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NCAA Baseball Tournament 2016: Ole Miss' regional draw is tough but manageable

None of the three teams heading to Oxford are particularly bad matchups for a red-hot Rebel team. Let's meet each one.

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

There was a lot of audible groaning when the Oxford regional was announced on Sunday afternoon. Not only did the selection committee screw Ole Miss over by handing a well-deserved national seed to LSU, it then saddled the Rebs with one of the toughest regional draws in the tournament. Hell, the Pac-12 champ is the four seed.

No, drawing Tulane, Utah and Boston College—the AAC regular season champs, the Pac-12 champs a dangerous ACC team, respectively—isn't ideal. But looking at the numbers, none of these teams are particularly bad matchups for Ole Miss. None of the offenses are dangerous and there aren't any elite arms that really jump out as alarming.

avg. slugging % OBP HR runs/game ERA SO-BB opp. avg.
Ole Miss .279 .405 .362 43 6.2 3.47 480-197 .260
Tulane .267 .425 .357 60 5.9 3.20 466-179 .242
BC .266 .354 .358 18 4.9 3.63 389-199 .239
Utah .281 .387 .374 27 5.4 4.83 360-220 .284

Since turning the corner seven weeks ago, the only team Ole Miss has lost multiple games to is Texas A&M, which did so on the back of its explosive, SEC-leading offense. But there's no team heading to Oxford next weekend that can remotely match the Aggies' firepower. Tulane can hit the deep ball and Utah hits for a respectable average, but Ole Miss, which has been on an absolute tear at the plate for the last month, will easily have the best lineup in Oxford this weekend.

That lineup, by the way, looks like it will include catcher Henri Lartigue, who leads the team with a .362 average.

We'll be examining each of the regional opponents in more detail later this week, but let's kick things off by taking a quick run-through.

No. 2 seed Tulane

overall AAC road RPI vs. top 25 RPI vs. top 100 RPI SOS non-con SOS
39-19 15-7 23-8 29 6-1 18-12 80 69

Why they're dangerous

These dudes are talented and deep on the mound. Assuming All-AAC pitcher Emerson Gibbs goes Friday against BC, Ole Miss could see No. 2 starter Ross Massey (9-3, 2.40 ERA) in a potential Saturday matchup. Down the way, the Rebs could also end up facing midweek starter J.P. France (6-3, 3.22 ERA), who posted a 1.80 ERA while going 4-0 against LSU and Southern Miss this season. Corey Merrill, who was knocked out of the Friday night role by an early arm injury, has moved to the back end of the bullpen and gives the staff a solid closer.

A deep pitching staff is a always a huge advantage in a regional format, and the Rebs have been shaky at the back end of their rotation. Ole Miss needs to avoid an early loss and hope that Chad Smith and/or James McArthur bring their A games.

Tulane can also bash, ranking in the top 25 nationally with 1.03 homers per game. It's not just one slugger either: three guys in the lineup have double-digit dingers.

Why they'll lose

The Green Wave can hit for power, but not for average. They bat an uninspiring .267 as a group (which is somehow third best in the offensively-challenged AAC) and shortstop Stephen Alemais is the only hitter above .300. If the Rebel pitchers can keep Tulane's sluggers in the yard (Ole Miss has given up the fourth fewest homers in the SEC this season), it shouldn't be too tough to outscore them.

No. 3 seed Boston College

overall ACC road RPI vs. top 25 RPI vs. top 100 RPI SOS non-con SOS
31-20 13-15 9-10 39 10-10 13-17 64 53

Why they're dangerous

BC finished eighth in the conference standings, but that's not as bad as it sounds considering the ACC is the deepest conference in college baseball this season. They've proven themselves against elite talent, taking series from No. 2 overall seed Louisville and regional hosts NC State and Virginia. Hell, the Eagles even played the damn Boston Red Sox back in February (they lost 6-0 in an exhibition game). They closed the regular season on a 10-2 run before getting bounced of the first round of the ACC Tourney.

Why they'll lose

Here are the ACC offensive categories in which BC ranks among the top 10: walks (No. 10), stolen bases, strikeouts, sac bunts and grounded into double plays. That's it. Meanwhile, they're 207th nationally in runs per game.

No. 4 seed Utah

overall Pac-12 road RPI vs. top 25 RPI vs. top 100 RPI SOS non-con SOS
25-27 19-11 10-13 93 3-0 16-15 45 99

Why they're dangerous

No, Pac-12 champ doesn't mean as much as it usually does—the conference has been unprecedentedly awful this season, failing to put a single team in the top 40 of the RPI and landing zero regional hosts. Still, winning a power five conference has to count for something. Having finished dead last the last four seasons and picked preseason to do the same in 2016, the Utes bagged 19 conference wins to take the regular season title outright (the Pac-12 doesn't play a tournament).

Utah has no pitching depth (they're 1-8 in midweek or fourth games this season), so they don't have much of a shot at winning this thing. They could, however, hand the Rebs an early loss if Friday night starter Jayson Rose, who led the Pac-12 with 102 strikeouts, is on. The rest of Rose's numbers aren't intimidating (3-5 with a 3.54 ERA), but he's a solid Power 5 arm, which isn't want you want to face in your four seed.

Why they'll lose

Because Marshall Henderson says so.

(This is your reminder that Hendo started his college career at Utah.)