|PROJECTED FIELD OF 64|
|Gainesville, FL||Lafayette, LA|
|1. (1) Florida*^||1. Louisiana-Lafayette^*|
|2. Clemson||2. Florida Atlantic|
|3. Tulane||3. Arizona|
|4. Binghamton*||4. Bryant*|
|Coral Gables, FL||Hattiesburg, MS|
|1. (2) Miami^*||1. Southern Mississippi^*|
|2. College of Charleston*||2. Mississippi|
|3. Alabama||3. Southeastern Louisiana*|
|4. Florida A&M*||4. Creighton*|
|Louisville, KY||Conway, SC|
|1. (3) Louisville^||1. Coastal Carolina^*|
|2. Oklahoma State||2. North Carolina|
|3. Washington||3. Maryland|
|4. Fairfield*||4. UNC Greensboro*|
|1. (4) Texas Tech^*||1. Rice^|
|2. Long Beach State||2. Louisiana State|
|3. New Mexico*||3. Brigham Young|
|4. Alabama State*||4. Southeast Missouri State*|
|College Station, TX||Berkeley, CA|
|1. (5) Texas A&M^||1. UC Santa Barbara*|
|2. Oregon State||2. California*^|
|3. Dallas Baptist*||3. Saint Mary’s*|
|4. Oral Roberts*||4. Seattle*|
|Columbia, SC||Raleigh, NC|
|1. (6) South Carolina^||1. North Carolina State^|
|2. Georgia Tech||2. Kentucky|
|3. Cal State Fullerton||3. UNC Wilmington|
|4. Princeton*||4. Virginia Commonwealth*|
|1. (7) Florida State^||1. Vanderbilt^|
|2. East Carolina*||2. Michigan*|
|3. Minnesota||3. Virginia|
|4. Kennesaw State*||4. Kent State*|
|Fort Worth, TX||Starkville, MS|
|1. (8) Texas Christian^||1. Mississippi State^|
|2. Michigan State||2. South Alabama|
|3. Lamar||3. Houston|
|4. Wright State*||4. Navy*|
|*-Automatic bid; ^-Regional host|
Last Four In: Maryland, Washington, Lamar, Arizona
First Four Out: Stanford, Notre Dame, Gonzaga, Fresno State
Next Four Out: Pittsburgh, Georgia, Old Dominion, Duke
Bids By Conference
4: Big Ten, Pac-12
3: American, Big 12, Big West, Conference USA
2: Colonial, Southland, Sun Belt, West Coast
1: A-10, A-Sun, America East, Big East, Big South, Horizon, Ivy, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Mountain West, Missouri Valley, NEC, OVC, Patriot, Southern, Summit, SWAC, WAC
New Hosts: Coastal Carolina, Louisiana-Lafayette, Rice
New Auto Bids: Binghamton (AEC), Dallas Baptist (MVC), Fairfield (MAAC), Kennesaw State (A-Sun)
New At-Large Bids: Washington
Dropping Out: Stanford
• Texas A&M takes Mississippi State’s spot among the national seeds, an obvious move after the Aggies swept the Bulldogs in Starkville last weekend. We also kept South Carolina among the national seeds despite its series loss to Georgia, as the Gamecocks remain tied for first place overall in the SEC at 11-4 and own the No. 4 RPI on WarrenNolan.com. With Florida, A&M and South Carolina, that gives us the SEC’s three best RPI teams—Nos. 1, 4 and 5—as our national seeds from the conference. South Carolina used up some of its margin for error, given it still has to play both A&M and UF head-to-head, but its credentials for now are still strong, with a 13-8 Top 100 record and no losses outside the top 50. Should the Gamecocks lose those two series though, they’d likely be vulnerable to falling behind Vanderbilt—which beat them head-to-head—in the national seed race.
• We’re also keeping Florida State a national seed despite its series loss to Wake Forest, but North Carolina State is nipping at its heels. After winning two of three at Georgia Tech last weekend, the Wolfpack has actually passed FSU in the RPI at No. 8, while FSU slipped to No. 9. N.C. State also has better top 50 (13-6 vs. FSU’s 12-9) and top 100 (18-11 vs. FSU’s 13-10) records. The issues are that FSU is still ahead in the ACC standings at 10-4, with NCSU at 10-6, and FSU also owns a true marquee series win against Louisville, something the Wolfpack currently lacks. Then there’s the fact that FSU won the lone head-to-head game between the teams—the rest of the series was washed out by rain. Would that series’ being truncated be a mitigating factor? Possibly, but it’s likely still a point that could tip the scales in FSU’s favor if it comes down to splitting hairs, unless the teams meet again the ACC tournament.
• Coastal Carolina was an easy call to bring in as a regional host. The Chanticleers are No. 15 in the RPI and have dominated the Big South, going 11-1 in league play thus far. Their having a shiny new ballpark to showcase doesn’t hurt. On the flip side, College of Charleston likely cost itself any chance of hosting by getting swept by Hofstra, the No. 215 RPI team. The Cougars aren’t that far out of range in the RPI, sitting at No. 31, but as of now they’re just 5-4 in the Colonial Athletic Association and, with six games left against teams in the top 100, they’ll have to get very hot to get back in the race. Even then, having been swept by a team in the 200s is a red flag no other team is likely to have.
• We came down to four teams for the final three hosting spots, all from Conference USA and the Sun Belt—incumbents from last week Southern Miss and South Alabama and challengers Rice and Louisiana-Lafayette. Both USM and USA took bad series losses last weekend, the Golden Eagles losing to Alabama-Birmingham and the Jaguars to Appalachian State. However, USA remains alone in first place in the Sun Belt at 16-2 in the league, three up in the loss column on 10-5 ULL. Rice and USM are now tied for first in C-USA at 12-3.
It’s uncommon for a non-power conference to get more than one host, but it does happen. The Big West has done it several times, including last year (UC Santa Barbara and Cal State Fullerton), and C-USA itself landed two hosts in 2009 (Rice and East Carolina). All that being said, C-USA right now is the No. 4 RPI conference, ahead of the Big 12 and just behind the Pac-12, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to see it getting two hosts. All four of these teams have RPIs between 12 and 22, but Rice and USM also have the most top 100 wins of the group (Rice at 14-6 against the top 100 and USM 13-9). We’ll give both of them nods, also acknowledging that Florida Atlantic (11-4 in C-USA and No. 24 in the RPI) can still figure into this mix as well. All three of these C-USA contenders still have to play each other, starting with Rice at USM this weekend, which should help sort things out.
So then it came down to ULL vs. South Alabama. This was more challenging. USA’s lead in the standings is important, and we do believe the committee would lean towards picking the regular-season champion if it really were to come down to one of these teams or the other. But right now, Lafayette otherwise has stronger credentials. The Cajuns are ahead in the RPI at No. 12, with the Jaguars at No. 20, and they have a much stronger top 100 record at 12-8, with USA at just 5-4. ULL and USA still have to play head-to-head May 13-15, a series that could well decide who gets to play at home in the postseason and who doesn’t. We’re tempted to stick with USA, given its standings lead and the fact the series with ULL is at home in Mobile, but we’ll go with ULL this week on the strength of its other numbers and its more positive momentum.
• Washington is our only new at-large this week, having won three of its first four Pac-12 series to get off to a 9-6 start in the league. The Huskies only have two top 50 wins and sit No. 55 in the RPI, both of which are worrisome, but they’re 8-6 against the top 100 and don’t have any glaring issues at this point. They’ll face fellow at-large contender Saint Mary’s in a non-conference series this weekend, a key resume boosting opportunity for both.
The Huskies replace Stanford, which has slipped to No. 63 after losing two of three at Arizona last weekend. The Cardinal still have some positive indicators—they’re 7-5 in the Pac and 5-4 against the top 50—but they’ll have to pick up the RPI to get back on the good side of the bubble. As a whole, the Pac-12 is in rough shape in the RPI. It has only one team in the top 40—California at No. 26—and just two in the top 50, the other being No. 44 Oregon State. League leader Utah has no chance of an at-large, with its 13-20 overall record and No. 134 RPI. Washington, Arizona (No. 56) and Stanford are all firmly in bubble territory, with no other teams really even within shouting distance—Oregon and UCLA are in the 70s.
It’s within the realm of possibilities that the Pac could be just a two-bid league, with Cal the only team truly assured of an at-large if the season ended now. Even Oregon State, while it may be okay in the RPI, will have to do better than the 6-6 record it’s posted through its first four league series, not to mention its 1-3 top 50 record. That’s the worst case scenario though. Washington’s been trending up, and Stanford and Arizona have both shown well enough to believe they’re at-large caliber teams. The question will be whether the RPI situation clears up enough for all of them to get in.
• Notre Dame is coming on strong in the ACC, having climbed to No. 33 in the RPI and fifth place in the overall standings at 9-7. A 6-8 record against the top 50, along with the fact the three ACC series the Irish have won have been against the league’s bottom half—Boston College, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest—held us back from including the Irish this week. But they’ll have more chances to prove themselves down the stretch, starting this weekend against Florida State. Notre Dame also has series remaining at North Carolina and at home against Clemson. Win at least one of those and maintain a .500 or better league record, and the Irish should hear their name called.
Duke (No. 46), Wake (No. 47) and Pittsburgh (No. 42) are also in the at-large race, battling it out to be among the last teams to go to the ACC tournament in Durham. The bottom four teams in the 14-team league don’t get invites. Right now, Pitt (8-9 in the league) would be the one getting to go, but that’s another race that bears watching down the stretch. Duke and Wake are tied for 11th, both at 7-11. Clemson, amazingly, right now would be the last team in the ACC tourney field, with its 8-10 record. As crowded as the ACC bubble picture could get, it’s tough to see anyone getting an at-large that can’t make the grade to get into the league’s own tournament.