Stock Report: Week 13

Every Wednesday, we’ll examine how the postseason picture has shifted over the previous week. 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 weighted much more toward performance and remaining schedule than projection based on talent, 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 estimates how many wins a team would need to post against its remaining schedule to finish the season at various RPI benchmarks). And we’ll make use of records against the top 25, 50 or 100 in the RPI using the NCAA’s Nitty Gritty Report. Those figures were also updated through this past Sunday’s games, and do not include Monday or Tuesday games.

Those figures were also updated through this past Sunday’s games, and do not include Monday or Tuesday games.
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:

NATIONAL SEEDS
SECURE TEAMS: Virginia, Florida
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Oregon State, Florida State, Indiana, Louisiana-Lafayette, Texas Christian, Vanderbilt
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Mississippi, Miami, Rice, South Carolina, Cal Poly, Oklahoma State
One change from last week: Vanderbilt replaces Ole Miss as a national seed.

The Rebels won two of three at home against Georgia to remain atop the SEC West (17-10), a game ahead of Mississippi State. But in the process, they fell from No. 12 to No. 15 in the RPI, and their final series is no gimme—on the road at Texas A&M. The RPI Needs Report says Ole Miss cannot finish in the top eight in the regular season, but winning the final series in College Station to reach 19 or 20 SEC wins could still put Ole Miss in national seed position even with a 10-15 RPI.

Dansby Swanson (Photo by Cliff Welch).

Dansby Swanson (Photo by Cliff Welch).

However, Vanderbilt probably jumped Ole Miss in the pecking order by winning a road series at first-place Florida. The Commodores (16-11) are only a game behind the Rebels, and they are stronger in the RPI (No. 7) and own better quality wins (7-5 vs. the top 25, 17-12 vs. the top 50, compared with Mississippi’s 5-7, 14-11). If Vanderbilt wins its final series at home against South Carolina, expect the Commodores to earn a national seed at Mississippi’s expense.

If South Carolina wins that final series, the Gamecocks could still jump both teams and snag a national seed, since South Carolina is also 16-11 in the league heading into the final weekend, and No. 12 in the RPI. It is also possible that the SEC could get three national seeds, but that seems less likely due to the number of strong contenders in other conferences.

We still believe Florida is locked in as a national seed thanks to its No. 3 RPI, its extremely impressive 14-7 record against the top 25 in the RPI and its perch atop the SEC standings. The Rebels, Commodores and Gamecocks are likely battling for one national seed, and whichever team fares best over the next two weeks (including the conference tournament) should get it. But Vandy looks to be in the best position, and also appears to be peaking at the perfect time.

We’ll stick with TCU over Rice for a national seed in Texas, though the Owls remain higher in the RPI (No. 6 vs. No. 13). Rice has a series left against No. 240 Louisiana Tech, so the Needs Report says the Owls will fall out of the top eight in the next week. TCU’s position would be improved by a Big 12 Conference regular-season title, but the Frogs head into the final weekend a game behind Oklahoma State. If TCU sweeps that final series, we still like its chances to earn a national seed, whether it surpasses OSU in the standings or not, because of its red-hot second half. The Frogs also have fared better against the top 25 (7-6) and top 50 (14-8) than Rice (3-5 vs. top 25, 8-9 vs. top 50).

Andrew Suarez

Andrew Suarez (Photo by Carl Kline).

No team has been hotter over the last two months than Miami, which has won 25 of its last 27 games. The Hurricanes are up to No. 10 in the RPI and maintain a one-game lead over Virginia and a two-game lead over Florida State in the RPI. Can all three ACC power brokers snag national seeds? Probably not, given the strength of other contenders and the fact that the ACC is weaker than usual after the top three this year, with a large gaggle of bubble teams and no other at-large locks.

So it comes down to Florida State vs. Miami for one national seed. The Seminoles won the nonconference head-to-head series between the two rivals back in Week Three. Of course, Miami won two of three against Florida, while the Seminoles went 0-3 against the Gators. Florida State is stronger in the RPI (No. 2) and has a better record against the top 50 (14-11, compared with Miami’s 9-8). If the Seminoles finish in the top three in the RPI, they’ll be a national seed, period—no top-three team in the 64-team era (since 1999) has been denied a national seed. The No. 4 team has missed out just twice, in 2009 and ’05. In each of the last four years, every team in the top six earned a national seed.

But if the Hurricanes sweep North Carolina to finish with 25 ACC wins—which would be the most in league history—they will be hard to deny. In that scenario, perhaps a dominant mid-major with fewer top 50 wins such as Indiana (6-5) or Louisiana-Lafayette (3-1) could find itself squeezed out in favor of a third ACC national seed.

Conference tournaments could also help separate these teams—and the Hoosiers and Cajuns have little margin for error because of their softer conferences, so they must finish strong this weekend and go deep into their conference tournaments to preserve their national seed positions. For now, we’ll keep Miami third in the ACC pecking order, and just outside a national seed. But this race is still far from decided.

Oregon State is in great position at No. 4 in the RPI and first place in the Pac-12. If the Beavers win their home series against Washington this weekend, they should effectively sew up a national seed. If they drop that series, they could find themselves on the national seed bubble as well. For now, we’ll leave them just outside the “secure” category, pending this weekend’s results.


REGIONAL HOSTS
SECURE TEAMS: The eight national seeds listed above (Virginia, Florida, Oregon State, Florida State, Indiana, Louisiana-Lafayette, Texas Christian, Vanderbilt); Rice, Miami, Mississippi
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Cal Poly, South Carolina, Washington, Oklahoma State, Liberty
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Louisville, Louisiana State, Houston, Alabama, Texas
No change from last week.

Teams that strengthened their hosting position last week: Miami (which moves into the “secure” category after sweeping a road series at Duke); Vanderbilt (which moves into the “secure” category after winning a road series at Florida); Cal Poly (which won two of three from UC Irvine to climb back into the top 16 in the RPI). Teams that held their ground: South Carolina (swept Missouri); Washington (swept Bethune-Cookman); Oklahoma State (swept Kansas State); Liberty (swept Coastal Carolina).

Louisville hurt its cause a bit by failing to sweep Temple, falling four spots to No. 18 in the RPI, but the Cardinals are still very much in the thick of the race, as is fellow AAC contender Houston (No. 8 in the RPI, but third place in the conference) The Cougars can finish inside the top eight if they sweep a road series at Temple this weekend, and they could be tough to deny with an RPI that robust, but being three games back in the AAC hurts their cause.

Jeff Brigham

Jeff Brigham (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

For now, we’ll stick with Washington (No. 23) and Oklahoma State (No. 24) as hosts despite weaker RPIs, because of their place at or near the top of the standings in power conferences. And Liberty (No. 22) has utterly dominated the Big South (22-1), building a strong enough RPI to host despite just a 2-4 mark against the top 50. Expect the Flames to be rewarded for investing in a beautiful new facility.

LSU and Alabama had to settle for a doubleheader split this past weekend, as the series finale was rained out, leaving both teams in same position they were in last week. If either team can sweep its final series (LSU is at Auburn, while Alabama hosts Mississippi State) to reach 17 conference wins, it will head into Hoover with a decent shot to snag a host. Stay tuned.

Texas remains on the periphery of this discussion as well thanks to a No. 11 RPI, but the Longhorns probably must sweep their final series at Kansas State to pad their 11-10 conference record in order to have a shot at hosting. TCU and Oklahoma State have been the much more consistent teams in the second half of the season, and they are firmly ahead of Texas in the Big 12 pecking order. But don’t write them the Longhorns yet—their 15-12 record against the top 50 is still a major asset.


At-large Bids

There are 31 automatic bids awarded to conference champions, and one bid has already been secured, in the Ivy League, where Columbia punched its ticket last weekend.

These 13 are safe bets to be one-bid leagues, regardless of how their conference tournaments shake out:

America East, Atlantic 10, Big East, CAA, Horizon, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Summit, SWAC, WAC.

A handful of teams in those leagues are worth keeping on the radar as long shot at-large candidates, but are unlikely to finish with RPIs in bubble range: St. Joseph’s, Creighton, College of Charleston, William & Mary, Canisius, Ball State, Southeast Missouri State.

The following conferences should be one-bid leagues unless the top RPI team is knocked off in the conference tournament: Atlantic Sun (Mercer), Northeast (Bryant), Southland (Sam Houston State), SoCon (Western Carolina), WCC (Pepperdine).

• Out of that group, Mercer (No. 27 in the RPI) still looks like a very strong at-large team.

• Pepperdine (No. 40) remains in solid shape, especially after winning two of three against San Diego this past weekend

Aaron Brown

Pepperdine’s Aaron Brown (Photo by Larry Goren)

• Bryant (No. 36) held steady in the RPI after sweeping a four-game set against Fairleigh Dickinson, clinching the NEC regular-season title. A 26-8 road record props up Bryant’s RPI despite its ugly 1-5 record against the top 100. The RPI Needs Report says Bryant needs to win three of its final four games to finish inside the top 45, and given its lack of wins against quality opponents, it might find itself on the wrong side of the bubble if it fails to win the NEC tournament. But building such a strong RPI is difficult as an NEC team, so Bryant might get a little more leeway.

• Sam Houston State (No. 33) saw its 11-game winning streak snapped Tuesday at Texas A&M, but the Bearkats are still in pretty good shape, tied for first place in the Southland and with a 7-6 record against the top 50.

• Western Carolina (No. 57) has the worst RPI ranking of this group, and a 2-6 mark against the top 50 doesn’t help. Losing a series at Georgia Southern last weekend was a setback, but if WCU can rebound with a home series win against Davidson, it will win the SoCon regular-season title and likely finish inside the top 50 in the RPI. If it does that, it has a decent at-large spot. If it loses the Davidson series, its at-large chances are fried.

For the purpose of this exercise, we’ll assume those 19 conferences all wind up as one-bid leagues. That leaves 45 bids for the remaining conferences, which we’ll break down shortly.

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. Here are the changes from last week, in a nutshell:

TOURNAMENT BIDS
IN: Old Dominion, San Diego State
OUT: Florida International, UC Santa Barbara
Barely Hanging On: New Mexico, Evansville, Clemson, North Carolina, Arkansas
Knocking On The Door: Illinois, Tennessee, Stanford

American Athletic Conference (3 total bids)
SAFELY IN: Louisville, Houston
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Central Florida
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): None
No change from last week.

A midweek win against Florida State helped UCF’s cause, jumping the Knights five spots to No. 43 in the RPI. They remain tied with Louisville atop the AAC standings, and they remain in good at-large shape. Only the borderline RPI keeps them from the “safely in” category.


Atlantic Coast Conference (7 bids)
SAFELY IN: Virginia, Florida State, Miami, Maryland
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Georgia Tech, Clemson, North Carolina
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): North Carolina State, Duke
No change from last week.

Maryland moves up to the “safely in” category after finishing its ACC schedule with back-to-back sweeps of Notre Dame and Pittsburgh. The Terrapins are in the clubhouse with a 15-14 conference record, and a Tuesday win against West Virginia moved them up to No. 28 in the RPI. They’re a lock.

Jake Stinnett

Jake Stinnett

Georgia Tech is also finished with ACC play at 14-16 after getting swept at Virginia. If things break a certain way, the Yellow Jackets could conceivably still miss the 10-team ACC tournament, and if they do, they could be in trouble. But we don’t expect that to happen, and the Jackets can still finish inside the top 32 in the RPI if they sweep South Florida this weekend. The solid RPI, coupled with 14 ACC victories, should be enough.

Clemson and North Carolina remain on the bubble after losing series to Notre Dame and Florida State, respectively. Clemson’s body of work is unimpressive, but we expect the Tigers to win a home series against Boston College this weekend, getting them to 15 or 16 ACC wins and keeping them safely inside the top 50 in the RPI. If they lose that series, they’ll be on the wrong side of the bubble.

North Carolina did what it needed to against Florida State, taking Sunday’s game to avoid getting swept. The Tar Heels need to win at least one game in Miami this weekend to reach 15 ACC wins and finish inside the top 45, which should be enough to get them into a regional. If they take two of three, they can vault all the way up into the top 32 and lock down an at-large spot. If they get swept, they could be in trouble.

Duke’s at-large hopes took a big hit when it was swept at home by Miami, dropping the Blue Devils another 10 spots to No. 84 in the RPI. If they can win a road series at Florida State to reach 17 ACC wins, their RPI should jump, though it cannot get back into the top 45. Winning in Tallahassee is a tall order, and we’re not betting on it—which means Duke needs a strong performance in the ACC tournament to give its RPI a jolt in order to have a shot at an at-large spot.

N.C. State’s at-large hopes were on the rise, but the Wolfpack let a golden opportunity slip away Monday by failing to complete a sweep of Wake Forest. At No. 58 in today’s RPI, the Wolfpack can’t climb into the top 45, but if it can sweep Virginia Tech on the road this weekend it can still reach 14 conference wins, giving it a chance. Getting into the ACC tournament and performing well there is essential.


Big 12 (6 bids)
SAFELY IN: TCU, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech, Kansas
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): West Virginia
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): None
No change from last week.

Kansas moves into the “safely in” category after sweeping West Virginia, the third straight conference sweep for the Jayhawks, who finished Big 12 play at 15-9 (locked into third place). The Mountaineers slide back onto the bubble and carry a four-game losing streak into a crucial final series at Texas Tech. WVU remains in good RPI shape (No. 28 even after Tuesday’s loss to Maryland), but it is just 9-11 in the Big 12. If it can win at least one game in Lubbock to finish 10-13 or 11-12 in the league, it should be OK. Getting swept for the second straight weekend would be disastrous, but we don’t expect that to happen.


Big South (1 bid)
SAFELY IN: Liberty
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): None
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): High Point
No change from last week.

High Point fell to No. 57 in the RPI after a midweek loss at East Carolina, and the Panthers are tied for third in the North Division at 15-9. And they’re now 0-7 against the top 50. They’re a long shot.


Big Ten (2 bids)
SAFELY IN: Indiana, Nebraska
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): None
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Illinois
No change from last week.

The Cornhuskers move into the “safely in” category after sweeping a road series at Michigan State, jumping them five spots to No. 39 in the RPI and improving them to 16-5 in the Big Ten. Illinois climbed 12 spots to No. 54 in the RPI after sweeping a road set against Iowa on the heels of a sweep of the Spartans. The Illini are also 16-5 in the league, and if they can finish with a road series win at Nebraska this weekend, they’ll climb inside the top 45 and should be in good shape for an at-large spot. But we’re betting on the Huskers at home, keeping Illinois just outside an at-large position, although the Illini are close enough that they could boost their chances with a nice showing in the conference tournament.


Big West (3 bids)
SAFELY IN: Cal Poly, UC Irvine
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Long Beach State
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): UC Santa Barbara
One change from last week: UC Santa Barbara falls out of our field of 64.

The Gauchos fell 11 spots to No. 63 in the RPI after failing to sweep Cal State Northridge, and they missed a key opportunity to earn a quality win Tuesday with a loss at Pepperdine.

The RPI Needs Report says they need to win out to finish inside the top 45, and all of their remaining games are on the road (at San Francisco and UC Davis). Both teams have losing overall records, so the Gauchos could do it, but the best they can do in the Big West is 12-12, and they’re currently in sixth place. There is no margin for error; UCSB must win out to have a shot. For now, the Gauchos are on the wrong side of the bubble.

Long Beach State improved to 12-6 in the Big West with a road sweep of Hawaii, then won a nice midweek game against San Diego to improve to 27-23 overall and No. 49 in the RPI. The Dirtbags are hot, with four straight series wins, and we continue to believe they’ll get a bid if they can win three of their final six to get to 30 wins. We like their chances.


Conference USA (2 bids)
SAFELY IN: Rice
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Old Dominion
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Alabama-Birmingham, Florida International, Southern Mississippi, East Carolina
Changes from last week: Old Dominion replaces Florida International in our field of 64.
Conner Myers and Taylor Ostrich.

Conner Myers and Taylor Ostrich.

The Panthers fell on their faces in the last week, losing four of five games, including a home series against Middle Tennessee State and midweek contests against South Florida and Florida Atlantic. They’re down to No. 64 in the RPI after Tuesday’s loss, and down to sixth place in the standings. They’re out.

Old Dominion climbs back in after sweeping a road series against Marshall, boosting the Monarchs to 17-13 in C-USA (fourth place). ODU’s major selling point is its RPI (No. 30), and it can finish inside the top 32 by sweeping Long Island-Brooklyn this weekend. Even if ODU finishes in fourth in the league—and it looks like it will—that should be good enough for an at-large spot when combined with the robust RPI.

Keep an eye on UAB, which jumped back up 10 spots to No. 62 in the RPI after sweeping Tulane, its third straight conference sweep. The Blazers sit comfortably in second place in C-USA at 19-8, just a game behind first-place Rice but two games ahead of third-place Southern Miss. They won’t be able to finish inside the top 45 in the RPI, but if they can sweep a road series against Florida Atlantic this weekend, they’ll have a real shot, even with an RPI in the 50s.


Missouri Valley (3 bids)
SAFELY IN: Indiana State
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Dallas Baptist, Evansville
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Illinois State
No change from last week.

Evansville swept a crucial series against Illinois State to remain atop the MVC standings, two games ahead of Indiana State. That sweep also helped the Aces climb five spots to No. 56 in the RPI, with three games left at Missouri State. If Evansville wins the regular-season title in the No. 6 RPI league, it has a solid chance to snag an at-large bid, even with an RPI in the 50-55 range. A couple of wins in the conference tournament would help significantly to shore up the RPI.

The Sycamores solidified their position by sweeping Missouri State. At No. 17 in the RPI and second place in the MVC, Indiana State is safe.

Dallas Baptist also did what it needed to, winning a road series at Wichita State. The Patriots held steady at No. 37 in the RPI, though they remain just 2-9 against the top 50, which is a black mark against them. They likely need to finish with a sweep of Southern Illinois to feel good about their position, and a couple of quality wins in the conference tournament would help too.


Mountain West (3 bids)
SAFELY IN: UNLV
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): New Mexico, San Diego State
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): None
One change from last week: San Diego State returns to our field of 64.

The Aztecs followed a midweek road win at Long Beach State by taking two of three from UNLV, improving them to 7-5 against the top 50. SDSU is just inside the top 50 in the RPI (No. 49) and owns quality nonconference series wins against West Virginia and UC Irvine. And the Aztecs are up to third place in the Mountain West at 15-12, with a series left at Fresno State. They must win that series, and we are predicting them to do so.

The Lobos dropped three spots to No. 53 in the RPI after a 2-2 week (with a midweek loss to Utah Valley and a road series win at Nevada). A final home series against No. 226 Air Force won’t be good for New Mexico’s borderline RPI, but the Lobos are back in sole possession of first place in the MWC, which matters. They likely need a few wins in the conference tournament to ensure their RPI stays inside the top 55, which is where it needs to be for an at-large spot. Last year, New Mexico got an at-large bid with a No. 51 RPI and an MWC regular-season title. Its resume is shaping up to be very similar this year.


Pacific-12 (4 bids)
SAFELY IN: Oregon State, Washington, Oregon, Arizona State
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): None
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Stanford, Southern California
No change from last week.

Stanford is one of the last teams out of our field of 64, but the Cardinal is trending in the right direction, with series wins in three of its last four weekends. But after taking two of three at Arizona, Stanford took a step back with a midweek loss to San Jose State yesterday, which dropped its RPI from No. 32 to No. 41. The Cardinal remains below .500 in the Pac-12 (11-13) but above .500 overall (24-22). If it wins its final two series (vs. Washington State, at Utah) to reach 15-15 in the league, and takes a midweek game against Pacific, it should finish inside the top 50 and figures to get an at-large bid, thanks to a rugged nonconference schedule that will earn some sympathy from the West Coast-friendly committee. But Stanford has been up and down all year, and we aren’t overly confident in its ability to finish strong. The Cardinal remains just outside the field of 64; if it sweeps Washington State at home this weekend, we’ll likely reverse that opinion.


Southeastern Conference (10 bids)
SAFELY IN: Florida, Vanderbilt, Mississippi, South Carolina, LSU, Alabama, Mississippi State
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Texas A&M, Kentucky, Arkansas
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Tennessee, Georgia, Auburn
No change from last week.

Kentucky helped itself significantly with a series win against Auburn, improving the Wildcats to 12-15 in the SEC with a series left at Georgia. As long as the Wildcats don’t get swept, they should be safe, thanks to a top-20 RPI and more top 25 wins (nine) than any team other than Florida.

Michael Thomas
Michael Thomas (Photo by Robert Gurganus)

Likewise, Texas A&M remains in very solid shape even after dropping two of three at Arkansas. A Tuesday win against Sam Houston State helped boost the Aggies to No. 31 in the RPI, and they are 13-14 in the SEC with a home series left against Ole Miss. As long as they don’t get swept, they should be safe. They could still get a bid even if they do get swept, but they’d be on the bubble. That possibility keeps us from moving the Aggies into the “safely in” category.

Arkansas took two of three in a must-win series against the Aggies to improve to 13-14 in the SEC and climb four spots to No. 50 in the RPI. That is not a great RPI for an SEC team, but if Arkansas finishes with a series win at Missouri to reach 15 SEC wins, it should be safe. Series wins against the Aggies, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Alabama look nice on the resume.

Tennessee dropped two of three at Mississippi State last weekend to fall to 11-16 in the league. The Vols own quality series wins against Kentucky, Vanderbilt, at Arizona State and vs. UNLV, and if they finish with a home series win against Florida to reach 13 SEC wins, they deserve to get an at-large spot—even if that makes them the 11th team in the SEC. It’s that simple for Tennessee: win the Florida series and it can play its way in. We’ll give the first-place Gators a slight edge and leave Tennessee on the outside of our field for now, but the Vols are at home, and they are good enough to take that series.

Georgia, like Tennessee, has an RPI in the 40s and a conference record (10-16-1) that need work. The Bulldogs probably need to sweep Kentucky this weekend to reach 13 SEC wins and have a shot at an at-large spot. We’re not betting on it.Auburn is 10-17 in the league with LSU coming to town this weekend. Auburn’s RPI (No. 68) lags behind the other bubble teams in the SEC, and it must sweep LSU to have any chance—and even that might not be enough. Once again, we’re not betting on it.


Sun Belt (1 bid)
SAFELY IN: Louisiana-Lafayette
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): None
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Arkansas State
No change from last week.

Arkansas State is No. 60 in the RPI and six games behind Louisiana-Lafayette in the Sun Belt. The Red Wolves are just 1-4 against the top 50 and 11-15 vs. the top 100. They remain long shots.