Stock Report: Week 14

Conference tournaments get underway in most leagues this week, so our final Stock Report of the season takes a look at what's on the line in conference tourneys, as well as in the handful of leagues that are still playing regular-season games. As usual, we're just looking at who's in, who's out, and who's on the bubble for regionals, hosting spots and national seeds.

During this discussion, we will reference the the Boyd's World pseudo Ratings Percentage Index rankings, which have been updated through the weekend's games and are close to the NCAA's official RPI rankings (which will be updated Tuesday afternoon here). We'll make use of records against the top 50 or top 100 in the RPI, but keep in mind that there might be slight variations between those figures and the official figures.

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: Florida, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Virginia, North Carolina

ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Texas, Arizona State, Florida State

ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Georgia Tech, Rice, Texas A&M, Oregon State, Cal State Fullerton

Changes from last week: Texas replaces Texas A&M; Arizona State replaces Oregon State; North Carolina replaces Georgia Tech.

We pegged Texas A&M as a national seed last week only as a place-holder, writing that the team that won the Longhorns-Aggies series and captured the top seed in the Big 12 tournament would have the inside track. The Aggies (No. 12) are actually a spot ahead of the Longhorns (No. 13) in the RPI, and both teams trail Rice (No. 10), which has quietly entered the thick of the national seed discussion after taking two of three at Southern Miss this past weekend to snatch the top seed in the Conference USA tourney. Rice also has a 2-0 record against the Aggies this season. This is a strong year for C-USA, but it's still not as strong as the Big 12, so the Big 12 champion has an edge over the C-USA champ. Texas has also been the most consistent of those three teams this season, losing one weekend series all year, while the Aggies lost two (and struggled at times in midweek games) and the Owls lost three. Unless Rice or A&M dramatically out-performs Texas in conference tournaments, we're sticking with the 'Horns as the region's safest bet for a national seed. But Rice has probably passed Texas A&M for a second national seed from Texas, and it could benefit if one of the other contenders from another region has a bad week.

Arizona State still trails Oregon State by a game in the Pac-10, and the Beavers did sweep the head-to-head series against the Sun Devils, but ASU suddenly seems a much likelier bet for a national seed. Oregon State plummeted to No. 27 in the RPI after losing a home series to Southern California, and it's hard to envision the committee awarding a national seed to a team that low in the RPI rankings. The Sun Devils remained safely inside the RPI top 10 (eighth) after winning a road series at Washington, and their 25-10 record against the top 100 is a notch better than OSU's 23-11 mark. If Arizona State can win its final series against UCLA, it should be a lock for a national seed even if it doesn't catch the Beavers in the standings, and winning only one game against the Bruins might be good enough. You have to believe the committee would like a national seed in the West, after all.

The ACC remains very tightly bunched at the top. Virginia's body of work should keep it safe even after it was swept by North Carolina this weekend. The Tar Heels already have made up the ground they lost when they squandered a winnable series at Georgia Tech last weekend. Sweeping the Cavaliers vaulted UNC to No. 1 in the RPI and improved its sterling records against the top 25 (11-5) and top 100 (31-12). Barring an 0-3 meltdown in the ACC tourney, the Tar Heels look like a very secure national seed, despite even their four series losses—including the series against the Yellow Jackets, who finished two games ahead of UNC in the standings.

Sorting out Florida State and Georgia Tech is harder, since the ACC is extremely unlikely to land four national seeds. The two teams are separated by just three spots in the RPI (FSU is No. 4, Tech is No. 7). The Yellow Jackets finished three games ahead of FSU in ACC play and lost just two weekend series, while FSU dropped three. The Seminoles have more wins against the top 25 in the RPI (they're 13-11 in those games, while Tech is 9-6), but the top 100 records are nearly identical (FSU is 24-14, Tech is 24-15). Florida State's 3-1 record against Florida could be its trump card, and lacking other separating factors, we'll cite that as the reason we're giving FSU a miniscule edge. The Seminoles and Jackets did not meet in the regular season, but they will face off in pool play at the ACC tournament—potentially with a national seed on the line. One game could make the difference—that's how close the margin is.

REGIONAL HOSTS

SECURE TEAMS: The 13 teams listed in the national seeds discussion above

ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Arkansas, Southern Mississippi, Texas Christian

ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Clemson, Stetson, Miami, Central Florida, Connecticut

One change from last week: Rice replaces Oklahoma as a host. As we noted above, Rice has come on very strong down the stretch, and its resume is simply better than Oklahoma's—and better than TCU's and USM's, for that matter.

Eight of the teams listed above have RPIs between No. 9 and No. 21 (and we'll throw UConn into the discussion for geographic reasons). Here's a look at how they stack up in some important measures—records against teams in the top 25, top 50 and top 100 in the RPI, records in weekend series, and records in conference play. Obviously some conferences are stronger than others, but conference games are the most valuable for every team, so that record matters.
 

TEAM RPI T25 T50 T100 SERIES CONFERENCE
Southern Mississippi 16 4-4 11-8 26-14 8-4-1 16-8
Oklahoma 17 4-6 12-12 18-14 7-5-1 14-11
TCU 15 2-4 10-5 21-11 13-1 20-3
Arkansas 14 10-8 15-13 22-13 8-6 15-15
Clemson 9 7-10 12-12 20-14 9-4 17-13
Stetson 21 4-3 8-6 16-9 12-1 23-7
Miami 20 5-11 9-13 17-15 10-4 19-10
Central Florida 19 7-7 10-11 19-17 8-5 12-12
UConn 38 0-2 1-3 12-6 10-0 22-5

The big question is: Will the committee place four regionals in the state of Texas? With four teams that have resumes as strong as those of Texas, Rice, Texas A&M and TCU, we're going with "yes." TCU gets the nod over Oklahoma despite its 0-2 record against the Sooners because of its superior record against the top 100, its domination of the Mountain West and its much better record in weekend series.

Arkansas hosts despite its six series losses because none of these other teams can match its collection of quality wins (10 against the top 25 stands out). A potential attendance (and financial) windfall at Baum Stadium can't hurt, either. Southern Mississippi's resume still stacks up well with the other bubble hosting candidates even after it lost a series to the Owls. Its 26-14 record against the top 100 is the best of this group.

AT-LARGE BIDS

There are 30 automatic bids awarded to conference champions, and four have already been handed out—Princeton (Ivy), Bethune-Cookman (MEAC), Sacred Heart (NEC) and Alcorn State (SWAC). A fifth will spot will be decided Tuesday, when Army and Navy face off in the decisive third game of the Patriot League championship series (they split a doubleheader Monday). Including those five conferences, these 20 are safe bets to be one-bid leagues:

America East, Atlantic 10, Big East, Big South, Big Ten, Colonial Athletic Association, Horizon, Ivy, Metro-Atlantic, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern, Missouri Valley, Mountain West, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Summit, Southwestern, West Coast, Western Athletic.

TCU is a lock for an at-large bid if it fails to win its conference tournament, and Fresno State (No. 25 in the RPI) is still in very good position even after getting swept by Cal State Bakersfield. Connecticut (No. 38 in the RPI), Creighton (No. 39), Kent State (No. 50) and Coastal Carolina (No. 52) have shots at at-large bids if they fail to capture automatic bids. St. John's (No. 55) and Illinois State (No. 56) have outside shots at at-large spots from the Big East and MVC, respectively. But for this exercise, let's assume all 20 of those leagues receive one bid.

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 14 weeks. Here are the changes from last week's field of 64, in a nutshell:

IN: Texas Tech, Kansas State

OUT: Tulane, East Tennessee State

Atlantic Coast Conference (7 total bids)

SAFELY IN: Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Clemson, Miami, North Carolina State

ON THE BUBBLE (IN): None

ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): None

No change from last week. We're moving N.C. State into the "safely in" category after its series win at Boston College, which pulled it to .500 in the ACC.

Atlantic Sun (2 bids)

SAFELY IN
: Stetson

ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Jacksonville

ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): East Tennessee State

One change: ETSU drops out of the field of 64 after losing a series at Mercer. The Buccaneers are still inexplicably high in the RPI (No. 31) despite a 7-14 record against the top 100, but it's hard to justify an at-large spot for the fifth-place team in the A-Sun (16-12 in conference play, six games out of first place) when it has such a poor record against the top 100.

Jacksonville (No. 49) is considerably farther back in the RPI, but the Dolphins have a much better record against the top 100 (17-13), they finished in second place in the A-Sun (19-11), and they won the head-to-head series at East Tennessee State back in March.

Big 12 (7 bids)

SAFELY IN: Texas A&M, Texas, Oklahoma, Baylor, Oklahoma State

ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Texas Tech, Kansas State

ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): None

The Big 12 is the biggest benificiary of the declines of other bubble teams like ETSU and Tulane. Both Texas Tech and Kansas State finished strong this weekend (the Red Raiders won two of three from Oklahoma State, while the Wildcats swept Kansas), and both teams move into our field of 64, giving the Big 12 seven bids. The Red Raiders and Wildcats both rank in the mid-40s in the RPI, and both have many more wins against the top 100 than ETSU (Texas Tech is 17-21, and K-State is 19-19). That's the biggest separator—although Texas Tech's 2-10 mark against the top 25 is unsightly and could cost it a bid if some mid-major conference favorites like UConn or Creighton fail to capture automatic bids.

Big West (2 bids)

SAFELY IN: Cal State Fullerton

ON THE BUBBLE (IN): UC Irvine

ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): None

No change from last week. UC Irvine is in good shape at No. 41 in the RPI—a strong ranking relative to its geographic region.

Conference USA (4 bids)

SAFELY IN
: Southern Miss, Rice, East Carolina, Central Florida

ON THE BUBBLE (IN)
: None

ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Tulane

Tulane drops out of our field of 64 after getting swept at home by East Carolina and falling to No. 65 in the RPI.

Independents (1 bid)

SAFELY IN: None

ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Dallas Baptist

ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Cal State Bakersfield

Dallas Baptist hangs on with an RPI that ranks 45th after taking two of three from Charlotte. Bakersfield is still on the outside looking in after sweeping Fresno, with an RPI of No. 54. Losing their previous four weekend series really hurt the Roadrunners. Bakersfield's 5-3 record against the top 25 gives it a shot, but it needs to essentially win out to have a realistic chance. The Roadrunners travel to San Francisco today and host Cal Poly for three games this weekend.

Pacific-10 Conference (6 bids)

SAFELY IN: Oregon State, Arizona State, Stanford, UCLA, Arizona, California

ON THE BUBBLE (IN): None

ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): None

No change from last week.

Southeastern Conference (9 bids)

SAFELY IN: South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Alabama

ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Louisiana State, Auburn, Mississippi

ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Georgia

We're assuming Georgia will not win the three games in the SEC tournament that it needs to win in order to finish above .500 and be eligible for the NCAA tournament. Auburn needs one win to stay above .500, and we think that's more realistic—although it could come down to Auburn and Georgia in an elimination game Thursday. A winning record should be enough to put Auburn into the field, thanks to 17 wins against the top 100, seven against the top 25 and a mid-30s RPI.

LSU (No. 23 in the RPI) put itself in strong position after winning its final series at Mississippi State to finish 13-17 in the SEC, and the Tigers should get a bid even without making it to Hoover.

Ole Miss is in much worse position, with an RPI of 40 and a 13-24 record against the top 100 (compared with LSU's 18-18 mark). Right now, we just don't see any teams on the other side of the bubble with better resumes, but if mid-major conference favorites start getting bounced from their league tournaments and gobble up at-large spots, the Rebels figure to be left out.

Southern Conference (1 bid)

SAFELY IN: Elon

ON THE BUBBLE (IN): None

ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): College of Charleston, Samford, UNC Greensboro

No change from last week.

Southland Conference (2 bids)

SAFELY IN: None

ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Texas State, Southeastern Louisiana

ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): None

No change from last week. Like Ole Miss, the Bobcats and Lions backpedal their way into our field of 64, and the most likely scenario is that mid-major conference favorites get knocked off and eat up at-large spots, leaving the Southland as a one-bid league. Texas State's 0-7 record against the top 25 and 3-10 mark against the top 50 figure to sink its case once bids start becoming scarce, but for now its domination of the Southland, its mid-40s RPI and its respectable 13-12 record against the top 100 keep it in our field. The Lions are 51st in the RPI and have a 16-10 record against the top 100, but they finished in fourth place in the league (5 1/2 games behind the Bobcats), so they do not have a better case than Texas State.

Sun Belt Conference (3 bids)

SAFELY IN: Florida International

ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Troy, Florida Atlantic

ON THE BUBBLE (OUT)
: Louisiana-Lafayette

No change from last week. Troy's 40-win season and SBC regular-season title should be enough to get it in despite an RPI of No. 47. FAU needed to avoid getting swept at FIU last weekend to remain in the field, and it did so. The Owls rank 42nd in the RPI and have a solid 8-7 record against the top 50.

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