Despite being ranked No. 2 nationally and having won the SEC regular season and tournament championships, Ole Miss will trip to Baton Rouge for the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
University officials held a conference call Wednesday morning with the NCAA staff members overseeing the selection process for men's tennis, with Senior Associate Athletics Director Lynnette Johnson, Head Coach Billy Chadwick and Athletics Director Pete Boone on hand.
"Well basically, they were following NCAA policy as far as travel goes," Chadwick said. "It's a complicated procedure. If teams are within 400 miles, they considered that the ‘driving range.' They want to cut down as much as possible on teams that have to fly.
"With that being said, what should have been done is instead of making the draw and looking at our segment and saying, well if Ole Miss played at LSU everybody can drive there, they should have looked at it and said the No. 2 seed is going to host. They should have redone the whole thing and figured it out."
According to the information given to Ole Miss, the ultimate decision was based on specific seeding and travel policies sanctioned for men's and women's tennis.
Once the selection committee picks and seeds the 64 teams, they are then placed in pods. The NCAA seeding and travel policy, which is based on regionalization, took effect to help minimize the number of teams that would be required to fly.
Since the NCAA does not monetarily compensate institutions regarding travel in the first two rounds of the tournament, Ole Miss is forced to pay its own way.
"Our message to them was that the student-athletes ranked No. 2 in the nation and then are seeded the overall national No. 2 seed that won the SEC regular season and tourney championships, should be rewarded for their hard work and success," Boone said. "There should be a belief that there is flexibility within the selection guidelines and that general common sense should carry the weight of the decision.
"It didn't in this case. We will work within the NCAA committee structure to change these rules to ensure the top teams in every sport are protected when host locations are chosen. It only makes good sense."
Unlike the men's selections, only No. 16 seeded Fresno State was denied the opportunity to host in the women's bracket.
A far cry for the men, No. 6 Baylor, along with the Rebels, was also affected by the process and sent to Tulsa. It will be the first time since 2002 the Bears have had to hit the road for a NCAA Championship.
"If someone has to not host, it should be No. 16 as they did on the women's side," said Chadwick. "If they can't figure it out, the one that suffers is ranked lower. It's the way it should be. I'm very disappointed that the NCAA allowed the committee to submit it. The committee was doing their job, but they missed it."
The Rebels are making their 16th consecutive NCAA appearance (18th overall) and have advanced to the "Sweet Sixteen" 14 times and the NCAA Final Four four times.
This marks the fourth time for Ole Miss to be seeded top five in the NCAA Championships, and the highest seed since 1997, when they were also the No. 2 seed. They advanced to the Final Four that year.
The Rebels won the SEC regular season championship, captured the SEC Tournament Championship for the second year in a row, and won their eighth straight SEC Western Division title.
Chadwick said the Rebels, who finished with an overall record of 24-2, will use Tuesday's decision as added motivation.
"This is a team who will actually use this to be even more motivated," Chadwick said. "We know what the assignment is. We've played down at LSU this year and it's a very, very tough assignment. We're going to have to be prepared and get ready to go do the best job we can."
The Rebels will face Alcorn State in the first round Friday, May 8. LSU and Rice will square off in the other match. The final will be played Saturday, May 9 with the winner advancing to the "Sweet Sixteen" in College Station, Texas.
"LSU is tough. We've had to play them in the conference tournament as well and it's a match that could very well go down to the last match," said Chadwick. "Rice is a team who actually came down here to play at the National Team Indoor. They're a very strong team. They beat Texas A&M this year, who is one of the seeds. It's a strong bracket we're in. That's why it's that much more difficult to give up the home court advantage."
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