By: Jeff Roberson
Ole Miss baseball was one of the 16 sites selected to host a NCAA Regional. Anything less would have been a travesty to the selection process of the NCAA Tournament.
But sometimes things happen. After all, when all is said and done, it is human beings who make those selections. So they can be wrong.
But in this case, they were right. Ole Miss, with its current No. 5 RPI, got a host site. Where they were arguably wrong was that Ole Miss was the only top seven RPI left out of being a national seed.
It isn’t all about RPI, of course. But Ole Miss, as high as third in the RPI early in the season, had never fallen past the top eight in the RPI poll all season. The challenging schedule allowed for that, and also the fact that the Rebels won a lot of games throughout.
The regular season, so we hear from some, will always hold more weight than the conference tournament. So Ole Miss’ 18-12 mark and the way things shook out in the regular season meant the Rebels would be the No. 7 seed in the SEC Tournament in Hoover. So there was that, and as far as being a host and also a national seed, that didn’t bode well – this year.
Had Ole Miss finished even 19-11 in the league’s regular season, the Rebels would have been the fifth seed ahead of Vanderbilt, who was also 18-12 but who got the sixth seed, and LSU, because Ole Miss beat the Tigers two of three. But the season would have had to play out to see who Ole Miss would have beaten had they been 19-11 and how that would have changed things.
So we knew the Rebels had some solidifying work to do in Hoover to get where they wanted to wind up – as a host site. But as the wins kept coming, there was not only the solidification of that but also the national seed talk. The more they won – beating Georgia, South Carolina, Vanderbilt – the more it grew.
So had they won Saturday against Texas A&M, was that enough for a national? Would they also have had to win Sunday against Florida? Would the committee have weighed the regular season so much more, and they might have, that even winning the SEC Tournament would still not have been enough to be a national?
We’ll never know. Because it’s humans at the control.
I still can’t get past the fact that the umpires changed a correct call to an incorrect call after the Texas A&M head coach protested. Can you? In this day and age of “let’s get everything exactly right because we have 100 camera angles?” that's tough to accept. That, and the fact that the Aggie runner eventually scored, and later in the game J.B. Woodman was called out at second base after TV showed he did not slide past the bag. And as it turned out he would likely have scored.
Beyond that, we do know Ole Miss is paired with No. 3 Miami and has a lot of work to do in its own Regional first.
Utah, the Pac-12 champion, was 19-11 in that normally strong baseball league. The Utes are the No. 4 seed here. That league does not have a conference tourney.
Second-seed Tulane, the AAC regular season champs, was 2-0 against LSU. Third-seed Boston College won two of three games this regular season against Virginia, Louisville, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, and Virginia Tech. You read that right.
Sure, those are just snapshots, but the point is no team in Oxford can be taken lightly. It’s a strong field. And I don’t expect the Rebels to do that – take anyone lightly, that is.
That’s because we’ve all seen the toughness of this Rebel squad time and time again. We’ve seen their talent and depth, and we know they come to play every time they step on the field. Sometimes – 17 losses worth – it hasn’t been enough. But those 43 wins didn’t come from just walking out there and going through the motions.
I sensed Monday there was no exuberance or euphoria when the announcement was made. We were up there with the players and coaches, and it was strictly back to business as soon as they were through watching the selection show.
Do the Rebels wish they had been a national seed? Sure they do. Do they feel the lack thereof prevents them from going to the College World Series? Of course they don’t.
Two things. Once upon a time Ole Miss wasn’t a national seed and neither was Miami. But the Hurricanes went to Nebraska, a national seed, and won a Regional and advanced to play in Oxford. We know how that turned out, and sometimes even playing a Super Regional at home doesn’t assure you of anything.
Another time, Ole Miss was not a national seed, won a Regional at home, then traveled to the heart of Cajun country on the road to Omaha, breaking through against what some considered the No. 1 team in the country at their place in an environment at least as tough as Miami will be, if that’s where the Rebels play next week.
Quite a few of the role players this year were on that Omaha team. They remember.
First, however, it’s a game against the Pac-12 champs in an Oxford Regional filled with quality baseball teams. This Ole Miss team has that first game on its collective mind. And that’s all.
It’s all about Friday – the first of five games that, if they win them, will send them to Omaha. Go 5-0 and they’re there. And that’s certainly doable for these Rebels the next two weeks.