All that momentum Ole Miss collected in Fayetteville? Consider it halted. The Rebels followed their surprise upset of a top-15 Arkansas team by laying an egg in Gainesville over the weekend, losing all three games to No. 7 Florida in a setback that puts them in real danger of missing the NCAA Tournament for just the third time in Mike Bianco’s 17-year tenure.
The three losses drop the Rebels to 11-13 in SEC play, meaning they’ll have to win four of their final six conference games to hit the magical 15-15 mark generally considered to be the cutoff for an NCAA Tournament berth. Those six games will come against No. 15 Texas A&M and No. 5 Auburn.
“You have opportunities left as long as you’re still playing, but you have to play well,” Bianco told Chase Parham of RebelGrove.com after Sunday’s loss. “The good and bad of it is the teams we’re playing are going to be good.”
There’s a chance they could sneak in with 14 SEC wins, but not if their RPI stays near its current spot at No. 34. After a pair of midweek wins against RPI bomb Louisiana-Monroe dropped the Rebels a couple spots, their RPI didn’t budge during their trip to Gainesville. That number needs to be moving the other direction in a hurry—a mid-30s RPI combined with a sub-.500 conference record will be a hard sell to the selection committee.
On a side note, @OleMissBSB is in a must-win situation against A&M. Two games below .500 in league and 8-16 vs. RPI Top 50. Need wins.— Kendall Rogers (@KendallRogersD1) May 7, 2017
After a hot start that rocketed Ole Miss to the fringes of the top 10 and offered the potential for reprieve for Rebel fans wearied by football losses and NCAA drama, the ensuing months of baseball mediocrity have suggested that this young team is still at least a year away from being a contender. The freshman-heavy lineup is too inconsistent and the bullpen, which was supposed to be the strength of the team, has been increasingly shaky.
Don’t count them out of the tournament just yet, though. A&M and Auburn, both of which lost over the weekend (the top-five Tigers got dropped by West doormat Alabama, of all teams), are winnable series for a Rebel team with phenomenal starting pitching. But the margin of error earned in Fayetteville dissipated in Gainesville over the weekend.