April 26, 2012
OXFORD, Miss. -- With four weekends remaining in the regular season, Ole Miss will need consistency to put itself in position for an NCAA host spot the first weekend in June.
The Rebels are currently 27-14 (9-9) with a No. 17 RPI. Recent regional projections have Ole Miss a No. 2 seed on the road. North Carolina State is the current guess by most prognosticators. This is just my opinion, but I think Ole Miss needs to get to 17-13 in the league to feel good about hosting chances. That's 8-4 the rest of the way.
The Rebels' current RPI puts them in the discussion, but their conference standing is a negative right now on the resume. The SEC looks to have four locks to host -- Florida 32-10, RPI: 2, Kentucky (35-7, RPI: 4), LSU (32-9, RPI: 7) and South Carolina (30-10, RPI: 8) -- and Ole Miss and Arkansas are hanging around.
A fifth SEC host spot is also difficult because the NCAA will likely awards home regionals to Purdue (31-6, RPI: 10) and Central Florida (34-8, RPI: 13) -- leaving 14 regionals for power conferences and perennial players.
As of now, Ole Miss has the No. 13 strength of schedule nationally. Here are the RPI totals for the Rebels' slate.
No. 44 TCU (1-1)
No. 150 Arkansas State (1-0, one left)
No. 52 UNC Wilmington (3-0)
No. 105 Memphis (1-1)
No. 220 Jackson State (2-0)
No. 171 Miami-Ohio (2-1)
No. 258 UT-Martin (1-0)
No. 119 Houston (3-0)
No. 35 Louisville (1-1)
No. 61 Auburn (1-2)
No. 91 Southern Miss (0-1, one left)
No. 133 Alabama (2-1)
No. 2 Florida (2-1)
No. 4 Kentucky (1-2)
No. 181 Central Arkansas (2-0)
No. 41 Georgia (1-2)
No. 38 Mississippi State (1-0, three left)
No. 12 Arkansas (2-1)
No. 185 Murray State (one game)
No. 7 LSU (three games)
No. 68 Tennessee (three games)
No. 54 Vanderbilt (three games)
Per Warren Nolan, the Rebels are currently 9-8 against the top 50 and 13-11 against the top 100. The top 50 number is solid but not overly noteworthy. It may seem strange, but The Colonial Athletic Association could have a significant impact on Ole Miss' RPI the rest of the way. UNC-Wilmington is currently No. 52 in RPI and defeated top-50 Elon on Wednesday night.
The Seahawks are rolling through the CAA, and while the remaining schedule isn't particularly strong, the Rebels would greatly benefit from a top-50 finish from Wilmington. Ole Miss swept UNC-W the second weekend of the season, and those three wins could pay off. The Seawhawks have seven games against teams above 150 in RPI and only a date against No. 6 North Carolina to help the resume, but if they win just about all the remaining games they have a chance. UNC-W closes the season with a three-game set against George Mason. The Patriots are in the top 100, but they fell to Coppin State on Wednesday. Coppin State had lost 44 straight games and is 1-38 on the season now. Not good for the RPI.
Obviously Ole Miss needs Southern Miss to stay in the top 100 and TCU to remain the top 50. Mississippi State is comfortable inside the top 50 for now, and that makes this weekend big in every way. But, of course, the biggest thing is wins. Ole Miss needs a strong finish to make much of this relevant.
Memphis has a decently strong schedule the rest of the way, beginning with Central Florida this weekend. The Tigers also have Mizzou for three games and a midweek with Tennessee, so a few wins and Memphis could eek into the top 100. That would erase one of Ole Miss' three losses to teams outside that number.
Vanderbilt hasn't been on the radar this season, as its only 19-22 overall and four games under .500 in conference play, but the Commodores are just outside the top 50 in RPI and have a crazy schedule the rest of the way. Ten of the Commodores 13 remaining games against the top 50 and the other three are Tennessee at No. 68.
The numbers are in Ole Miss' favor but getting above .500 in the SEC is a necessity. Last weekend was a solid start with the series win over Arkansas.