This doesn’t even get into a very successful track and field weekend.
Let’s start with baseball.
The big news out of a big series win was the pitching, particularly the Saturday and Sunday starters, Chris Smith and Sean Johnson, both juco guys in their first seasons of SEC ball.
Behind all three starters there was good relief pitching, and when the game got to Wyatt Short he was outstanding.
On Friday night, Brady Bramlett went three scoreless to start then gave up 1 and 2 over this last two innings.
He locates. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff. This was the pattern in his first start too. Brady Bramlett is going to give this team a chance to win, and then many good offenses will begin to get their timing against him.
It will be important to have good relief help behind him.
Woodman 2-for-4, HR (2) and 2 RBI … Timely hitting with only six hits in the game.
Brady Bramlett gave the Rebels a chance to win, and the offense responded.
Mike Bianco turned to Short in the eighth inning, probably earlier than he would have liked, but Short responded with 1 2-3 scoreless innings with one hit, no walks and three strikeouts.
Ole Miss couldn’t get anything going against Louisville’s Brendan McKay who threw a 3-hit shutout, a complete game.
But there was some very promising news in that juco transfer starting pitcher Chad Smith pitched into the eighth against a great offense. Smith went seven innings officially, almost three innings longer than he want last week, and allowed just two earned runs. He didn’t give up his first run until the sixth, so a great second start for Smith, the No. 2 pitcher.
A good start also for Sean Johnson, who got into the sixth with five hits and two runs allowed all of that in the first inning. Louisville took a 2-0 lead in the first. Going into the series Louisville was 4-0 this year and 31-0 last year when scoring first.
The bullpen was strong behind Johnson with the same names from Game 1. Another juco transfer, David Parkinson threw 1 2-3 scoreless with two hits and Wyatt Short pitched 1 2-3 with no runs and one hit for his second save of the weekend, his third of the year.
Bianco told us he felt like he had more talent and depth on this pitching staff. We’re seeing the health and talent right now. We’ll see if the depth emerges too.
We may get a better read on that when the Rebels take on Memphis Wednesday at 3.
Ole Miss needed single runs in the eighth and ninth innings to rally past Arkansas State 4-3 last week. Freshman James McArthur allowed three hits, two walks and two runs in three innings. Freshman Andy Pagnozzi was next and gave up a run on two hits, the run coming in the final of his three innings.
The Rebels needed to turn to Parkinson in the middle of that game, and he was scoreless for two-thirds of an inning.
On to Basketball. …
I think we can skip the NCAA conversation and focus on whether this team makes the NIT.
Ole Miss is 18-10 overall, 8-8 in conference play right now. For many years 8-8 would be the end of the regular season, and if the RPI numbers fell in place – This year they do not – that would get an SEC team in the Big Dance.
That was several years ago, and times have changed.
Ole Miss, like many teams, has proven to be a better home team than road team. The Rebels picked up four non-conference road wins before SEC play began, but they’re just 2-6 on the conference road.
A Georgia team that Ole Miss beat on a last-second shot at home beat the Rebels by 14 in Athens on Saturday.
Ole Miss has nice home wins over Alabama, which has a decent NCAA resume, and Vanderbilt, whose resume is slightly better.
But the Rebels’ only conference road wins are at couple of struggling opponents, Missouri and Auburn. You’ve got to win in both places to reach the Dance.
Ole Miss begins the week at No. 87 in the ESPN projected RPI which leaves the Rebels as an NIT candidate.
The Rebels are at home against Mississippi State on Wednesday and at Tennessee on Saturday to end the regular season.
While Ole Miss is better at home, home wins are not guaranteed in advance, and MSU has won four of its last six. One loss two-point game at Texas A&M in which the Aggies hit free throws in the final seconds to get the win.
The Bulldogs were impressive in a 67-61 win at Alabama. They struggled to beat an Ole Miss team that was without three starters – including Stefan Moody and Sebastian Saiz – in Starkville, but they’re playing better now.
If Ole Miss loses at home to MSU and loses at Tennessee it will fall behind MSU for SEC tournament seeding purposes if the Bulldogs win at home against Auburn. Under that scenario both teams would be 8-10 in conference play.
It’s a big week for the Rebels if they want to play in the NIT.
And finally, the NFL Combine …
Did Robert Nkemdiche throw his teammate Laremy Tunsil under the bus when he said Tunsil was with him in Atlanta for the mid-December hotel incident? It would seem so. What that means to Tunsil, considered by many to be the first overall pick in the draft, remains to be seen. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Nkemdiche try to walk that statement back a bit.
We at Daily Journal World Headquarters started talking about covering the NFL Combine when it became apparent Ole Miss would have three projected first-round picks. According to the NFL’s own draft grades at NFL.com, Ole Miss has the No. 1 overall player and No. 1 offensive lineman in Tunsil, the No. 1 wide receiver in Laquon Treadwell, and Nkemdiche, who most believe will remain in the first round in spite of character questions. Nkemdiche is rated as the No. 5 defensive lineman.
As it turned out I was covering the Ole Miss and Mississippi State players, six from each school. Some guys I couldn’t track down but did go 9-for-12 overall which would have me in contention for SEC player of the week honors.
As a college writer I was out of my element a little bit. When my kids were growing up I was told them to “Make a new friend,” in those circumstances, so I sort of did that.
The MSU players don’t know me or if they did they didn’t let on. The Ole Miss guys seemed surprised to see a face they recognized. Tunsil, somewhat taller than me already, looked down from the riser and said, “Hey, I know you. I know you.”
Tunsil and Treadwell handled the NFL media very well, and each got across the message he was trying to convey.
For Tunsil the message was that he very much wants to be the first player selected. He feels worthy and is confident he will be.
Treadwell wanted everyone to know he believes he’s the best wide receiver in the draft.
In this process these guys believe it’s important for them to express confidence.
Nkemdiche wanted to takes responsibility for the Atlanta incident, which he did. He called it a mistake and a blunder.
He seemed caught off guard when asked if other teammates were there with him. He stuttered before saying that Tunsil was with him.
That story probably isn’t finished.