Stock Report: Week 14

With less than a week left before the field of 64 is announced, it’s time to break down the races for national seeds, regional hosts and at-large spots heading into conference tournaments for most teams.

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.

NOTE: We’re not making these picks based on what the field would look like if the season ended today. We’re still taking into consideration how we expect the final week of the season to play out, and projecting based on how the landscape should look on Memorial Day.

During this discussion, we will reference the NCAA’s official RPI report, which was released Monday 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 official Nitty Gritty Report. Those figures were also updated through this past Sunday’s games, and do not include Monday 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 14 weeks of the season:


NATIONAL SEEDS
SECURE TEAMS: Florida, Virginia, Oregon State
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Florida State, Indiana, Louisiana-Lafayette, Miami, South Carolina
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Mississippi, Vanderbilt, Oklahoma State, Cal Poly, TCU
Changes from last week: South Carolina and Miami replace TCU and Vanderbilt as national seeds.

The Horned Frogs finished the season with seven straight series wins, but they failed to sweep Baylor and landed in second place in the Big 12, dropping a spot to 14th in the RPI. TCU might have snagged a national seed with that RPI if it had won the regular-season title, but don’t expect it to happen now. And first-place Oklahoma State is probably still too weak in the RPI (No. 21) to get a national seed, even as the regular-season champ for the No. 2 RPI conference. If OSU can boost its RPI inside the top 15 in the conference tournament, it should get a hard look for a national seed—especially with a sterling 15-4 record against the top 50.

Florida State and Indiana are very strong bets to land national seeds as top-five RPI teams, but it is conceivable that either could slip with a winless showing in its conference tournament, so we’ll keep them just short of the “secure” category. Louisiana-Lafayette also should be in good shape if it can win a few games in the Sun Belt tournament. Despite just a 3-1 mark against the top 50, the Cajuns have managed to build a No. 7 RPI, which is not easy to do. The Cajuns play in the No. 11 RPI conference, but they have utterly dominated it, going 49-7 overall. They deserve a national seed, even if they fail to win the Sun Belt tournament, as long as they don’t fall flat.

That leaves two national seeds in play. This has not been a strong year for the ACC after the top three teams, so it seems counter-intuitive that the ACC could get three national seeds. But Virginia and Florida State have top-three RPIs and strong bodies of work, and Miami beat out both of them for the ACC’s regular-season crown. At No. 12 in the RPI and with an 8-9 record against the top 50, Miami’s other metrics are short for a national seed. The Hurricanes lost head-to-head series against FSU (out of conference) and UVa., but they did take two of three from SEC champion Florida. And the committee will surely consider Miami’s 27-3 record in its final 30 games—that momentum matters.

Andrew Suarez

Andrew Suarez (Photo by Carl Kline).

The SEC also has a chance to land three national seeds, especially if Louisiana-Lafayette or Miami falters. Florida is the only lock in the SEC, but South Carolina and Ole Miss each have very strong cases, and Vanderbilt could get back into the mix (even after losing a home series against the Gamecocks this weekend) if it can make a deep run in Hoover.

The Commodores are sixth in the RPI, but for now they’re behind the Gamecocks in the pecking order. South Carolina is No. 8, five spots ahead of Ole Miss. The Rebels won the SEC West with a 19-11 record, one game ahead of 18-12 South Carolina, but Ole Miss did not have to face the Gators or Commodores, and it lost the head-to-head series against the Gamecocks.

The Gamecocks are 8-7 against the top 25, while the Rebels are 5-7. South Carolina’s better high-end series wins (at Vandy, vs. Ole Miss, vs. Alabama) trump Mississippi’s one-game edge in the standings. The Rebels’ best series wins are at Kentucky, at Texas A&M, at Mississippi State and vs. Arkansas—all quality series wins, but no elite series wins. So we’ll go with South Carolina, but there isn’t a large gap between these teams, so how they perform in Hoover could play a significant role.


REGIONAL HOSTS
SECURE TEAMS: The eight national seeds listed above (Florida, Virginia, Oregon State, Florida State, Indiana, Louisiana-Lafayette, Miami, South Carolina); Mississippi, Vanderbilt, Oklahoma State
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Texas Christian, Cal Poly, Washington, Louisiana State, Rice
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Louisville, Houston, Texas Tech
Changes from last week: LSU replaces Liberty as a host.

Liberty likely squandered its hosting chance by losing two of three at Radford this weekend. At No. 25 in the RPI and just 1-4 against the top 50, there was no margin for error for the Flames.

LSU swept a road series at Auburn to climb four spots to No. 16 in the RPI and snag the No. 3 seed in the SEC tournament. That third-place finish offsets LSU’s soft nonconference strength of schedule and 4-8 record against the top 25, but those two factors prevent the Tigers from being a lock. With so many other quality hosting candidates, LSU can’t fall flat in Hoover.

Zech Lemond

Zech Lemond

Figuring out which Texas teams will host is very difficult. Houston (No. 9), Rice (No. 10) and Texas Tech (No. 11) all have stellar RPIs. The Red Raiders are 8-8 against the RPI top 25, giving them more top 25 wins than the other two teams combined. But Texas Tech finished fourth in the Big 12 and was swept down the stretch by Kansas. Houston went 27-5 in nonconference play, giving it the No. 1 nonconference RPI, and the Cougars went 3-0 in midweek games vs. Rice. But Houston finished in third place in the No. 7 RPI conference (the AAC), 4.5 games behind first-place Louisville. The Cardinals are also right in this mix, but at No. 20 in the RPI and 6-7 against the top 50, Louisville falls a bit short in other metrics.

That leaves us with Rice and TCU, which have the best combinations of conference performance and other metrics. Rice won the regular-season crown in the No. 8 RPI conference; we’re betting that outweighs its 0-3 record against the Cougars, given Houston’s unimpressive conference showing.

TCU has the best top 50 record of this group (14-8) and finished in second place in the No. 2 RPI conference, just a game out of first place. Oklahoma State should also be a safe host as the Big 12 champion, despite its No. 21 RPI. And Cal Poly and Washington seem like strong bets to host at No. 17 and No. 19 in the RPI, despite their lesser top 50 records (4-4 for Cal Poly, 7-8 for Washington). Geographic diversity matters, and the committee will want representation in the West. There is no doubt that Oregon State, Cal Poly and Washington are the three best teams in the West, and they will be rewarded accordingly.


At-large Bids

There are 31 automatic bids awarded to conference champions, and these five teams have already punched their tickets into the field of 64:

Bethune-Cookman (MEAC)
Bucknell (Patriot)
Cal Poly (Big West)
Columbia (Ivy)
Jackson State (SWAC)

Here are our picks to win this week’s conference tournaments in leagues that will definitely not send more than one team to regionals, regardless of who wins the tournament. We’re picking the top seed in each tournament:

America East: Stony Brook
Atlantic 10: Saint Louis
Big East: Creighton
Horizon: Wright State
Ohio Valley: Southeast Missouri State
Summit: South Dakota State
WAC: Sacramento State

The following will be one-bid leagues if the team with the best RPI in the conference wins the automatic bid. These are teams that bubble teams in other conferences should be pulling for this week:

Atlantic Sun: Mercer (No. 29 in the RPI)
CAA: College of Charleston (No. 61)
MAC: Ball State (No. 53)
MAAC: Canisius (No. 59)
Northeast: Bryant (No. 49)
SoCon: Western Carolina (No. 40)
Southland: Sam Houston State (No. 32)
West Coast: Pepperdine (No. 42)

• Out of that group, Mercer and College of Charleston were the only teams that failed to win their respective regular-season titles. The Bears are still in good shape thanks to their robust RPI and a 13-5 record against the top 100. The Cougars, however, are a long shot at No. 61 in the RPI, with a 2-5 record against the top 50, a 5-8 mark against the top 100 and no regular-season crown.

• Sam Houston State (11-6 vs. top 100), Western Carolina (9-8) and Pepperdine (13-5) should be safe at-large teams even if they fall flat in their conference tournaments. Bryant (1-5 vs. the top 100), Ball State (2-7 vs. top 100) and Canisius (3-2 vs. top 100) would probably fall on the wrong side of the bubble. But all three did well to get into the at-large mix while playing in conferences that rate 19th, 20th and 28th in the RPI.

For the purpose of this exercise, we’ll assume that those 15 all wind up as one-bid leagues—as will the Ivy, MEAC, SWAC and Patriot. 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 14 weeks. Here are the changes from last week, in a nutshell:
IN: Illinois, Stanford, Cal State Fullerton
OUT: Clemson, New Mexico, West Virginia
Barely Hanging On: Evansville, Dallas Baptist, North Carolina, Central Florida
Knocking On The Door: Tennessee, UC Santa Barbara


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.

The Knights took a hit with a series loss at UConn, but they still finished in second place in the AAC and No. 46 in the RPI. Their 5-10 record against the top 50 works against them, but they should secure an at-large spot with a couple of wins in the conference tournament.


Atlantic Coast Conference (6 bids)
SAFELY IN: Virginia, Florida State, Miami, Maryland
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Georgia Tech, North Carolina
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Clemson, North Carolina State, Duke
One change from last week: Clemson falls out of our field of 64.

The Tigers averted disaster by storming back from a 9-2 deficit Saturday to take the rubber game against Boston College, but they still fell five places to No. 51 in the RPI, and their 3-3 record in the last two weekends against BC and Notre Dame is disappointing. Despite finishing with a winning ACC record (15-14), Clemson is just 2-11 against the top 25, 7-12 against the top 50 and 12-16 against the top 100. Their resume lacks substance; they need at least two wins in the conference tournament to bolster their case, and maybe more than that.

Skye Bolt

Skye Bolt (Photo by Alyson Boyer Rode)

North Carolina did the bare minimum necessary over the last two weeks to remain in our field: it did not get swept by Florida State or Miami, but it lost both series. At 7-10 against the top 50 and No. 44 in the RPI, and with only one series win against a regional team (at Maryland), UNC’s resume is uninspiring. Winning Tuesday’s play-in game against N.C. State plus another game in pool play would solidify UNC’s case, but it will probably get in even with a loss Tuesday. Having UNC administrator Larry Gallo on the committee will help, even if it’s not supposed to.

For the Wolfpack, Tuesday’s game is a must-win. N.C. State climbed five spots to No. 54 in the RPI after taking two of three at Virginia Tech, but for the second straight week it failed to complete a sweep, missing out on important opportunities to bolster its conference record (an unsightly 13-17). The ‘Pack is also 0-6 vs. the RPI top 25 and 2-10 against the top 50, two significant black marks against it. NCSU probably needs at least three wins this week to have a shot.


Big 12 (5 bids)
SAFELY IN: Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, Kansas
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): None
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): West Virginia
One change from last week: West Virginia fall out of our field of 64.

West Virginia did everything it could to play itself out of the field in the last two weeks, losing its final seven games, including back-to-back sweeps at Kansas and Texas Tech that dropped it to 9-14 in the Big 12, and just 27-24 overall. The Mountaineers also were swept by TCU and Oklahoma State; the only quality series win on their resume came against Texas. But the Mountaineers remain strong in the RPI (No. 30), thanks in large part to their 30 road games, though they went just 12-18 in those games. The RPI and the travel considerations only go so far; WVU did not need to win its final two series, but it needed to avoid getting swept, and it couldn’t do so in either weekend. The result is a resume that just doesn’t measure up.


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 (No. 60 in the RPI) remains a long shot after losing a midweek game at East Carolina and sweeping lowly UNC Asheville.


Big Ten (3 bids)
SAFELY IN: Indiana, Nebraska
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Illinois
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): None
One change from last week: Illinois enters our field of 64.

The Illini dropped a hard-fought series at Nebraska but won the middle game, helping them climb two spots to No. 52 in the RPI. That’s a good RPI for a Big Ten team, and a solid 17-7 showing in the conference also helps. Highlighted by a pair of wins at Florida, the Illini also have winning records against the top 25 (4-2) and top 100 (8-5). Their resume compares favorably with other bubble teams.


Big West (4 bids)
SAFELY IN: Cal Poly
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): UC Irvine, Long Beach State, Cal State Fullerton
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): UC Santa Barbara
One change from last week: Cal State Fullerton rejoins our field of 64.

The Titans vaulted from No. 86 to No. 56 in the RPI by sweeping a series at UC Irvine. They are above .500 in the Big West at 11-10, and if they can sweep Cal State Northridge to finish 14-10, they have a real shot to get an at-large spot even with an RPI outside the top 50. All of their final four games are critical, starting with tonight’s contest against Southern California.

Andrew Rohrbach (Photo by John Fajardo/LBSU Athletics)

Andrew Rohrbach (Photo by John Fajardo/LBSU Athletics)

The Titans do have a 10-6 record against the top 50, which compares favorably with most other true bubble teams. We expect the Titans to finish strong, and having Big West commissioner Dennis Farrell as the committee chairman will help them get in as the league’s fourth team. That’s quite a turnaround from last week, when Fullerton wasn’t even listed among our bubble teams thanks to its mid-80s RPI and its four series losses in its previous five weekends.

UC Santa Barbara is one spot behind the Titans at No. 57 in the RPI, but two games worse in the conference standings (9-12) and just 5-8 against the top 50. It doesn’t look good for the Gauchos.

Long Beach State continued to strengthen its case with its fifth straight series win, on the road at UC Riverside. At 14-7 in the Big West and No. 47 in the RPI, the Dirtbags can probably make a regional if they avoid getting swept this weekend against Irvine; one win would get them to 30, and two wins should land them inside the top 45 in the RPI, per the Needs Report.

The Anteaters slipped back toward the bubble by getting swept by Fullerton, and if they finish with three straight series losses, they could find themselves sweating a bit on selection day. But they remain in a position of strength right now, with a No. 38 RPI and a 15-6 conference record (second place). Even if they lose two of three at LBSU, they should be OK.


Conference USA (2 bids)
SAFELY IN: Rice
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Old Dominion
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Alabama-Birmingham, Southern Mississippi
No change from last week.

Old Dominion’s 2-2 week against VMI and Long Island did nothing to help its case, but it remains 37th in the RPI even after dropping nine spots. Finishing fourth in the No. 8 RPI conference also isn’t great, but the Monarchs managed to boost their conference record to a respectable 17-13, which should be good enough to get in when combined with their strong RPI and their 18-16 record against the top 100—giving them more top 100 wins than any team behind them in the RPI rankings. Compare that with ACC bubble teams North Carolina (13-18 vs. the top 100), Clemson (12-16), N.C. State (14-17) and Georgia Tech (17-18), and you see why Old Dominion is likely to be in a regional.


Missouri Valley (3 bids)
SAFELY IN: Indiana State
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Dallas Baptist, Evansville
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): None
No change from last week.
Kyle Freeland

Kyle Freeland (Photo by Steven Harris)

The Purple Aces won the MVC regular-season title, one game ahead of the Sycamores and Patriots, but losing a series at Missouri State in the final weekend dropped them six spots to No. 62 in the RPI—and no team with an RPI outside the top 60 has landed an at-large spot in the last decade.

The Aces are still very much alive, but they need a few wins in the conference tournament to boost their RPI back into the 50s, ideally inside the top 55. If they can do that, they should still snag an at-large bid thanks to their regular-season championship in the No. 6 RPI league. Facing No. 198 Southern Illinois in their MVC tournament opener will do the Aces no favors.

Dallas Baptist’s RPI (No. 34) makes it a likely regional team despite its 2-9 record against the top 50. A 16-10 road record helped the Patriots build that quality RPI, and the committee is likely to reward them for it. But they have no series wins against likely regional teams, so they are far from a lock.


Mountain West (2 bids)
SAFELY IN: UNLV
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): San Diego State
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): New Mexico
One change from last week: New Mexico falls out of our field of 64.

The Lobos failed to sweep a home series against Air Force (which entered the series ranked 226th in the RPI), dropping UNM to No. 58 in the RPI and costing it a Mountain West regular-season title. Last year, the Lobos got an at-large spot with a No. 51 RPI, but that was after dominating the MWC in the regular season. This time around, they head into the conference tournament as the No. 2 seed—and they have work to do.

San Diego State is in better shape in the RPI (No. 50), has a better top 50 record (8-5 compared to New Mexico’s 7-9) and a better top 100 mark (13-8 to UNM’s 8-11). Winning nonconference series vs. West Virginia and at UC Irvine also help SDSU’s cause. So we’re leaning toward the Aztecs for an at-large spot over the Lobos, despite UNM’s three-game edge in the conference standings.


Pacific-12 (5 bids)
SAFELY IN: Oregon State, Washington, Oregon, Arizona State
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Stanford
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): None
One chance from last week: Stanford enters our field of 64.

The Cardinal took two of three from Washington State, improving it to 27-23 overall and 13-14 in the Pac-12. The Cardinal took care of business Monday against Pacific, so it needs just two more wins this weekend at Utah to reach 30. If it does so, it will be .500 in the Pac-12 and it should finish inside the top 50 in the RPI, giving it a good shot at a regional based on its rugged nonconference schedule. Of course, Stanford is just 5-13 against the top 25, and 9-15 against the top 50—but series wins against Kansas, Oregon and Arizona State look good on the resume.


Southeastern Conference (10 bids)
SAFELY IN: Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, LSU, Alabama, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Arkansas
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): None
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Tennessee, Georgia
No change from last week.
Tennessee's Nathaniel Maggio

Tennessee’s Nathaniel Maggio

Tennessee finished just 12-18 in the SEC, but its resume contains better series wins than most other bubble teams. Out of conference, the Vols swept UNLV and won two of three at Arizona State. In conference, they won home sets against Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

The problem is, the only other SEC series they won was at Missouri, giving them just three series wins in 10 conference weekends. Still, if the Vols can win Tuesday’s play-in game against Vanderbilt, they have a chance. If they can win three games in Hoover, they have a much better chance. That seems like a tall order.
The top 10 teams in the SEC have all done what they needed to do in order to secure themselves as at-large teams. We’re moving them all into the “safely in” category.


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 fell to No. 67 in the RPI after losing two of three at Arkansas-Little Rock. The Red Wolves won’t be an at-large team.