We deviated from the typical Field of 64 projection last week and focused instead on how the races for national seeds, regional hosts and at-large bids are shaping up. We got good feedback on that format, so let's stick with it.
We'll discuss at-large chances in a bit, but let's start with a look at which teams are on track to earn national seeds and which are on track to host regionals after the first 10 weeks of the season. All Ratings Percentage Index figures come from WarrenNolan.com and are updated through Monday.
SECURE TEAMS: Texas, Virginia, Arizona State, Florida, Arkansas, UCLA
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Coastal Carolina, South Carolina
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Louisville, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Miami, Louisiana State
Only one change from last week's eight national seeds: Coastal Carolina replaces Georgia Tech. The Chanticleers' 17-game winning streak has helped their RPI climb to No. 4 (and Boyd's World has them at No. 1), and it's hard to envision them stumbling at any point against their Big South schedule. They do have a bad RPI series coming up this weekend against UNC Asheville (234th), but they can negate the damage that series will do to their RPI with a mid-week win at Virginia today. Georgia Tech, meanwhile, is still likely to earn a national seed if it holds on to its current lead in the ACC, but remaining series against North Carolina State and Illinois-Chicago will hurt its RPI, so there is little margin for error. For now, we'll drop them out of the top eight following a home series loss to Virginia Tech.
South Carolina needs to run the table to finish with an RPI in the top eight, according to the very useful RPI Needs Report at Boyd's World, but the Gamecocks should get a national seed even without a top-eight RPI if they hold on to their current lead in the SEC. South Carolina has won its first six conference series, and that should mean more than its No. 18 RPI.
SECURE TEAMS: The 13 teams listed above
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Texas Christian, Cal State Fullerton, Mississippi
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Arizona, Rice, Oregon, Oklahoma, Stanford
The only change from last week is Mississippi replacing Arizona as the last host. The Rebels improved their stock dramatically with a series sweep of Louisiana State, while Arizona lost a big home series against UCLA, though the Wildcats largely offset that series loss with a midweek win at Arizona State. The Wildcats still maintain an eight-spot advantage over Ole Miss in the RPI (No. 13 vs. No. 22), but they have three games remaining against Cal State Bakersfield (No. 181) that will take a toll on that figure. They also have played just eight games on the road, and they are just 4-4 in those games.
TCU's RPI is also going to take a tumble down the stretch, thanks to four games against Air Force (No. 270), three against Bakersfield and three against Utah (No. 140). But the Horned Frogs have a couple of things working in their favor that will offset their RPI issues: an 11-4 record on the road (including a huge series win early at Fullerton), and an 8-4 record against the top 50. Those two figures give them the edge over Rice (9-11 on the road, 7-10 vs. the top 50) for a second host site in the Lone Star State.
There are 30 automatic bids awarded to conference champions, and these 18 are safe bets to be one-bid leagues:
America East, Atlantic 10, Atlantic Sun, Big Ten, Colonial Athletic Association, Horizon, Ivy, Metro-Atlantic, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Summit, Southwestern, Western Athletic, West Coast.
The only team in those leagues with a chance to earn an at-large bids if it fails to win its automatic bid is San Diego. The Big Ten has become extremely muddled, with six teams within one game of first place in the standings, and now looks like a virtual lock to be a one-bid league.
For this exercise, let's assume all of those leagues get just one bid. That leaves 13 potential multiple-bid leagues. Here is a conference-by-conference look at which teams are on track to make the field, and which teams are on the wrong side of the bubble through 10 weeks:
Atlantic Coast Conference (8 total bids)
SAFELY IN: Virginia, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Miami, Virginia Tech
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Clemson, North Carolina, Boston College
All of a sudden, Clemson has lost three straight series, and its at-large hopes are starting to look a bit less secure, despite its robust RPI (No. 14). The Tigers are just 25-16 overall and 11-10 in the league, so what they need now are wins, rather than any RPI boost. That's a good thing, because the next three series are all extremely winnable sets against teams outside the top 75 in the RPI (Florida Gulf Coast, Maryland and Wake Forest). Clemson should be fine. North Carolina, meanwhile, helped its cause considerably with a series win at Clemson, but the Tar Heels still need to find their way into the ACC tournament to feel good about their chances, despite their No. 34 RPI. At 8-13 in the league, UNC is a game behind North Carolina State for the eighth and final spot in the conference tournament. With challenging series at Virginia and home against Virginia Tech in the final two weeks, UNC's next conference series against Wake Forest is a must-sweep.
The Hokies solidified their already strong regional credentials with a series win at Georgia Tech, so they move from the bubble to the "safely in" category.
Boston College replaces N.C. State on the bubble after sweeping the Wolfpack in Raleigh this weekend. The Eagles are 12-9 in the league, which is a good thing, but they are just 3-12 against the top 50, which is not. Give BC credit for winning series against Maryland, Wake Forest and N.C. State, but those series won't get the Eagles into regionals. They'll have a chance to rack up some signature wins over the last three weeks of conference play against Virginia Tech, Florida State and Georgia Tech, but that's also a daunting stretch, and it's easy to envision BC fading. But there are not 64 teams with better resumes at this point, so the Eagles get in, for now.
Big 12 (6 bids)
SAFELY IN: Texas, Oklahoma
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Texas Tech, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Kansas
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Baylor
Kansas State's at-large hopes took a major hit this weekend when it was swept in two games by Missouri. The Wildcats needed to win that series against one of the more vulnerable teams in the Big 12 in order to pad their conference record before their grueling home stretch begins. After playing two RPI-killing games this week against Chicago State (which ranks dead last in the nation at No. 301 in the RPI), K-State must play Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Texas A&M, with seven of those games on the road. The Wildcats might be second in the Big 12 now, but it's unlikely they'll finish there. And two future midweek games against Minnesota (No. 195) also won't help. For now, we'll leave Kansas State in the field by virtue of its place in the conference standings and its No. 40 RPI, but the Missouri series landed the Wildcats squarely on the bubble, and it's easy to envision that bubble bursting over the next month.
Texas Tech, meanwhile, won its fourth straight conference series, taking two of three at Kansas. The Red Raiders have climbed to 44th in the RPI and are now four games above .500, and their remaining schedule (Missouri, Baylor, at Nebraska) is both manageable and free of RPI killers. Tech seems like the third team in the Big 12 right now.
Baylor, Kansas and Texas A&M are all within a half-game of each other in the conference standings, and all are four games below .500 against the top 50 in the RPI. The Aggies (No. 31) have a significant RPI cushion over the Jayhawks (54) and Bears (56), but the Aggies are also 0-3-1 in their last four series. For now, we'll give A&M a slight edge over the other two thanks to its RPI advantage, and Kansas a slight edge over Baylor based on its head-to-head series win, but all three of those teams are firmly on the bubble.
Big East (3 bids)
SAFELY IN: Louisville, Connecticut
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Pittsburgh
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Rutgers
UConn's sweep of Rutgers solidified the Huskies' at-large chances and dealt the Scarlet Knights' hopes a major blow. Pitt's sweep of West Virginia on the road helped the Panthers climb to No. 37 in the RPI, which is solid at-large territory. Pitt has played just five games against the top 50 RPI teams (going 2-3) and 12 games against teams outside the top 200 (going 12-0), so it needs another quality series win to complement its series victory against Louisville and firm up its resume. That's what makes this weekend's set against UConn critical. Still, the Panthers are on the right side of the bubble after 10 weeks.
Big South (2 bids)
SAFELY IN: Coastal Carolina
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Liberty
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Virginia Military Institute
The only change from last week is that VMI fell further away from the bubble after being swept for the second straight weekend, this time against Coastal.
Big West (2 bids)
SAFELY IN: Cal State Fullerton
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): UC Irvine
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Pacific, UC Riverside, Long Beach State
Nothing changed in the Big West since last week's Stock Report.
Conference USA (1 bid)
SAFELY IN: Rice
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): East Carolina, Tulane, Southern Mississippi
It's hard to believe, but Conference USA is shaping up as a one-bid league. East Carolina's 0-5 week doomed its at-large hopes. The Pirates are now 78th in the RPI, and the remaining schedule offers no opportunities to make significant headway. Tulane lost a cripping series to Memphis and fell to No. 67 in the RPI. Marshall and Memphis are second and third, respectively, in the conference standings, and neither is in the top 100 in the RPI. Only Rice gets in.
Mountain West (2 bids)
SAFELY IN: Texas Christian
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): New Mexico
No change from last week.
Pacific-10 (7 bids)
SAFELY IN: Arizona State, UCLA, California, Oregon, Arizona, Stanford
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Washington State
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Oregon State, Washington
Down years in Conference USA and the Big West give the Pac-10 a real chance to send a record seven teams to regionals in a banner year for the league. The league has seven teams in the top 30 in the RPI, but Oregon State (No. 25) has lost three straight series and four of its last five to find itself on the wrong side of the bubble. Washington State (57th) has plenty of RPI ground to make up, but the Cougars won the head-to-head series against OSU and also have a signature series win against Arizona State on their resume. Boyd's World says if Wazzu can play .500 ball down the stretch, it will finish with an RPI inside the top 45—which is at-large territory. Given Washington State's positive momentum and Oregon State's negative momentum, let's give the Cougars the seventh bid from the Pac-10.
Southeastern Conference (9)
SAFELY IN: Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina, LSU, Mississippi, Vanderbilt, Auburn, Alabama
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Kentucky
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Mississippi State, Tennessee
Auburn and Alabama move from the bubble to the "safely in" category after the Tigers took a series from Kentucky and the Crimson Tide swept Mississippi State to improve to 8-10 in the league. The Wildcats are on the bubble at 6-12 in the SEC, but they are still 26th in the RPI, so we'll leave them in the field for now.
Southern Conference (2)
SAFELY IN: The Citadel
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): College of Charleston
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Western Carolina, Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Samford
With Conference USA scuffling, there is a real opportunity for the SoCon to capitalize and seize a third bid, but there is no obvious candidate right now. Western Carolina and Appalachian State are both in the top 40 in the RPI, but the Catamounts are just 8-9 in the league (seventh place, 7 1/2 games behind The Citadel), which submarines their case. Still, if WCU can get hot down the stretch and improve its place in the conference standings, it has a better chance of seizing an at-large bid than Appalachian State because it has quality series wins against CofC and at Georgia Southern. The Mountaineers, meanwhile, are just 1-4 against top 50 teams and have racked up the bulk of their wins against teams No. 101-200 (9-0) and 200-plus (14-2). ASU needs to rack up some wins in remaining series against Elon and CofC to have a chance. For now, the SoCon remains a two-bid league.
SAFELY IN: Texas State.
ON THE BUBBLE (IN):
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Southeastern Louisiana, Northwestern State
Texas State put itself on firmer ground with a big series win against Northwestern State this past weekend, while Southeastern Louisiana tumbled out of at-large position with a series loss at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (No. 149). That series dropped the Lions to 58th in the RPI, and Boyd's World says they'll need an 11-3 finish to boost their RPI back into the top 45.
Sun Belt (3)
SAFELY IN: None.
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Western Kentucky, Florida Atlantic, South Alabama
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Louisiana-Lafayette, Middle Tennessee State, Florida International, Arkansas State
Perhaps the Sun Belt can take advantage of the CUSA vacuum by sending a third team to regionals. South Alabama won a big series at Arkansas State to remain atop the conference standings, so we'll add the Jaguars to the field, keeping in mind they've got a bit of work to do with their RPI (No. 53) to feel secure. Western Kentucky had a strong week, clobbering Kentucky midweek and taking two of three from FIU. That week improved the Hilltoppers' position a bit, but we'd like to see them move up from fifth place in the Sun Belt before moving them into the "safely in" category. FAU won a road series at Louisiana-Monroe to hold steady.
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