoover, Ala. - There are still so many questions coming out of this tournament, and nobody really seems to know the answers.
Most of them are centered around national seeds and host sites. It’s hard to know for certain who any of the above will be.
Most feel Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Florida, and South Carolina are locks for national seeds. LSU, Vanderbilt, and Ole Miss are fighting to move into the conversation. Ole Miss and Vandy may have both done so by beating Texas A&M and South Carolina, respectively, on Wednesday.
Now, for the first time this season, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt meet. Two of the nation’s most consistent winning programs of the past decade play at 4:30 p.m. Thursday to take another step toward a Southeastern Conference Tournament title here. Each win also vaults them closer to that potential national seed situation.
The above seven SEC teams all have a RPI in the Top Ten currently. That is amazing.
The other seven teams in the SEC aren’t even close. Alabama is next in the high 50s. Kentucky follows in the low 60s.
This is something else people have talked about here this week. Will the seven top ten RPI teams host and be the only SEC teams to make the NCAA Tournament? In other words, all would be top seeds in their Regionals, and there would be no second or third seeds?
Each team can only control what it can control. Ole Miss and Vanderbilt can only control, on Thursday, the game at hand, how they approach it, play it, and finish it.
The Rebels and the Commodores have a history in this event. The No. 1 moment for the two was when they played each other in the 2006 title game. Ole Miss won it that year. The following year Vanderbilt won the championship.
The winner of the game Thursday will be 3-0 here and get the day off Friday. Then there is a single elimination game Saturday and another Sunday. Thursday is huge for whatever team ultimately wins it. They are in one of the proverbial drivers’ seats.
Some say this is Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco’s best coaching job since he arrived at Ole Miss. That is an argument or discussion people can have among themselves, and they might never come up with a precise answer. One thing is for sure, Bianco has had lots of great coaching years and has done a magnificent job at Ole Miss for 16 seasons. The program’s winning consistency year after year proves that.
Same thing for Tim Corbin at Vandy. Before he took over, Commodore baseball was so-so at best. There had been some winning but nothing like the past decade.
This Rebel team has really come into its own the past few weeks. But apparently so have many other teams in the league, at least the top half of the league. One loss at any time recently and it’s like a team falls two or three games behind. Everyone in the top seven, it seems, has been winning most of the time and not losing many games at all.
It would clearly be something for this Ole Miss team, now 42-16, to beat Vandy, take Friday off, and see what happens Saturday and maybe even Sunday.
But no matter what transpires Thursday, it’s already been a heck of a run this season and this week. The two wins here have been impressive, especially Wednesday’s 10-4 victory over South Carolina.
The season will definitely continue next week for the Rebels in a NCAA Regional. But there’s no doubt they would like to win the game against the Commodores and extend this week first.
Stay tuned. It just might happen.