I'll unveil a final field of 64 projection after the regional hosts are announced Sunday afternoon. With Saturday's action completed, here is my final prediction for national seeds and hosts (note: this is what I think the committee will do, not necessarily what I think it should do). We'll reference WarrenNolan.com's Ratings Percentage Index rankings, updated through Saturday's action.
1. Arizona State
5. Coastal Carolina
8. Georgia Tech
The top five national seeds are set in stone, in some order. The next three are less certain, but UCLA and Louisville both have top-eight RPIs and gaudy overall records, and those factors will weigh heavily with the committee. Georgia Tech sneaks into the last national seed thanks to a stronger RPI (No. 10) than Cal State Fullerton (No. 14), Auburn (15), South Carolina (18) or Texas Christian (19). Tech's 24-10 record against the top 100 is also the strongest of that group. Out west, Fullerton went 2-0 against UCLA this season, but both those wins came in midweek play, which does not have as much weight as weekend series. And UCLA has 14 wins against the top 50 compared to Fullerton's nine, a product of playing in a vastly superior conference.
Texas Christian, the only team in the nation that did not lose a weekend series all year, has a strong case to be a national seed over Georgia Tech after adding a Mountain West tournament championship to its regular-season title. But the committee loves the Ratings Percentage Index, so TCU will not earn a national seed with a No. 19 ranking in the RPI. Those two losses against Air Force are also certain to haunt the Frogs; the rest of the top 20 teams in the RPI have a combined one loss against teams outside the top 200.
• South Carolina
• Texas Christian
• Cal State Fullerton
Connecticut secured a hosting spot with its run to the Big East title game, improving its overall record to 47-13. An RPI of 22nd means UConn will host as a No. 2 seed; teams like Florida State, Vanderbilt and Clemson played stronger schedules, have better RPIs and more drawing power, but geographic diversity does matter to the committee—that's why Michigan hosted as a No. 2 seed in 2008, for instance.
We'll send Florida State to Norwich, Conn., as the No. 1 seed. Assuming UConn is safe as a host, that leaves FSU, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Clemson and Vandy competing for the last two hosting spots. Oklahoma finished very strong down the stretch, and keeping in mind the pro-Big 12 bend of the committee's field a year ago, it's hard to imagine the Sooners being sent on the road. Florida State, Vanderbilt and Clemson have very similar resumes to each other, but the Seminoles helped themselves more in their conference tournament, so let's take the Commodores and Tigers off the board. Arkansas also had a poor showing in its conference tournament, but the Hogs won a critical series at Vanderbilt last weekend, giving them the tie-breaker.
That leaves Arkansas and Florida State vying for one spot. The Hogs finished the season with a whimper, dropping 10 of their last 15 games, including an 0-2 showing in the SEC tournament. Neither team has a geographic advantage over the other; Arkansas is in the same region as Oklahoma, but Florida State is in the same region as Auburn, Georgia Tech and the two other Sunshine State hosts. Each team would be the fourth host in its respective conference, and the committee has simply been kinder to the SEC than it has to the ACC (see yesterday's post about the four ACC teams that finished in the top 10 in the RPI getting sent on the road in the last five years). Maybe Florida State is more deserving of a host spot because it did not finish the season as cold as Arkansas (the Seminoles rebounded from their lone hiccup at Clemson last weekend with a run to the ACC title game), but if we're trying to predict what the committee will do, the smart money is on the SEC team getting the benefit of the doubt and the ACC team packing its bags, especially since the SEC is the top-rated RPI conference and the ACC is No. 3.
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