This time of year, a hefty majority of all questions submitted in our weekly college chat, as well as those sent via e-mail or Twitter, center around the battle for postseason positioning. Our readers want to know how the races for national seeds, host sites and at-large bids are shaping up—so it's time to roll out our weekly Stock Report feature. Every Tuesday here on the College Blog, we'll examine how the postseason picture has shifted over the weekend. Rather than get bogged down in the jigsaw puzzle that is a full field of 64 projection, we're not going to worry about which regionals teams get sent to. We're just looking at who's in, who's out, who's on the bubble. This discussion is based on performance through 13 weeks and projection based on remaining schedule, but it's also not intended to show what the field would look like if the season ended today. We're still looking ahead.
During this discussion, we will reference the NCAA's official RPI report, which is released every Tuesday and is updated through the weekend's games. We'll also reference the useful RPI Needs Report at Boyd's World, which provides a rough sketch of what teams need to do in order to reach important RPI benchmarks like finishing inside the top 45 (a loose target for an at-large bid). And we'll make use of records against the top 25, 50 or 100 in the RPI—figures that the Division I Baseball Committee looks at when constructing the field of 64.
We'll get to 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 through the first 13 weeks of the season:
SECURE TEAMS: Florida State, Baylor, Florida
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Oregon, Kentucky, North Carolina, UCLA, South Carolina
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Louisiana State, North Carolina State, Stanford
Changes from last week: Kentucky replaces LSU as a national seed.
Last week, we had LSU listed in the SECURE category, and this week we've got the Tigers outside the top eight. Turns out we were a little hasty with that SECURE label. We were assuming the Tigers would take care of business and win a home series against Vanderbilt, but losing that series has created a situation where the winner of the LSU-South Carolina series this weekend is likely to earn the SEC's third national seed, while the other team could miss out. Let's break down the jumble that is the race for national seeds in the SEC.
First of all, we will assume fourth-place Florida is a safe national seed because of its overall body of work—it ranks first in the RPI, it is 16-9 against the top 25 in the RPI and 23-11 against the top 50, and it has won series against two of the SEC's other big three (Kentucky and South Carolina). Second, it is safe to assume whichever team wins the SEC's regular-season title will be a national seed. Kentucky sits in first place, a half-game ahead of South Carolina and a game up on LSU, and if the Wildcats win their series at Mississippi State this weekend, they are likely to capture the regular-season crown. Kentucky has also won the head-to-head series against both LSU and South Carolina, so if LSU takes two of three in Columbia while Kentucky loses two of three, the Wildcats would still have the tie-breaker. In that scenario, South Carolina would have lost all three of its series against the SEC's other big three, while LSU would have won two of its series against the other three (at Florida and at South Carolina). So if the Tigers win the series in Columbia, they will be a national seed, and South Carolina will not be.
There is certainly a possibility LSU could win that series because LSU is a very good team, but we can't bet against the Gamecocks at home in a meaningful season-ending series. If South Carolina wins this weekend—even if it doesn't pass Kentucky for first place—it will finish the season unbeaten in its last seven SEC series and will be a lock for a home super regional. LSU, meanwhile, will have lost five series this year, including its final two. It will likely wind up on the outside of the national seed picture in that case.
No change in the other conferences. Oregon leads the Pac-12 by a game and a half and has just one conference series left, at Oregon State in two weeks. If the Ducks win the conference, they are a lock for a national seed, and their body of work might be good enough for a national seed even if Arizona or UCLA manages to overtake them in the next two weeks. UCLA is sitting in third place in the Pac-12 but is also third in the RPI, and it took care of business this past weekend with a sweep at Washington. North Carolina also held its ground with a sweep at Duke, while Florida State and Baylor lost series but had such huge leads in their conferences that they were in no danger of falling out of national seed position. Now, if Baylor gets swept again by Texas and flops in the Big 12 tournament, we'll have to re-evaluate that position, but we don't expect that to happen.
We're getting down to crunch time, so we're removing the outside contenders for national seeds, like Rice, Purdue and Cal State Fullerton. If the Owls win the C-USA regular-season and tournament titles, they could still muscle their way into a national seed, but they probably would need some help from other teams faltering. We'll keep Stanford on the periphery of the bubble thanks to its No. 11 RPI and nice collection of quality wins, but it needs to move up from fourth place in the Pac-12. Its remaining schedule is manageable, however: at Utah, vs. Cal.
SECURE TEAMS: The eight national seeds listed above; LSU, Purdue, North Carolina State
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Cal State Fullerton, Rice, Stanford, Virginia, Arizona
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Texas A&M, Central Florida, Mississippi
No change from last week. We do, however, have to acknowledge that Cal State Fullerton and Rice aren't quite SECURE as hosts with RPIs of No. 15 and No. 19, respectively. We still really like Fullerton's nonconference body of work and think it will host if it wins the Big West (which we expect it to do), regardless of where it finishes in the RPI. But if the Titans blow their two-game lead over Long Beach State and finish in second place, they'll likely end up on the road in regionals. The Owls, meanwhile, have won all of their C-USA series but have swept just one of them. C-USA isn't a great league this year, and Rice probably needed to dominate it more thoroughly to put itself in lock hosting position. Instead, the Owls enter the final weekend at UCF tied for first place, and it's easy to envision the team that wins that series hosting, with the other team on the outside looking in. We won't bet against the Owls, but the series is in Orlando. It should be fascinating.
Stacking up Texas A&M against Virginia and Arizona, the Aggies' 1-6 record against the top 25 in the RPI sticks out, compared with UVa.'s 9-9 mark and Arizona's 6-6 mark. The Aggies can still host, but they need the Wildcats or Cavaliers to falter in the next two weeks. Ole Miss is on the very periphery of this discussion; the Rebels need a blazing hot finish and must hope for three of the five teams ahead of it to stumble badly.
There are 30 automatic bids awarded to conference champions, and these 16 are safe bets to be one-bid leagues:
America East, Atlantic 10, Atlantic Sun, Colonial Athletic Association, Horizon, Ivy, Metro-Atlantic, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern, Mountain West, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Summit, Sun Belt, Southwestern.
Cornell has already punched its ticket as the Ivy League representative.
The Mountain West will be a two-bid league if Texas Christian (No. 32 in the RPI this week) doesn't win the conference tournament; currently the Horned Frogs are ahead of New Mexico by a game in the MWC standings.
Stetson climbed 11 spots to No. 42 in the RPI after a 4-1 week that included a midweek split against Florida State and a sweep at East Tennessee State. The Hatters still trail South Carolina-Upstate (No. 65) by a game in the A-Sun, and if they don't win the conference's automatic bid, they now look like they have a solid shot at an at-large bid—though it might be rough if they win neither the regular-season nor tournament title in a mediocre A-Sun.
UNC Wilmington is up five spots to No. 41 in the RPI and has clinched the CAA regular-season title, leading it by four games with three to play. We like UNCW's chances to earn an at-large spot more than Stetson's, and if the Seahawks fail to win the CAA title, expect to see them in the field of 64. But for now, we'll continue to assume the CAA, A-Sun and MWC are one-bid leagues.
Below is a conference-by-conference look at which teams are on track to make the field in potential multi-bid leagues, and which teams are on the wrong side of the bubble through 13 weeks. Three teams that are just barely holding onto spots from last week: St. John's, Washington, Tulane.
Here are the changes from last week's field of 64, in a nutshell:
IN: Oklahoma, Vanderbilt, Michigan State, Wichita State, Utah Valley
OUT: Long Beach State, Elon, Texas State, Gonzaga, Virginia Tech
Atlantic Coast Conference (7 total bids)
SAFELY IN: Florida State, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia, Clemson, Miami
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Georgia Tech
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Maryland
One change from last week: Virginia Tech falls out of our field of 64.
Both Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech are 11-16 in conference play and have strong RPIs (No. 28 and No. 31, respectively), and getting to 13-17 in the ACC should get either team into the field. That should be easier for the Yellow Jackets (who host Miami) than for the Hokies (who travel to North Carolina). But if the Hokies can at least win one game in Chapel Hill to get to 12-18, they will likely back their way into the ACC tournament, where they would have the opportunity to bolster their case. But if they lose the series in Chapel Hill, they will have won just three of their 10 conference series. Not good enough for us.
At 10-17, Wake Forest trails the Hokies and Jackets by a game in the standings, and it must win a home series against Clemson to have any chance at an at-large spot. Wake did win the head-to-head series against both Techs, which could help it sneak into the conference tournament. But Clemson is carrying momentum into this weekend, and we expect it to win that series.
Maryland still has a chance to sneak into a regional if it can win a home series against Virginia. The Terrapins remain very strong in the RPI (No. 26), and their 9-11 record against the top 25 in the RPI compares favorably with any bubble team. But they are just 13-18 against the top 100 and two games out of the last spot in the ACC tournament. The Terrapins will be the underdogs at home against UVa., but if they can manage to win that series, they could conceivably snag a bid away from the Hokies even if the Hokies go to Greensboro and the Terps do not. And if it comes down to a tie-breaker between Maryland and Virginia Tech, the Hokies won the head-to-head series.
Big 12 (4 bids)
SAFELY IN: Baylor, Texas A&M
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Oklahoma, Texas
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Oklahoma State
One change from last week: Oklahoma re-enters our field of 64 after a one-week absence. Sweeping Baylor catapulted the Sooners 21 spots to No. 46 in the RPI, gave them a signature series win, improved them to 5-3 against the top 25 and allowed them to salvage a respectable 13-10 record in Big 12 play. They're in very good shape if they can finish with a series win against Samford, and they have a chance to get in even with a series loss to the Bulldogs.
Texas (No. 50 in the RPI) continues to teeter on the bubble after sweeping a pair of games against Texas Southern. The Longhorns finish with Baylor, with the opener in Waco and the last two in Austin. If they win that series, they'll climb back into the top 45 in the RPI and should be safe. If they lose that series, they'll need to do some work in the conference tournament to bolster their chances.
Oklahoma State remains tied with Texas and Teas A&M for second place (13-8, five games behind Baylor), but the Cowboys are still just 79th in the RPI, and even a sweep of Texas A&M this weekend won't boost that RPI into the top 45. Power conference teams are unlikely to get at-large bids with RPIs outside the top 50, so Oklahoma State seems like a long shot barring a big weekend against the Aggies and more quality wins in the conference tournament.
Big East (2 bids)
SAFELY IN: None
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Louisville, St. John's
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): South Florida
No change from last week. Louisville strengthened its position with a series win against St. John's, but we can't put a second-place Big East team with a No. 43 RPI in the SECURE category. The Cardinals are in good shape, however.
St. John's still maintains a one-game lead over Louisville and South Florida, and it actually climbed two spots to No. 58 in the RPI after losing two of three at Louisville. If the Johnnies can hold on to win the Big East regular-season title (they finish with a home series against Seton Hall) and turn in a strong performance in the conference tournament, they still could get an at-large bid with an RPI in the 45-55 range. For now, they're still in, but barely.
Big South (1 bid)
SAFELY IN: Coastal Carolina
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): None
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Campbell, Liberty
No change from last week.
Big Ten (2 bids)
SAFELY IN: Purdue
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Michigan State,
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): None
One change from last week: Michigan State rejoins our field of 64.
At 12-9 in the conference, the Spartans are tied with Nebraska for fourth place in the Big Ten, but they are just a game behind Penn State and Indiana for second place. If they can win a home series against the Nittany Lions this weekend (and we think they can), they will finish a more respectable second or third. Currently No. 48 in the RPI, Michigan State can land inside the top 45 with a 4-0 finish (including a win today against Central Michigan), per the Needs Report. It isn't easy for a Big Ten team to finish inside the top 50 in the RPI; that should be enough to get the Spartans into a regional, assuming they don't fall on their faces in the conference tournament.
Big West (1 bid)
SAFELY IN: Cal State Fullerton
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): None
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Long Beach State, UC Irvine, Cal Poly
One change from last week: Long Beach State falls back out of our field of 64 after losing a bad series at UC Davis (No. 189 in the RPI). The Dirtbags fell seven spots to No. 59 in the RPI, they have an unsightly 2-9 record against the top 25 in the RPI and 4-11 against the top 50, and they are two games behind Cal State Fullerton. If they can win a couple of games against the Titans in the final weekend and manage to reach 30 games, they still have a chance for an at-large spot, but we're not counting on it right now. LBSU is 25-23 with seven games remaining (one against Pepperdine tonight, three against Pacific, three against the Titans), and they may try to add another to get to 56 games. Regardless, the Dirtbags need to get hot and stay hot.
Conference USA (4 bids)
SAFELY IN: Rice, Central Florida, East Carolina
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Tulane
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): None
No change from last week. The Green Wave fell seven spots to No. 56 after a 3-1 week against Louisiana-Lafayette and Houston, and they won't be able to boost the RPI much with three games left against Marshall. But they can pass ECU for third place in C-USA with a series win against the Thundering Herd, and they figure to get a chance to boost their RPI a bit in the conference tournament. For now, we'll keep Tulane in the field, but their position is very precarious.
You might be wondering how East Carolina can be considered secure while Tulane (which won the head-to-head series against the Pirates and stands a good chance to finish ahead of them in the standings) is on shaky ground. The answer is the committee leans heavily upon the RPI, where the Pirates (No. 25) have a 31-place edge. Eleven games against Siena (No. 224), Maryland-Baltimore County (No. 287), Brown (No. 286) and Alcorn State (No. 267) have dragged Tulane's RPI down very significantly, even though the Green Wave is 10-1 in those games.
Great West (1 bid)
SAFELY IN: None
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Utah Valley
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): None
One change from last week: Utah Valley enters our field of 64. Hear us out.
Utah Valley swept New York Institute of Technology to run its winning streak to 32 games, but it still fell six spots to No. 67 in the RPI. A finishing series against Northern Colorado (No. 271) won't do anything to alleviate the Wolverines' RPI woes. Maybe the committee would make an exception to its usual RPI guidelines and take UVU as an at-large team if it finishes the season with a 37-game winning streak (not counting the Great West tournament), but there is no precedent for something like that, so we just don't know. Utah Valley really has two quality wins against regional teams: midweeks against Arizona and Arizona State. At 5-8 against the top 100, the Wolverines have far too few quality wins to be in the at-large discussion under normal circumstances—but if they keep on winning through the Great West tournament, reaching 40 consecutive wins, the circumstances will simply be abnormal. That winning streak is a real wild card, and we are going out on a limb and projecting UVU as a regional team if it can keep that streak going, despite its RPI.
Independents (1 bid)
SAFELY IN: Dallas Baptist
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): None
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): None
No change from last week.
Missouri Valley (3 bids)
SAFELY IN: None
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Indiana State, Missouri State, Wichita State
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): lliinois State
One change from last week: Wichita State rejoins our field of 64, making the Valley a three-bid league. Sound crazy? The top three teams in the MVC are all inside the top 50 in the RPI (No. 44 Wichita, No. 45 Missouri State, No. 47 Indiana State). The Sycamores surged into first place with a sweep of Southern Illinois while Missouri State dropped a series against Evansville. The Shockers lost the head-to-head series against both of those teams but have the most top 50 games of the three (6-7). The Shockers have won series against Dallas Baptist and Tulane, split four games with Purdue, but lost series against Hawaii and Long Beach State. It's a very erratic season that makes for a complicated at-large case, but for now, we like Wichita's case better than, say, those of Texas State or Elon as the third teams in their respective conferences.
And consider this: the Needs Report suggests all three teams could finish the regular season inside the top 45. Wichita needs to finish 4-0 on the road against Nebraska and Creighton—which is certainly possible. Indiana State needs a 2-2 finish against Purdue and Missouri State. The Bears can go 1-2 this weekend and still land inside the top 45.
Pacific-12 (6 bids)
SAFELY IN: UCLA, Oregon, Arizona, Stanford, Oregon State
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Washington
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): None
No change from last week. Washington's at-large hopes took a blow last weekend when it was swept at home by UCLA, and it must travel to Arizona State this weekend before finishing at home against Washington State. Assuming UW goes 3-3 in those two series, it will finish 14-16 in the Pac-12. That should be good enough for an at-large spot if it can keep that RPI (down 10 spots to No. 52 this week) around the top 50.
Southeastern Conference (9 bids)
SAFELY IN: Kentucky, Louisiana State, Florida, South Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Georgia
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Vanderbilt
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Auburn
One change from last week: Vanderbilt enters our field of 64, giving the SEC a ninth bid.
The Commodores have won four of their last five series (including huge sets against Kentucky and at LSU) to climb above .500 for the first time all season (26-25). Vandy has positive momentum, a quality RPI (No. 38), a solid record in the best conference in college baseball (13-14) and a rigorous nonconference schedule, so if it finishes above .500 overall, we think it will get an at-large spot. Vandy has three games left—a home series against Ole MIss. If it wins that series, it will need only one win in the SEC tournament to guarantee a winning record. We are betting that's how it transpires.
Southern Conference (2 bids)
SAFELY IN: Appalachian State
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): College of Charleston
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Elon, Samford
One change from last week: Elon drops out of our field of 64. The Phoenix were hanging on by a thread last week, and losing their only game of the week (at East Carolina) was enough to knock them over the precipice. Series wins against the top three teams in the SoCon (Appalachian State, CofC and Samford) had been propping up Elon's case, but series losses against Wofford, Furman, Davidson and Western Carolina undermine Elon's case. The Phoenix is 0-11 against the top 25, 13-17 against the top 100 and fourth in the SoCon. That's just not a regional resume.
Southland Conference (2 bids)
SAFELY IN: None
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Sam Houston State, Southeastern Louisiana
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Texas State
One change from last week: Texas State falls out of our field of 64.
We wrote last week that the Bobcats needed a strong finish, and a 2-2 week against Baylor and UTSA didn't help their cause. At No. 57 in the RPI and five games out of first place in the Southland, Texas State is on the wrong side of the bubble.
Southeastern Louisiana holds onto an at-large spot despite losing a series against SHSU, which allowed the Bearkats to clinch the regular-season title (up four games with three to play). Southeastern's 6-3 mark against the top 50 and 12-6 record against the top 100 work in its favor, but its 10 losses against teams outside the top 150 sting, as does its 0-3 record against local bubble dweller Tulane. The Lions need to finish with a sweep of McNeese State and have a strong showing in the SLC tournament.
West Coast Conference (2 bids)
SAFELY IN: San Diego
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Pepperdine
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Gonzaga
One change from last week: Gonzaga drops out of our field of 64.
The Zags have gotten ice cold at the wrong time, losing 11 of their last 14 games. After getting swept at home by Arizona State, Gonzaga tumbled 15 spots to No. 51 in the RPI, and its top 25 record fell to 0-7. And Gonzaga is just 9-9 in the WCC, good enough for sixth place. A strong nonconference schedule just isn't enough to prop up Gonzaga's case any longer.
Western Athletic Conference (1 bid)
SAFELY IN: None
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): New Mexico State
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Nevada, Hawaii
No change from last week. The Aggies move from the SECURE category to the bubble but remain in our field of 64. New Mexico State has lost 10 of its last 14 games, including back-to-back series against Hawaii and Fresno State that dropped it to third place in the WAC, two games behind Nevada. But NMSU is still No. 30 in the RPI and can finish in the top 32 with a 4-1 finish, which should be manageable. It is extremely difficult for New Mexico State to build an RPI that strong given its location and conference, so it should be rewarded for that even if it doesn't win the WAC's regular-season title.
Hawaii's case was gaining steam last week, but the Warriors then lost four straight road games against Sacramento State and UC Davis, effectively popping their bubble. The first-place Wolf Pack is a long shot with a No. 70 RPI and a 1-5 record against the top 50.
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