Entering the final weekend of the regular season, there's been a lot of talk about Ole Miss baseball's chances of landing one of the eight coveted national seeds, which gives the beneficiary the right to host postseason games through the super regional round. We've debated things like conference records, strength of schedules, RPI standings and the like, and while there's been no consensus on exactly what qualifies one to be a national seed and where exactly the Rebs sit on that scale, it's been generally accepted that they are at least in the driver's seat.
Earlier this week, Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game published an illuminating report on what the search committee looks for in a national seed, and the results are sobering if you're an Ole Miss fan. Rogers compiled the resumes of every national seed over the past five years, and going by the patterns he unearths, the Rebs may be on the outside looking in.
Six of the eight spots are filled
By Rogers's calculation, barring a collapse, six team are already locked into national seeds: Virginia, Oregon State, Florida, Florida State, Indiana and Louisiana-Lafayette. That leaves only two spots remaining. Those six teams all fall in the top seven spots in the official RPI.
The SEC will probably only get two national seeds
At the moment, four SEC teams are in contention for a national seed: Florida, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. With a 19-8 conference record and a No. 3 RPI, the Gators are locked in. The three remaining clubs will be hoping that the selection committee hands the conference three national seeds, something that's happened twice in the last five years.
The biggest obstacle for that happening this season is the ACC, which has two teams theoretically locked in (Virginia and Florida State), and a third (Miami) with an inside track. For the SEC to get three, the committee would have to hand the conference both of the remaining spots, overlooking a Miami team that's 22-5 in-conference and has the No. 10 RPI.
Vandy has an inside track on the second SEC bid
Ole Miss has a slight lead in conference standings (in the much more difficult West), but Vandy actually has the strongest resume.
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Here's Rogers on Vandy's chances:
If Vanderbilt finishes the regular season with a home series win over South Carolina, I'll go ahead and say it: It will be a favorite to nab a national seed entering the conference tournament. Vandy is 11-4 in its last 15 games and is playing a terrific brand of baseball. Vandy, at least from my perspective, controls its own destiny moving forward.
The argument has been made that winning the SEC West would ensure a bid for Ole Miss (they're one game up on Mississippi State entering the weekend), but the numbers say that isn't a lock. Twice in the last five years the SEC West winner hasn't gotten a national seed (though in fairness, Arkansas missed out in 2011 after winning the division with a mediocre 15-15 conference record).
Ole Miss has RPI problems
The Rebs have a strong conference record and lead one of the best divisions in the country, but they have an RPI of 15 and a 5-7 record against top 25 RPI teams. To put the significance of that in perspective, only two of the last 40 national seeds had an RPI lower than 12. Only six of them have had a losing record against one of the RPI categories (top 25, top 50 or top 100).
Worth noting is the fact that WarrenNolan.com's most recent projections, which have been updated since the Rebels' midweek win over Arkansas State, has Ole Miss at No. 11, one spot above South Carolina. The official RPI won't be released again until next Tuesday.
Texas A&M, the Rebs' opponent this weekend, has the No. 35 RPI.
So what needs to happen for the Rebs to get a national seed?
- Vanderbilt needs to lose this weekend - The 'Dores play South Carolina at home to close the regular season, which is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, there's a real chance the Gamecocks can take that series. On the other, a series win over a top 12 RPI team could lock Vandy in.
- Ole Miss needs to take at least two of three against Texas A&M - Depending on what happens in Nashville, this really may need to be a sweep. One thing's certain: losing it likely ends a national seed bid.
- The Rebs need to make noise in Hoover - The SEC Tournament is the wild card here. A deep run could potentially jump Ole Miss ahead of either Vandy or South Carolina, regardless of this weekend. The Rebs are set up for a bye in the first round, so at the minimum they need to win one.