LSU and Ole Miss don’t deserve NCAA Tournament bids

Published 11:39 am Thursday, May 26, 2011

When the acting 101st Airborne Division commander, Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe, was asked if the 101st would surrender to the German army during the Battle of Bastogne in 1944, his reply was pithy and perfect.


The same could be said for the idea that a SEC team that isn’t playing in the SEC Tournament should be allowed to accept a NCAA Tournament bid.

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LSU and Ole Miss, ranked 23rd and 40th respectively in the NCAA Rating Percentage Index, which ranks teams based on their wins and losses and strength of schedule, will have to wait until May 30 to find out whether the two will make the NCAA field despite not making the SEC one.

On the surface, at least one of the two teams makes a good case for a NCAA berth.

LSU’s RPI ranking is better than tournament-bound Alabama (33rd) and Auburn (36th). The Tigers won 12 of their last 15 games to go from last in the SEC West to a chance for a berth in Hoover, Ala.

But it’s nearly impossible to overcome a 4-11 start in conference play. The early schedule was tough, with Vanderbilt (No. 3 in the latest RPI) and Florida (ranked 5th in RPI) applying the brooms to the Tigers. But a 6-9 record in the division didn’t help matters either and will do the Tigers no favors with the selection committee.

Ole Miss has a decent RPI and has a great series win over South Carolina. But the Rebels needed just a single victory in a doubleheader on Saturday against Arkansas to lock up a trip to Hoover. They lost a pair of two-run games and now they’ll have to hope the NCAA gives them another chance.

That chance is about as good as NASCAR drivers Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick holding hands and singing “Kumbaya.”

If the Rebels miss the 64-team NCAA field, it was their pitching that was their weak point. For a team that sent out standouts like Scott Bittle, Drew Pomeranz, Cody Satterwhite, Lance Lynn and Brett Bukvich to the mound in previous years, this year’s rotation of Matt Crouse (7-4, 3.41 ERA), Austin Wright (5-4, 4.73 ERA) and David Goforth (4-8, 4.88 ERA) was a pale imitation, especially considering this year’s bats have smaller sweet spots.

For those who argue for the admission of LSU and Ole Miss to the NCAAs, should a team with a better record and similar RPI rankings to Ole Miss and LSU that made its conference tournament be denied an at-large bid in favor a pair of SEC teams that weren’t among the top eight in their conference?


The other reason is that if the Tigers and Rebels make the NCAAs, they will have had a week off to rest their pitchers and heal up the nagging injuries. That’s an advantage that the Hoover-bound teams won’t have. And it’s an unfair one. It’s almost a reward for not making the conference tournament.

The way the rules are written, there is nothing that says that a team that misses its conference tournament can’t get an invitation to the NCAA Tournament.

That’s something that needs to be changed. If you’re not good enough to make it to your conference tournament, no matter how good your conference is or how high your RPI is, you shouldn’t make it to the NCAAs.

Anything else is nuts.

Steve Wilson is sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. You can follow him on Twitter at vpsportseditor. He can be reached at 601-636-4545, ext. 142 or at