Did Ole Miss baseball do enough to make NCAA Tournament after early SEC Tournament exit?

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HOOVER, Ala. — Ole Miss baseball could've cemented its status as an NCAA Tournament team Tuesday. Instead, the Rebels return home with one big question and no concrete answer.

The No. 9 seeded Rebels (32-22) were eliminated in the first round of the SEC Tournament with a 3-1 loss against No. 8 seed Vanderbilt (37-19) late Tuesday night. A win could've given Ole Miss a 15th SEC win and its sixth victory over an RPI top-25 opponent in the last three weeks. Instead, the Rebels are 19-19 since the start of SEC play and dropped three spots to No. 39 in the RPI.

Ole Miss entered the SEC Tournament knowing a win could've landed it safely in the postseason. Now, Rebels will have to endure five days of waiting to hear if their names are called in the NCAA Tournament Selection Show on Monday (11 a.m., ESPN2).

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Rebels coach Mike Bianco isn't asking his players to shy away from that uncertainty.

"It is what it is," Bianco said. "What are you going to do, take their iPhone away from them? Or ask (D1Baseball) to not put any more predictions out? It's the world that they live in. You can't hide from it. Just handle it maturely and understand that we had some control of it tonight. Now we don't have any control of it."

It's hard to make much of a prediction about Ole Miss' future. The Rebels entered the day as a projected No. 3 seed by both D1 Baseball and Baseball America. Neither site listed the Rebels as one of the "last four in," making their bid feel safe.

But now Ole Miss is out of chances to improve its resume. Teams in the last four in like North Carolina State and Iowa are still alive in their conference tournaments. Teams in the first four out like Alabama and Old Dominion are still alive as well. And bid stealers in less competitive leagues can always make the bubble smaller as conference tournament week drags on.

"We're just waiting," senior team captain Tim Elko said. "Obviously we wanted to win this game. Now it's in the hands of the committee. We feel like we played well enough this year to get in. But we'll see."

Ole Miss' position is precedented, but that doesn't mean it's easy to predict. In 2014, Texas A&M went 14-16 in SEC play, lost in its first game in the SEC Tournament, had an RPI of No. 39 on Selection Monday and made the NCAA Tournament. In 2017, Ole Miss went 14-16 in league play, lost its first SEC Tournament game and had a Selection Monday RPI of No. 37 but missed the field of 64.

Bianco said he and his staff didn't plan for a short stay so they haven't planned for how they'll spend the next five days. The coach expects the team will hit the weight room Wednesday and begin evaluating which pitchers need rest and which need to throw.

After that, everything will be up to the committee of 10 decision-makers who will make the call on the Rebels' fate.

"We're just going to stay together," Bench said. "I'd like to think we did enough, but it's up to those 10 guys in the committee to see if we got in."

Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or nsuss@gannett.com. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Did Ole Miss baseball do enough to make NCAA Tournament? No one knows.