Ole Miss will be hosting an NCAA Regional Tournament this weekend. For a while, this seemed almost impossible to many Rebel fans, especially me. The committee added Ole Miss to their 20-team short list of schools who were eligible for hosting status a few weeks ago because they know Ole Miss always makes some late season magic. After continuing onto the weekend, yet again, in the SEC Tournament, Ole Miss picked up some big wins and key resume boosters. They fell short of a championship (which probably would have given them a top 8 national seed) by just a smidge, but they did enough to lock up a top 16 hosting site.
Ole Miss has a tradition of making a late season push, and, more recently, bolstering their resume in Hoover. The NCAA also has a tradition: giving Ole Miss a tough regional draw. Remember 3 years ago when the 3 seed in the Oxford Regional was the high powered mid-major Tennessee Tech? Do you remember drawing Indiana and Clemson in the same regional in 2019? Maybe you remember the regional we got bounced from in 2015 against a stud Tulane team. Either way, this year is no different.
While Mississippi State (who got mercy ruled in both of their SEC Tournament games this year) enjoys a region with VCU, Campbell, and Samford, Ole Miss has to contend with a star-studded lineup. Ole Miss should make easy work of the SEMO RedHawks while Southern Miss (an almost host) does battle with a perennial tournament team, Florida State. If Ole Miss wins their game, they will take on the winner with a chance to set up a Regional Final on Sunday against whoever is deemed worthy in this round robin tournament.
The fact that Ole Miss will content with 2 other teams in the top 25 is not only ridiculous, but mathematically preposterous. If they do, in fact, make it out of this crazy regional, they will be paired up with Arizona for Super Regionals. Tucson, Arizona is where the softball team ended their run this year. The NCAA might be trying to spark a little rivalry with the seeding of the baseball tournament.
Arizona should be easy work for any team who plays in the SEC, however. The committee gave Ole Miss a great path to the CWS in Omaha if they can win Game 2 of the regional tournament. In my opinion, saving Doug Nikhazy for Game 2 would be the best way to attack the region. The arms that came alive in the SEC Tournament obviously need to stay hot in order to have success, but one win from any of those guys on Friday could set the Rebs up big time for a Supers appearance.
The book on the regional competition: two great teams and one meh team.
Southern Miss is 37-19 on the season, but with so much head-to-head competition with Louisianna Tech, the committee was able to rule them out as a host and put LA Tech in there instead. The team is solid and is an obviously powerful 2 seed. This is why it is imperative that Doug pitches Game 2.
Florida State is 33-20 on the year. They have quality midweek wins over a handful of teams that have gotten the best of Ole Miss. The sweep of Miami is their biggest resume booster, but, again, facing Doug would put them on their heels if they were to win Game 1 against Southern Miss.
Finally, we have SEMO. They have gone 30-20 on the season and are the underdog in this tournament. Would Doug destroy them? Absolutely. Should we throw somebody else instead? Double absolutely. They are a formidable midweek opponent, but they are just that: a midweek. Ole Miss needs to get past them with some of their lessor arms and move to the winners’ bracket where Nikhazy can propel them into the finals.
Based on how last week went, the regional should not be a problem. Based on how the middle of the season went, Ole Miss might be in trouble. These guys want to win, however, and they are plenty capable of doing it. I can dissect the matchup against Arizona and the prospects of a return to Omaha later, but for right now, the regional tournament is the only thing that matters.