Conference champions have now been decided in every league except the Southeastern and West Coast conferences, so now seems like a good time to begin sorting out who gets at-large bids and who gets left out. Here’s a conference-by-conference look at the teams that should be safely in, followed by a bubble breakdown:
In (8 teams): North Carolina (automatic), Florida State, Virginia, Clemson, North Carolina State, Miami, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest.
In (1 team): Albany (automatic).
In (1 team): Charlotte (automatic).
In (2 teams): Jacksonville (automatic), Stetson.
In (2 teams): Ohio State (automatic), Michigan.
In (6 teams): Texas A&M (automatic), Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Nebraska.
In (3 teams): Rutgers (automatic), Louisville, St. John’s.
In (1 team): Coastal Carolina (automatic).
In (4 teams): UC Riverside (automatic), Long Beach State, UC Irvine, Cal State Fullerton.
In (1 team): Virginia Commonwealth (automatic).
In (3 teams): Rice (automatic), East Carolina, Southern Mississippi.
In (1 team): Illinois-Chicago (automatic).
In (1 team): Brown (automatic).
In (1 team): Le Moyne (automatic).
In (1 team): Kent State (automatic).
In (1 team): Bethune-Cookman (automatic).
In (1 team): Oral Roberts (automatic).
In (2 teams): Creighton (automatic), Wichita State.
In (1 team): Texas Christian (automatic).
In (1 team): Monmouth (automatic).
In (1 team): Austin Peay State (automatic).
In (2 teams): Arizona State (automatic), Arizona.
In (1 team): Lafayette (automatic).
In (6 teams): Vanderbilt, Arkansas, South Carolina, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Tennessee.
In (1 team): Wofford (automatic).
In (1 team): Sam Houston State (automatic).
In (2 teams): New Orleans (automatic), Louisiana-Lafayette.
In (1 team): Prairie View A&M (automatic).
In (1 team): Fresno State (automatic).
In (3 teams): San Diego, Pepperdine, Gonzaga.
That gives us 61 teams, leaving three more at-large spots. One or two of those spots are sure to go to the Pac-10, and one spot will almost certainly go to the SoCon, but to which teams? We’ll cross off Brigham Young and California because of poor RPIs. Here are the remaining candidates:
Oregon State. 34th in the RPI, fifth place in the Pac-10 (10-14). 38-17 overall. Key wins: at Georgia (3-0), Missouri (1-0), Texas A&M (1-1), Evansville (3-0), California (2-1), UCLA (2-1). Lost four of final five conference series, but has pedigree as defending national champions. Verdict: In.
UCLA. 48th in the RPI, third place in the Pac-10 (14-10). 30-26 overall. Key wins: Winthrop (2-1), East Carolina (3-0), Pepperdine (2-0), UC Riverside (1-1), UC Irvine (1-1), California (2-1). Verdict: In.
College of Charleston. 40th in the RPI, first place in SoCon regular-season standings (20-7). 39-19 overall. Key wins: Western Carolina (3-0), South Carolina (1-0), Winthrop (1-1). Pedigree as 2006 super-regional team, and the head-to-head sweep vs. WCU, but just not enough quality nonconference wins. Verdict: Out.
Western Carolina. 42nd in the RPI, second place in SoCon regular-season standings (20-7). 40-18 overall. Key wins: Georgia Tech (1-0), North Carolina State (1-0), Clemson (1-1), Georgia (1-1), Ohio State (2-0). Verdict: In.
Minnesota. 54th in the RPI, second place in Big Ten regular-season standings (18-9). 39-15 overall. Key wins: Mississippi (1-1), Arkansas (1-1), Ohio State (2-3, counting conference tournament). Split final three conference series. Big Ten probably isn’t a three-bid league, though it would be nice to see the Gophers rewarded for holding their own against a fairly challenging nonconference slate. Verdict: Out.
Alabama. 63rd in the RPI, seventh place in SEC regular-season standings (15-15). 31-26 overall. Key wins: Tennessee (2-1), Georgia (2-1), South Carolina (2-1), Arkansas (2-1), Mississippi State (2-1). Won three of final four conference series but went 0-2 in SEC tournament. The RPI and the poor tournament showing are a killer. Verdict: Out.
Troy. 53rd in the RPI, fourth place in Sun Belt regular-season standings (16-14). 34-25 overall. Key wins: Alabama (1-0), Auburn (1-1), Michigan (1-1), Coastal Carolina (2-1). Just not a good enough performance in conference play. Verdict: Out.
Oklahoma. 27th in the RPI, seventh place in Big 12 regular-season standings (11-16). 34-24 overall. Key wins: UC Riverside (3-0), Creighton (2-0), Wichita State (1-0), San Diego (1-0), Texas A&M (2-1), Kansas State (2-1). Lost six of final eight conference series, but went 2-1 in Big 12 tournament with wins over Missouri and Oklahoma State. Strong RPI and solid tournament showing can’t overshadow poor conference record and bad second half. Verdict: Out.
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