May 22, 2012
HOOVER, Ala. -- Every NCAA Tournament projection had Ole Miss as a No. 2 seed prior to the start of the SEC Tournament.
After Ole Miss' 2-0 loss to Kentucky Tuesday morning, those same experts still expect the Rebels to be in, but a little resume enhancement wouldn't be the worst thing if nervousness in Oxford, Miss., is to be avoided on Selection Monday.
The main reasons for national writers' hesitation to give Ole Miss a guaranteed at-large berth is the ninth place and under .500 conference finish and what happened to LSU last season. The Tigers finished ninth at 13-17 in the SEC and missed the league tournament. This season the Hoover field is expanded to 10 teams, but so far, Ole Miss has just added another loss to the ledger. Most of the time, the committee adds "nonconference" conference games and conference tournament games to a team's league record. In that case, Ole Miss is currently 15-17 in the SEC.
There are several changes on the NCAA selection committee, including the addition of South Carolina athletics director Eric Hyman, so it's impossible to know what factors the committee will value more than others.
But for conversation purposes, here's how Ole Miss' current resume lines up against LSU's last season, courtesy of SEBaseball.com publisher Mark Etheridge. As you can see, it's similar in a lot of ways. LSU was penalized for conference record and low number of road games.
LSU in 2011: 36-20, RPI #26, 5-11 (v25), 11-17 (v50), 18-18 (v100), 27-18 (v150), 12-3 (last 15), T9th in 1st rated conference, SOS #33, 7-11 (road record), n/c SOS #94
Ole Miss in 2012: 34-23, RPI #23, 8-9 (v25), 14-16 (v50), 17-20 (v100), 26-22 (v150), 7-8 (last 15), 9th in 2nd rated conference, SOS #10, 7-14 (road record), n/c SOS #50
"You don't know what the committee is going to grade as high resume factors," Etheridge said. "RPI and several RPI records are good for Ole Miss. You just don't need a committee member with a strong opinion pushing for conference finish or late-season record as the biggest factors."
This comparison to LSU means nothing definite. Results are from different seasons and different bubbles to be graded against. However, it can't be completely discounted. Like all at-large teams swimming anywhere near the bubble, Ole Miss needs conference tournaments to go as scratch as possible, with teams like TCU and Coastal Carolina grabbing automatic bids instead of possible at-large ones. That not only helps get in the tournament but also keys the seed and location.
Geography plays a factor in seeding. A team could be a No. 2 seed in a certain area or get moved to a No. 3 seed across the country if it makes the complete puzzle fit better.
"Teams close to the bubble obviously need every win, but it's almost more important to see what else happens around the country," Etheridge said. "In a way, an at-large team doesn't control its own destiny. The bubble shrinks or stays expanded based on other bids. I still think Ole Miss is in, even with a loss on Wednesday, but it obviously would be somewhat at the mercy of the committee."
Ole Miss gets another chance on Wednesday morning to add a win to the resume. The Rebels play Mississippi State or Arkansas at 9:30 a.m. Both teams are in the RPI top 50 and likely two seeds in the NCAA Tournament.