OXFORD — Ole Miss baseball delivered an everlasting demonstration of the power of an opportunity in 2022, winning a national championship as the final at-large bid in the field of 64.
College basketball took a step toward offering that opportunity to more programs this week, with the NCAA Transformation Committee recommending an expansion of championship tournaments to incorporate 25% of Division I programs. That would grow the March Madness field from 68 teams to roughly 90.
The idea now moves to college basketball’s specific governance group, which will choose whether to support the committee’s change and implement it. Although some industry insiders are skeptical about the idea’s future, Ole Miss men’s coach Kermit Davis is hoping the change comes to fruition.
“There’s a lot of really, really good teams,” Davis said Tuesday. “I think it’ll give more Power 5 schools opportunities. Like Mike Bianco’s team, what if they get left out? They’re the last team in and they can win a national championship. There’s a lot of Power Five teams that can go into these tournaments and win two or three games, and I think that’s really what it’s for, to try to get more of those six conferences, more teams in it. I think it’s going to be great for the fans, great for the players. I think it’ll be really good for the NCAA Tournament.”
FOOTBALL:Unpacking Ole Miss football’s 2022 season — and whether Lane Kiffin failed in Year 3
BROEKER:Ole Miss football OL Nick Broeker announces 2023 NFL Draft decision
MBB:What’s behind Ole Miss basketball’s scoring struggles? Kermit Davis says it’s simple
Women’s coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin said Wednesday she hadn’t given it much thought. But she’s not about to turn down more opportunities for teams on the bubble.
“If it’s gonna get us in, then I’m all for it,” she said with a laugh.
Should the tournament receive approval to expand — and ultimately settle on 90 teams as the number — that would raise the number of at-large bids from 36 to 58, provided no changes are made to the number of automatic bids given to conference champions.
Ole Miss, which ranks 93rd in the men’s NET rankings in a season that is quickly drifting away, would be back on the NCAA Tournament bubble with one big win. It certainly would have qualified in 2021, when it narrowly missed out and was a top seed in the NIT.
There are no recent near-miss scenarios quite as glaring with the women’s program, which returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007 last season. The Rebels currently sit 34th in the NET after a 13-2 start — in good position, but hardly secure. With a 90-team field, it would take quite a collapse for the Rebels to miss out.
“I’ve always said 96 for a long, long time,” Davis said. “I didn’t see how they came up with the number 90. I sure hope it gets passed. Every time they’ve expanded the playoffs whether it’s Major League Baseball, NFL, NBA, college football to 12, it just makes it better. Every time they do it, it makes it better.”
David Eckert covers Ole Miss for the Clarion Ledger. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach him on Twitter @davideckert98.