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Ole Miss’ season ends without NCAA Tournament bid

Ole Miss’ season is over.

For just the third time in 17 seasons under head coach Mike Bianco, Ole Miss failed to make the NCAA Tournament. The field of 64 was announced during a selection show Monday morning.

It’s the first time since 2011 the Rebels haven’t made the field. Ole Miss will begin the 2018 season with its last tournament win coming in the 2014 College World Series.

“Just seeing our name not get called, it hurt,” second baseman Tate Blackman said. “You’re out here grinding every day with your brothers and put all the sweat into it, and you just fall short. It’s hard to put into words, but it’s not a fun feeling or a fun experience.”

Ole Miss (32-25) had 11 top-50 RPI wins and went 16-21 against the RPI top 100 with a strength of schedule that ranked 15th nationally, but the Rebels had a 14-16 record in SEC play during the regular season — their first losing record in conference since 2012. Ole Miss’ best wins came over LSU (4 RPI), Kentucky (9), Southern Miss (11), Arkansas (14) and Vanderbilt (25), but the Rebels won just three series over tournament teams.

The Rebels lost four of their last five games and didn’t help themselves with a short stay in the SEC Tournament following a 5-4 loss to Auburn in the first round, dropping Ole Miss’ RPI to the mid-30s. No SEC team in the last six years has made the field with a losing conference record and a sub-30 RPI.

Ole Miss played .500 ball after starting the season 7-0.

“I thought we had the talent at the beginning of the year with a heck of a freshman class,” senior third baseman Colby Bortles said. “Really good guys. Really good chemistry. Not really sure what it was. Felt like the whole year that, ‘This is it. We’re going to click, go on a run and win 10, 15 straight.’ But it never happened. You look back on it and wonder what if.

“No one really knew. We were kind of looking forward to (the selection show), seeing if we’d be in. But it didn’t go our way.”

Championship Sunday didn’t do any favors for bubble teams with Oklahoma State (Big 12), Iowa (Big Ten), Dallas Daptist (Missouri Valley), Xavier (Big East) and Rice (Conference USA) all stealing bids by winning their conference tournaments to automatically qualify for the NCAA Tournament, though those results seemed to have little affect on Ole Miss’ at-large fate. The Rebels were not among the first four teams left out of the tournament by the NCAA’s selection committee.

The final at-large bids to be awarded didn’t come without some controversy.

St. John’s, which got in as a 3 seed, finished with 42 wins against a schedule that ranks as the nation’s 198th toughest overall and 255th in the non-conference. The Red Storm played one top-50 RPI opponent all season. Ole Miss took two of three from Texas A&M during the regular season, but the Aggies, whose non-conference schedule ranks 200th nationally, got in as a 3 seed after going 16-14 in SEC play with an RPI of 46.

Bianco said teams don’t hear from the selection committee in advance about which metrics it’s putting the most emphasis on when handing out at-large bids, but he stopped short of saying his team was snubbed.

“Do I believe we should’ve gotten in? Sure,” Bianco said. “But I’m the coach at Ole Miss that didn’t get in, and every year there’s people that didn’t get in. I look at our resume and you scratch your head and say, ‘Hey, we should get in over this team or we should get in over that team.’ But the truth of the matter is we put ourselves in that position, and there’s other teams that didn’t. … When you put yourself on that proverbial bubble, you leave it up to 10 people.”

Oregon State is the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament. North Carolina, Florida, LSU, Texas Tech, TCU, Louisville and Stanford rounded out the national seeds, respectively, and will host a super regional should they win their regionals.