Ole Miss baseball and the case for a national seed

Mike Bianco made an impassioned plea for fairness from the NCAA in regard to how it chooses national seeds this weekend.

I have an idea, however, that Bianco and the NCAA will define fairness differently.

The 16 regional host sites will be announced today. I’m not sure if the Rebels were a lock before they got to Hoover. They finished 18-12 in the SEC, which in more years would have made regional host a done deal before the SEC tournament.

National seeds and the remainder of the 64-team field will be announced tomorrow.

This was a strange year for the league, though. It’s clear the SEC and the ACC are the two best baseball conferences, with the ACC ranked hundredths of a percentage point ahead of the SEC in conference RPI standings. Those two leagues by the numbers are so close their virtually no difference.

I hear some college baseball people complain about RPI and how it’s used to determine NCAA tournament participants, hosts and seeding. Complain all you like, but in the system in place right now, RPI is a major component.

So Bianco asks that the committee award national seeds to the most deserving teams based on the metrics in place for making those decisions.

If that’s what the committee does the Rebels will be a national seed. However, that approach would steer the NCAA away from another form of “fairness,” one in which it spreads around things like host sites and national seeds, presumably for the good of college baseball.

According to the current RPI numbers at D1Baseball.com and WarrenNolan.com, Ole Miss is No. 5, well within the top eight.

The top eight schools are all SEC or ACC. In fact, there isn’t a team that does not belong to one of those conferences until you get to Coastal Carolina at No. 13 in the RPI.

In order to achieve such high RPI numbers you have to hit other marks along the way like strength of schedule and record against other highly ranked RPI teams.

Florida is currently No. 1 in the RPI, followed by SEC teams Texas A&M at 4, Ole Miss at 5, LSU at 7, South Carolina at 8, Vanderbilt at 9 and Mississippi State at 11.

MSU folks believe the Bulldogs deserve a national seed based on their regular season conference championship. I agree.

So how many from the league get a top eight seed, and who gets left out? The discussion seems to linger on the possibility of five from the SEC with South Carolina and Vanderbilt having played their way out.

In that equation it looks like Ole Miss and LSU would be battling for the fifth spot. Florida and Texas A&M are playing for the conference tournament championship today. Both of them are deserving based on their regular seasons as well, Florida with 19 SEC wins and A&M with 20.

South Carolina also has 20 regular season wins and can’t be discounted, but the Gamecocks went 0-2 in Hoover. That will factor in.

Ole Miss’ second-round win over South Carolina will certainly help the Rebels, but if it comes down to those two teams it’s hard to think it will carry more weight than South Carolina’s three-game sweep in Oxford.

It was good for Ole Miss that Florida defeated LSU in the SEC semis yesterday as the Rebels were packing up and heading home themselves.

LSU finished a game ahead of Ole Miss in the regular season standings, but Ole Miss won the head-to-head matchup 2-1. They both achieved at the same level in the SEC tournament.

Ole Miss and Vanderbilt finished tied in the SEC regular season at 18-12. They didn’t play in the regular season, and Ole Miss defeated Vanderbilt in the tournament. The Rebels have to like their chances their too.

Which form of fairness will the committee use? We’ll know tomorrow.

About the SEC tournament …

It was unusual to see Wyatt Short struggle as he did against Texas A&M yesterday as the Rebels lost when having led after six innings for the first time in 39 games.

The bullpen has been the Rebels’ calling card all year. There have been times of struggle – like at Tennessee on the opening night of conference play when Short blew a save and at Alabama in Game 3 when middle relief had issues – but it’s been a very consistent group.

Tournament play is a different animal, and Short was making his third appearance of the week. None had been long, but they were hot days in Hoover, and Short and others had spent time in the bullpen throwing, getting loose and getting mentally ready. That takes a toll.

No one wanted to say that was why Wyatt Short gave up six earned runs on four hits and a walk in two-thirds of an inning. Typically, several factors lead to that kind of outing, not just one, but no doubt making his third appearance in five days played a role.

Overall, the bullpen was very good in wins over Georgia and South Carolina but sketchy against Vanderbilt as well as Texas A&M.

It was primarily Will Stokes against South Carolina. He finished the game with three scoreless innings and recorded his seventh save.

Brady Feigl threw three scoreless innings against Georgia, followed by Stokes and Short with one scoreless inning each.

Dallas Woolfolk had a great appearance yesterday, keeping the Rebels in position to win after A&M posted five runs, three earned, against Chad Smith in his four-inning start.

Woolfolk, a little-used freshman, threw 56 pitches in 3 1-3 innings with four hits, one walk and one run, earned.

While starting pitching and relief pitching were both OK in the totality of the tournament, Ole Miss reached the semifinals and placed itself firmly in the national seed discussion because of its offense.

That has not been a characteristic of the season.

The Rebels hit .314 for the four games and had at least 12 hits over the last three games. They had 17 Saturday against A&M. They’d have won the game had a few of those been extra-base hits, but they were 17 singles.

J.B. Woodman, Henri Lartigue and Tate Blackman had good tournaments as expected, but so did Colby Bortles, and others in the lineup filled in at different times.

Lartigue left the A&M game with a concussion and has begun the series of testing and evaluation that goes along with that. He should be ready for a home regional game on Friday, but that’s something to keep an eye on.

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to John Davis and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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  • JB

    I think Ole Miss deserves one of those 8 national seeds, They had a very good tournament play at Hoover, but the sad part they were not allowed to finish the job. one of those two teams that will meet in today’s championship – one team the winner with one lose in tournament play, same as Rebels with only one loss the runnerup will go home with two loses a tournament record worse than ole miss, If mt account is correct Rebels with 3-1 record,the champ with a 4-1 record 1/2 game ahead of Ole Miss. I believe should Rebels get one of those #8 seed it would carry a Super Regional with it.- just my thoughts.i also believe who ever wins that championship in today’s game will be the #1 national seed and probably the runner up the #2 seed – we could see FSU come into view here, but Gators beat FSU three times this season, Gators did beat Miami Hurricanes as well.and swept TA&M ,but that water under bridge now. . All that’s left now for Rebel fan now is to keep the faith and “HOPE” good luck and safe sailing through some very stormy seas

  • JB

    Wishing all of you out there a very Happy and Safe Memorial Day week. JB (Tula,Ms)

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