Rebels find out Sunday if SEC tourney flop will hurt

The Ole Miss baseball team will find out Sunday how costly – if at all – were its two quick losses in the SEC tournament.
After a strong finish to the regular season and a share of the league championship, the Rebels put themselves in the discussion for a top eight national seed. The top eight seeds are guaranteed home games in the NCAA tournament until they reach the College World Series in Omaha should they advance that far.
The committee’s work will be made public at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at and at the news feed along the bottom of the screen on the ESPN networks. The 16 host sites for the four-team regionals and the national seeds will be announced then.
Former Mississippi State athletics director Larry Templeton served two different terms on the NCAA baseball committee, a span covering eight years. He was chairman for two years including the 2008 and 2007 seasons.
“Ole Miss and LSU will get a lot of consideration, because they won the regular season championship in the No. 1 conference in the country,” Templeton said. “How that all works out will be interesting. The regular season championship will play big with the conversations going on in that room, but the guy that wins the tournament will have another chip.”
Recent history
For the last two seasons, the SEC has had a team go 0-2 in its tournament then go on to reach Omaha – Mississippi State in 2007 and Georgia in 2008. The last time Ole Miss went 0-2 in the SEC tournament was 2004. The Rebels hosted an NCAA regional for the first time that season but lost their first two games.
The SEC has no representation on the committee this season with Templeton’s term expired. That could impact the league in discussions. This year’s committee is chaired by Tim Weisner, an associate commissioner with the Big 12 Conference.
“I have confidence that the guys on that committee will do what’s best for college baseball, and they understand the strength of the SEC,” Templeton said.
Some projections for this season have LSU entrenched as a top-eight national seed. If the committee views LSU with a like mindset, how does it view Ole Miss, which shared the regular season championship with LSU? Are the Rebels deserving of a national seed if the Tigers are?
“I thought that going into the tournament,” said Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco, the former LSU catcher. “Not to take anything away from LSU, but when you look at the numbers, they’re so similar. The overall records are basically the same. The RPI is within a point or two. We have a better road record and more wins against the RPI top 50. It’s very comparable.”
In the most recent release of the NCAA’s official RPI numbers, going into the SEC tournament, Ole Miss had an RPI of 14 compared to LSU’s RPI of 10.
In the simulated RPI rankings of Boyd Nation, which are updated daily, the Rebels had an RPI of 17 after two losses in Hoover, while LSU’s RPI was 12 on Friday morning.
If LSU is the national seed lock that many believe, the greater question may be if the conference will receive two national seeds. If so, the Rebels’ competition is likely not LSU but Florida.
The damage to the Ole Miss resume; may not be that it went two-and-out as much as that it did not take advantage of a chance to further distinguish itself against Florida.
Ole Miss finished one game ahead of Florida in the final regular season standings with a 20-10 mark to the Gators’ 19-11. The Rebels also won two of three against Florida in Gainesville.
The Gators evened things up in head-to-head play with a 12-2 win in the SEC tournament on Thursday. Their most recent NCAA RPI ranking is 6. They have an RPI of 5 in Nation’s most recent release.
The importance of RPI
The Ratings Percentage Index has long been an important measuring stick in determining teams that will receive an at-large bid to the NCAA basketball and baseball tournaments. The index includes a team’s win percentage, its opponents’ win percentage and the win percentage of its opponents’ opponents.
In baseball, use of RPI is expanded to help determine host sites for the four-team regionals. It remains a criteria for awarding national seeds, but RPI is more important in determining the last 10 teams in the tournament field than it is in determining the top eight teams, Templeton said. More important regarding the national seeds will be the committee’s observations and its discussions that have taken place this weekend in Indianapolis.
“The committee will have seen the top 15 or 16 teams play,” Templeton said. “You can often pick the top five teams easily. Ideally, you’re trying to pick eight teams that if you weren’t playing it out on the field would end up in Omaha playing for the national championship. You never get all eight, but you get a lot of them, and that’s what you’re trying to do.
“I would venture to say you can count on at least one or two of the top eight not being in the top eight of the RPI. That’s not the only measuring stick.”
Hosting a regional
The SEC tournament performance is not expected to keep Ole Miss from hosting a regional. The Rebels hosted for four straight seasons before going on the road to Miami last season.
“I would think that the league would get four sites, and I would think that the top four teams in the league have earned the opportunity,” Templeton said.
The top four will be determined by a combination of regular season games and tournament games.
During Templeton’s first term on the committee, in the mid-1990s, awarding regional host sites was mostly driven by a team’s ability to draw crowds.
“Finances drove the sites then,” he said. “For my second term finances might be the fourth or fifth reason to place a regional.”
Teams in the Southeast will place bids with guarantees of $100,000 or more to have a regional on campus. That figure is significantly lower in other parts of the country, but a minimum bid of $50,000 is required.

Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal

Click video to hear audio