This time of year, a hefty majority of all questions submitted in our weekly college chat, as well as those sent via e-mail or Twitter,
center around the battle for postseason positioning. Our readers want to know how the races for national seeds, host sites and at-large bids are shaping up—so it's time to roll out our weekly Stock Report feature.
Every Tuesday here on the College Blog, we'll examine how the postseason picture has shifted over the weekend. 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 pseudo Ratings Percentage Index figures at boydsworld.com, which are very close to the NCAA's official RPI rankings (which have not been released yet). We'll also reference the useful RPI Needs Report at Boyd's World. And we'll make use of records against the top 25, 50 or 100 in the RPI—there is some margin for error with those figures, but they are accurate enough to serve our purposes.
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 eight weeks of the season:
SECURE TEAMS: Vanderbilt, Virginia, South Carolina, Florida, North Carolina
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Texas A&M, Cal State Fullerton, Arizona State
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Texas, Oregon State, Georgia Tech, Florida State
The major change from last week's midseason field of 64 projection is that North Carolina replaces Florida State as a national seed. The Tar Heels already had the stronger RPI, but we projected FSU as the national seed in part because we expected the Seminoles to win their home series against the Tar Heels this past weekend. Instead, UNC won that series on the road and took a strong hold on a national seed spot. Georgia Tech remains on the outside looking in after losing a home series to Virginia.
Arizona State falls from the "Secure" category to the bubble after getting swept at Oregon State, but the Sun Devils are still fifth in the
RPI, while the first-place Beavers are 18th. ASU also has the stronger nonconference resume (highlighted by a 5-2 record against Auburn, Oklahoma and Cal State Fullerton, with five of those games on the road),
so for now we'll let the Sun Devils keep the Pac-10's national seed. Arizona State has proven resilient, and we expect it to bounce back as conference play continues, starting with a home series this weekend against Washington State.
Texas A&M and Texas are tied for first place in the Big 12, but for now the Aggies get the nod for the national seed based on a significant edge in the RPI (No. 10 vs. No. 23).
Cal State Fullerton is on precarious ground for a national seed, thanks to a 1-6 record against the top 25 in the RPI, but winning two of
three against UC Irvine this past weekend puts the Titans in the driver's seat in the Big West, and they do have a more respectable 13-9 mark against the top 100. And there's no other West team with a better case.
Southern Mississippi has a national seed-caliber RPI (No. 8), but its resume is not nearly strong enough for a national seed, especially after it dropped a series to Memphis this weekend.
SECURE TEAMS: The 12 teams listed in the national seeds discussion above, Southern Mississippi
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Rice, Fresno State, Arkansas
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Stetson, Georgia, Oklahoma, Troy, Texas Christian, Stanford, Miami, Oklahoma State
Changes from last week's field of 64 projection: Oregon State, Fresno State and Arkansas replace Oklahoma, Stanford and LSU as hosts.
The Beavers have opened Pac-10 play with a road series win at Arizona and a sweep of Arizona State—a very impressive two-week stretch that vaulted them into the national seed discussion, and put them in very good hosting position. Fresno State didn't have a great week, going
2-2 at San Jose State, but it wasn't a terrible week, either. The Bulldogs have a nice 14-3 record against the top 100 in the RPI, and they move into hosting position largely because of disappointing weekends by Oklahoma, Stanford and LSU—all of which lost road series. LSU falls all the way off the hosting bubble after getting swept at Arkansas and falling into the SEC West basement (3-9).
The Hogs, meanwhile, vault into hosting position with the sweep—they
suddenly have an impressive 5-4 record against the top 25 in the RPI. That's not as good as Stetson's 6-1 mark against the top 25 (and the Hatters also have a 12-2 record against the top 100, compared to Arkansas' 10-6 mark). But Arkansas is on track to finish with a huge RPI
edge over the Hatters. The RPI Needs Report says the Hogs can go 15-9 the rest of the way to finish with an RPI in the top 16, while Stetson would need to go 23-0. Those numbers are just a rough guide, but the point is Stetson's RPI is certain to drop from No. 20, while Arkansas has a solid chance to maintain its No. 12 RPI. So the Hogs get the nod.
Rice also improved its hosting position with a road series win against East Carolina. The Owls are tied for first place in C-USA, and their strength of schedule is a major asset: they are 10-8 against the top 50 and 15-12 against the top 100.
There are 30 automatic bids awarded to conference champions, and these 17 are safe bets to be one-bid leagues:
America East, Atlantic 10, Big South, Big Ten, Colonial Athletic Association, Horizon, Ivy, Metro-Atlantic, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern, Missouri Valley, Mountain West, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Summit,
TCU is a lock for an at-large bid if it fails to win the MWC automatic bid. Creighton (No. 53 in the RPI), Kent State (24, but the MAC schedule is certain to hurt that ranking), Michigan State (61) and Coastal Carolina (74) have shots at at-large bids if they fail to capture automatic bids, but their RPI situations make that an uphill battle. Charlotte (89) has a remote chance at an at-large bid as well, if it fails to win the A-10. But for this exercise, let's assume all 17 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 eight weeks. In addition to swapping Creighton for Wichita State as the MVC's automatic qualifier, here are the changes from last week's field of 64 projection, in a nutshell:
IN: East Tennessee State, Western Kentucky, Southeastern Louisiana, Mississippi State, Alabama-Birmingham
OUT: North Carolina State, Oregon, Florida International, Mississippi, College of Charleston
Atlantic Coast Conference (6 total bids)
SAFELY IN: Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Miami, Clemson
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): None
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): North Carolina State
One change from last week: N.C. State slides out of the field after getting swept at Miami. The Wolfpack is just 5-10 in the conference and 18-15 overall. It is just 4-10 against the top 50, 8-13 against the top 100, and has lost five of its seven weekend series. Any way you slice it, that's not a regional resume, at this point.
Atlantic Sun (2 bids)
SAFELY IN: Stetson
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): East Tennessee State
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Jacksonville
The A-Sun has a strong chance to send multiple teams to regionals this year, as Stetson looks like a firm at-large team even if its fails to win the conference tournament, and ETSU and Jacksonville are good at-large contenders. ETSU gets the league's second bid thanks to a stronger RPI (No. 22 vs. No. 47), but it's worth noting that Jacksonville won the head-to-head series between the two, and Jacksonville has a stronger record against the top 100 (10-5, compared to ETSU's 7-7). It is possible for all three A-Sun teams to get bids, especially since some of the bubble teams in the SoCon and Sun Belt have
major holes in their resumes. For now, though, we'll leave Jacksonville
out because of RPI concerns.
Big 12 (5 bids)
SAFELY IN: Texas A&M, Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Baylor
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Texas Tech, Kansas State
No change from last week. Kansas State put itself back into the bubble discussion with a big series win against Oklahoma, but the Wildcats still have a ways to go, as they're still just 4-8 in the league and 6-10 against the top 100. Texas Tech's 1-5 mark against the top 25 and 3-9 record against the top 50 keep it out for now.
Big East (2 bids)
SAFELY IN: None
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Louisville, Connecticut
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): West Virginia
We're cheating a bit here: Connecticut (No. 79) has very little chance to snag an at-large bid, but we're still projecting the first-place Huskies to win the automatic bid. Louisville has the stronger at-large case, with a No. 51 RPI and a 10-4 mark against the top 100. But the Cardinals need to finish very strong to strengthen their at-large position, because that RPI puts them right on the bubble,
and there's not a lot of margin for error in the Big East.
Big West (3 bids)
SAFELY IN: Cal State Fullerton
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): UC Irvine, Long Beach State
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): None
Irvine slipped toward the bubble with a series loss at Fullerton. The Anteaters have a decent RPI (No. 41), but they are just 1-5 against the top 50 and 5-7 against the top 100. Fourteen of their wins have come
against teams outside the top 150, so clearly Irvine can't afford to stumble much in Big West play. Long Beach State hurt its cause with a series loss to 7-19 UC Davis, but the Dirtbags retain a tenuous grip on an at-large spot by virtue of a decent 4-6 mark against the top 25. LBSU
played a tough nonconference schedule and did not get swept, and it will be rewarded for that if it can finish in the top three of the Big West.
Conference USA (5 bids)
SAFELY IN: Southern Miss, Rice, East Carolina
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Central Florida, Alabama-Birmingham
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Tulane, Houston, Memphis
UAB moves into our field of 64 after following up its series win against ECU by winning a road series at Houston, moving the Blazers into
a three-way tie atop the C-USA standings. UAB has some work to do in the RPI (No. 73), but Boyd's says it can finish in the top 32 with an 18-7 finish, and the top 45 with a 16-9 finish. That won't be easy in the rigorous Conference USA, but for now, we'll reward UAB for its strong start in C-USA play.
UCF and Tulane have gotten off to closer starts in conference play—both are just 3-6. But the Knights have the stronger RPI (No. 29 vs. No. 52), and they are much healthier, so they get the nod. But the Green Wave did breathe some life into its at-large hopes by taking two of three at UCF this past weekend. Both teams are squarely on the bubble, along with UAB. Houston (just .500 overall) and Memphis (No. 72 in the RPI) have more work to do.
Independents (1 bid)
SAFELY IN: None
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Cal State Bakersfield
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): None
The Roadrunners remain in our field of 64 after taking two of three from Cal State Northridge. Bakersfield is 39th in the RPI.
Pacific-10 (6 bids)
SAFELY IN: Arizona State, Oregon State, Stanford, California, Arizona, UCLA
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): None
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Washington State, Oregon
Oregon drops out of our field after losing a road series to Washington and falling to 1-5 in the Pac-10. The Ducks are just 15-14 overall, they are 104th in the RPI, they are just 1-6 against the top 100, and they have lost the benefit of the doubt we gave them last week based on their talent.
Arizona firmed up its position with a series win against Cal. UCLA still has RPI woes (No. 86), but that number will improve steadily as conference play continues, and a 19-9 finish would land the Bruins in the top 32. Plus they have gotten off to a 7-2 start in Pac-10 play, so we're leaving them in the "Safely In" category for now.
Southeastern Conference (9 bids)
SAFELY IN: Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Florida, Arkansas, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana State
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Auburn, Mississippi State
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Mississippi
The SEC is muddled. At this point, 10 teams—all except Tennessee and
Kentucky—can entertain realistic at-large hopes, and it's not out of the realm of possibility that all 10 could wind up with bids, but no conference has ever landed more than nine, and that is a far more realistic scenario.
We're making one change from last week, replacing Ole Miss with Mississippi State. Those two teams have very comparable resumes (The Rebels are 30th in the RPI, while the Bulldogs are 31st, and both teams are 5-7 in the SEC), but MSU is 6-7 against the top 25, while Ole Miss is just 2-5. Mississippi State helped itself a bit last week, going 2-2 against Southern Miss and Florida, while the Rebels hurt themselves, going 1-3 against Memphis and Georgia.
Auburn is also on the bubble, with an 18-14 overall mark, but the Tigers helped their cause with a sweep of Kentucky last week, so they stay in our field. We're keeping LSU (just 3-9 in the SEC) out of the bubble category by a thread, based almost solely on its series sweep of Cal State Fullerton. But this weekend's LSU-Auburn series is huge.
Alabama also needs to firm up its position, but we're leaving it in the "Safely In" category while it remains in first place in the SEC West. But the Tide is just 6-12 against the top 100, and 13 of its wins have come against teams outside the top 150, so the foundation is a bit shaky.
Southern Conference (2 bids)
SAFELY IN: None
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Elon, Georgia Southern
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): College of Charleston, Samford
The SoCon is maybe the most difficult conference to get a handle on,
with the landscape shifting week to week. Elon is now in the driver's seat, with a 12-3 conference record and a decent RPI (No. 38), but its resume lacks big wins. The Phoenix is 0-5 against the top 50, keeping it
on the bubble. Georgia Southern has a pair of top 25 wins (Georgia Tech, Florida) and a decent 10-10 mark against the top 100, as well as a
series win at College of Charleston, all of which is enough to give the
Eagles the nod over the Cougars, even though GSU has a lot of work to do in the RPI. It ranks 80th currently, and needs a very strong finish to land in bubble range.
The road is easier for the Cougars, who are No. 58 in the RPI, but their resume lacks good wins. Charleston is just 4-8 against the top 100, and a series loss at The Citadel this past weekend drops CofC out of our field of 64.
Southland Conference (2 bids)
SAFELY IN: Texas State
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Southeastern Louisiana
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): None
Southeastern Louisiana moves into our field of 64 after winning its second straight conference series. The Lions have a decent RPI (No. 49) and a 10-5 mark against the top 100 (including four wins against the top
50). That compares favorably with the resumes of other bubble dwellers,
like College of Charleston.
Sun Belt Conference (2 bids)
SAFELY IN: Troy
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Western Kentucky
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Florida International, Louisiana-Lafayette
The Hilltoppers move into our field after a big 3-1 week against Louisville and Louisiana-Lafayette. WKU still has work to do in the RPI (No. 65), but it sits in second place in the Sun Belt, three games ahead
of FIU, which drops out of our field despite a stronger RPI (No. 39). Western is 4-4 against the top 50 and 7-7 against the top 100. Still, the Hilltoppers' position is precarious.
West Coast Conference (1 bid)
SAFELY IN: None
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Gonzaga
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Loyola Marymount
Gonzaga looks like the WCC favorite after opening conference play with a sweep of San Diego, and its RPI is in at-large territory (No. 44). Loyola Marymount has a shot at an at-large, with a decent RPI (No. 56), but its 2-5 mark against the top 100 keeps it out for now.
Western Athletic Conference (1 bid)
SAFELY IN: Fresno State
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): None
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): San Jose State
The Spartans have a great series win at UCLA and a split against Fresno State, but they are still just 69th in the RPI, and Boyd's says a
24-0 finish would land them in the top 45. The RPI is working against SJSU, so it lands on the wrong side of our bubble.