Here's a look at how Thursday's conference tournament action affected the races for national seeds, hosting spots and at-large bids:
NATIONAL SEED RACE
Florida State reversed its sliding momentum with a big 6-3 win against Clemson, while Georgia Tech outlasted North Carolina State 6-5 in the longest game in ACC tournament history, winning on Mott Hyde's steal of home in the top of the 15th. This means either FSU or Georgia Tech is assured of at least two wins in the conference tournament, because the two teams will go head-to-head Friday. That game might very well determine which team grabs the ACC's third national seed.
The ACC still seems likely to get three national seeds (Virginia and North Carolina are locked in), but it's also possible that Texas A&M could give the Big 12 a second national seed at the expense of both FSU and Tech. The Aggies beat Kansas State 4-1 to improve to 2-0 in the double-elimination Big 12 tournament, but the Aggies still don't have as good a resume as either the Seminoles or Yellow Jackets. Both ACC teams have stronger RPIs and better records against the top 25 and top 100. It still feels like A&M is competing with Texas and Rice for one national seed, and both those teams rebounded from losses with wins Thursday. Texas rode a complete-game one-hitter from Taylor Jungmann to a 6-1 win against Baylor, while Rice overcame an early 5-0 deficit to beat Memphis, 8-5. For now, Texas still looks like the strongest bet of the three to net a national seed.
Of note: Rice second baseman Michael Ratterree made two errors in Wednesday's loss to UAB, so the Owls replaced him at second with Anthony Rendon on Thursday. Rendon, who had not played the infield since March 25 while nursing a shoulder strain, did not commit an error in eight chances in his collegiate debut at second base.
"People think I can't throw or whatever and then I go out and play pretty good and make a few plays," Rendon told the Houston Chronicle afterward. "I assume this helps (answer questions)."
Clemson could have given its hosting case another major boost with a win against the Seminoles, but Thursday's loss did not deal it any major blow. Clemson is still a hot team, and it can still advance to the ACC title game with a win against N.C. State and a Georgia Tech win against FSU.
All but one of the teams Clemson is competing with won Thursday. Arkansas bounced back from a Wednesday loss by beating Mississippi State, 7-2, to stay alive in the SEC tourney. Texas Christian rebounded from a Wednesday loss with a 12-5 win against BYU in the MWC tourney. Oklahoma rebounded from a Wednesday loss witha 3-1 win against Texas Tech. But Southern Mississippi fell to Houston, 7-6 in 14 innings. I still like TCU's case the best, leaving Clemson, Southern Miss and Arkansas battling for the last two spots, with Oklahoma still in the mix.
One at-large candidate saw its season officially end Thursday, as Auburn lost to Georgia, 3-2. The loss dropped the Tigers to 29-29 overall and eliminated them from the SEC tournament, so they will not finish with the winning record that is required to earn an at-large spot. Georgia still needs to win two more games to finish above .500—starting with Friday's matchup against South Carolina. The Bulldogs remain a long shot to pull it off.
A couple of mid-major favorites with viable at-large chances lost Thursday, causing other bubble teams to sweat. In the Big East, Seton Hall upset top-seeded Connecticut, 4-3 in 12 innings. The Huskies are still alive in the double-elimination tournament, but if they get bounced they are still likely to eat up an at-large spot, transforming the Big East from a likely one-bid league to a two-bid league. St. John's had an outside shot at an at-large spot as well, and the Red Storm stayed unbeaten in the conference tournament with a 6-4 win against Pittsburgh.
The lone team in the Southern Conference with a shot at an at-large spot is Elon, and the Phoenix were eliminated from the conference tournament by College of Charleston, 4-3. Elon had lost in 20 innings to Western Carolina on Wednesday night, and Charleston's game against Georgia Southern started after that game—at 12:30 a.m. The Cougars completed that 4-2 victory just after 3 a.m., and they took the field against Elon at 1 p.m. Thursday. Elon is not a slam-dunk at-large team, with an RPI of No. 49 (per Warren Nolan's updated rankings late Thursday night), just a 2-6 record against the top 50 and an 11-17 mark against the top 100. But they did win the SoCon regular-season title, and they have at least a shot at an at-large bid, making the bubble just a bit more crowded.
Two bubble teams went head-to-head in an elimination game in the Southland Conference, with top-seeded Texas State prevailing, 5-2, against Southeastern Louisiana. The 0-2 showing in the conference tournament might prove a mortal blow to the Lions' at-large hopes—they finished in fourth place in the conference standings, 5 1/2 games behind the Bobcats, and the loss dropped them to No. 54 in the Warren Nolan RPI. Texas State still has plenty of work to do thanks to its poor record against the top 25 and top 100, and even a strong run in the conference tournament might not be enough to rescue its at-large hopes. The Southland looks more and more like a one-bid league.
Bubble teams got some good news in the Missouri Valley Conference, where top-seeded Creighton staved off elimination with a 5-0 win against Southern Illinois and a 6-5 win against Missouri State. The Bluejays look like a pretty solid bet to get an at-large spot if they fail to win the automatic bid, so bubble teams need to root for them to beat the Bears again in Friday's elimination game, then take care of the Wichita State-Indiana State winner in Saturday's title game.
Coastal Carolina also stayed alive with a 10-6 win against Winthrop in the Big South, giving bubble teams more good news. Coastal improved to 2-0 in the tournament, and bubble teams need the Chanticleers to capture the automatic bid and ensure the Big South is a one-bid league.
Two bubble teams met in a winner's bracket game at the A-Sun tourney, and Mercer prevailed against Jacksonvile, 2-1. Jacksonville's top 100 record (17-14) gives it a strong chance for an at-large bid regardless, and Mercer's case continues to pick up steam, though it remains behind the Dolphins in the RPI (JU is No. 45, Mercer is No. 52), and its 14-11 record against the top 100 is not as good as Jacksonville's, and it finished behind the Dolphins in the standings. But Mercer now looks like a stronger at-large bet than East Tennessee State, which went 0-2 in the tournament after losing to Stetson, 7-2, on Thursday. ETSU has a stronger RPI (No. 36), but it is just 7-16 against the top 100. If Mercer goes on to win the automatic bid, Stetson and Jacksonville could get at-large spots to make the A-Sun a three-bid league. If Stetson or Jacksonville runs through the loser's bracket to win the tournament, Mercer has at least a shot at an at-large bid (its case is probably better than Elon's, for instance, despite the Phoenix's regular-season title and Mercer's fourth-place finish in the stronger A-Sun). But if Belmont (which is also unbeaten in the conference tournament) wins the automatic bid, don't expect Mercer to grab a fourth bid out of the A-Sun.
Texas Tech's loss to Oklahoma looks like the death blow to its at-large hopes. The Red Raiders needed a strong run in the Big 12 tournament to offset their poor record against the top 100, but instead they went 0-2.
Finally, Troy beat Florida Atlantic, 9-6, in the Sun Belt tournament, dropping the Owls to 0-2 in pool play. FAU's at-large chances remain alive thanks to an RPI of No. 42 and a solid 8-8 record against the top 50, but its momentum is fading. The Owls must avoid an 0-3 showing with a win against UALR on Saturday to have a realistic chance, but that might not be enough, especially if teams like Creighton and UConn go down. Still, we like FAU's chances better than those of other bubble teams like Texas State, ETSU, Southeastern Louisiana, Texas Tech and St. John's (which is just 1-6 against the top 50).
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