SEE ALSO: Top 25 Coverage
SEE ALSO: Field of 64 Coverage
With the regular season a couple of weekends away from ending and conference tournaments nearing, the margin for error has thinned significantly for teams on the bubble.
This is do-or-die time for many of the teams in the field, particularly those who rank in and around the 50s in RPI.
Dallas Baptist and Connecticut, for instance, are two of the last four teams in the field, but both need to finish well down the stretch. The No. 46 RPI Huskies will have a chance to bolster their case this weekend against American Athletic Conference leader South Florida (No. 19 in the RPI). The Patriots, meanwhile, have series remaining against teams well below .500 and can’t afford to lose.
For middling teams in Power Five conferences, these last remaining weekends are crucial. In the Pac-12 Conference, Washington is on shaky ground, ranking No. 66 in the RPI and in sixth place in the conference at 10-11. The Huskies need a couple of winning weekends, and particularly a strong showing at Stanford, to remain afloat. Even UCLA, which is tied for second place in the conference, can’t afford to stumble down the stretch, with a 24-21 overall record and No. 53 RPI. On the other end of the spectrum, Arizona bounced back from two straight sweeps with a sweep of Washington and is now back in the hosting picture at No. 14 in the RPI.
In the Southeastern Conference, Mississippi and South Carolina are in similar predicaments. The Gamecocks’ No. 28 RPI keeps them in the field for now, but they’ve lost six straight SEC series and are below .500 in the conference at 11-13. If they don’t win series the next two weekends or show well in the SEC Tournament, they could miss the NCAA tournament. The same holds true for Ole Miss, on the bubble out this week, which has tough matchups against Texas A&M and at Auburn remaining on its schedule.
Atlantic Coast Conference leaders North Carolina and Louisville appear to have national seeds all but locked up. Clemson, however, could use a winning weekend against Louisville this weekend or at least a good showing in the ACC Tournament to firm up its national seed case. Wake Forest, which lost a midweek game to High Point this week, remains projected as a host, but a series win at Florida State this weekend would be helpful in solidifying that position. A year after placing 10 teams in the NCAA Tournament, the ACC is more top-heavy this year, with North Carolina State, Miami and even the Seminoles no locks to earn regional bids. FSU is in the best shape, but both the Wolfpack and Hurricanes are in danger of staying home and need emphatic finishes.
Lastly, with a series loss this weekend to Texas Tech, West Virginia has for now fallen out of the hosting picture. The Mountaineers were supplanted by Conference USA leader Southern Mississippi, which made a bold statement this past weekend in sweeping then-second-place Florida Atlantic. CUSA has several bubble teams, including the Owls and Louisiana Tech. Charlotte has fallen out of the field with its RPI spiraling down to No. 78.
|PROJECTED FIELD OF 64
|Corvallis, OR||Long Beach, CA|
|(1) Oregon State^*||Long Beach State^*|
|Chapel Hill, NC||Tucson, AZ|
|(2) North Carolina^*||Arizona^|
|Missouri State*||Cal State Fullerton|
|South Alabama*||New Mexico*|
|North Carolina A&T*||Rhode Island*|
|Gainesville, FL||Winston-Salem, NC|
|(3) Florida^*||Wake Forest^|
|Central Florida||South Florida*|
|Lubbock, TX||Baton Rouge, LA|
|(4) Texas Tech^||Louisiana State^|
|Dallas Baptist||McNeese State*|
|New Mexico State*||Kent State*|
|Fort Worth||Charlottesville, VA|
|(6) Texas Christian^*||Virginia^|
|Bryant*||William & Mary*|
|Starkville, MS||Hattiesburg, MS|
|(7) Mississippi State^||Southern Mississippi^*|
|Clemson, SC||Palo Alto, CA|
Last Four In: Dallas Baptist, Washington, Connecticut, Louisiana Tech
First Four Out: Mississippi, Loyola Marymount, Florida Atlantic, Louisiana-Lafayette
Next Four Out: Kansas, San Diego, North Carolina State, Coastal Carolina
New hosts: Arizona, Southern Mississippi
New Auto Bids: Brigham Young (WCC), William & Mary (Colonial)
New At-Large Bids: Dallas Baptist, Louisiana Tech
Dropped Out: Charlotte, Mississippi
6: Big 12, ACC
4: AAC, Big Ten
3: Conference USA
2: Big West, Missouri Valley, Southland
1: A-10, A-Sun, America East, Big East, Big South, Colonial, Horizon, Ivy, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Mountain West, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Summit, Sun Belt, SWAC, WAC, WCC