Stock Report: Week Nine

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 every Tuesday here on the College Blog, we 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 are released here on Tuesday afternoons). 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:

NATIONAL SEEDS

SECURE TEAMS: Virginia, South Carolina, Florida, Vanderbilt

ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Oregon State, Texas A&M, Arizona State, North Carolina

ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Cal State Fullerton, Texas, Georgia Tech, Florida State

One change from last week: Oregon State replaces Cal State Fullerton as a second national seed on the West Coast. The Titans did nothing to hurt their position last week, going 4-0 and climbing to No. 9 in the RPI. But they simply got passed on the pecking order by the Beavers, who swept a series at Stanford to improve to 8-1 in the Pac-10, good enough for first place. Oregon State is 10th in the RPI, but it plays in a better conference than Fullerton and has a 6-2 record against the top 25 in the RPI and a 16-4 mark against the top 100, compared with Fullerton's 1-3 mark against the top 25 and 13-9 mark against the top 100.

North Carolina slides from the "secure" category to the bubble after getting swept at North Carolina State, but the Tar Heels still get the nod over the Titans, Georgia Tech and Florida State based on a robust RPI (No. 5), a 7-1 record against the top 25 and a road series win at FSU. UNC also has the easiest path to a top-eight RPI at the end of the year; according to the RPI Needs Report, UNC just needs to go 10-8 to finish in the top eight.

REGIONAL HOSTS

SECURE TEAMS: The 12 teams listed in the national seeds discussion above

ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Southern Mississippi, Rice, Fresno State, Arkansas

ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Stetson, Oklahoma State

No change from last week. We are adjusting a small adjustment, moving Southern Miss onto the bubble along with Rice, Fresno State and Arkansas, all of whom had strong weekends to firm up their positions a bit. The Golden Eagles, meanwhile, actually fell to No. 15 in the RPI after playing three games against New Orleans (No. 276), but at least USM swept the series.

We're trimming our list of bubble candidates this week, leaving only Stetson and Oklahoma State, who seem to have the best shots at hosting. Stetson's 13-2 record against the Top 100 is its strongest asset, though its RPI is unlikely to stay as high as it is (No. 21) down the stretch. And the Cowboys moved past Oklahoma and Texas Christian in the hosting hierarchy after winning two of three against the Sooners. OSU has won series against preseason Big 12 favorites Texas and Oklahoma in the last four weeks.

AT-LARGE BIDS

There are 30 automatic bids awarded to conference champions, and these 19 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, Western Athletic.

Changes: We've added the Big East to the list of one-bid leagues after Louisville got swept by St. John's, dropping the Cardinals to No. 82 in the RPI. They no longer have a plausible path to an at-large bid. The WAC also becomes a one-bid league after San Jose State lost three of four games at New Mexico State, but if Fresno State fails to win the automatic bid, it will be a lock for an at-large bid. TCU is also a lock for an at-large bid if it fails to win the MWC tournament. Creighton (No. 38 in the RPI) and Coastal Carolina (No. 52, up from No. 74 a week ago) have shots at at-large bids if they fail to capture automatic bids, but their RPI situations make that an uphill battle. 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. Here are the changes from last week's field of 64 projection, in a nutshell:

IN: North Carolina State, Mississippi, Florida Atlantic, Jacksonville

OUT: Louisville, Alabama-Birmingham, East Tennessee State, Georgia Southern

Atlantic Coast Conference (7 total bids)

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

ON THE BUBBLE (IN): North Carolina State

ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): None

The Wolfpack moves back into our field of 64 after sweeping North Carolina. N.C. State still has work to do—it's still just 21-16 (8-10 in the ACC)—but an 8-11 finish would still land it in the top 45 of the RPI, and now it owns two quality series wins (Clemson was the other).

Atlantic Sun (2 bids)

SAFELY IN: Stetson

ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Jacksonville

ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): East Tennessee State

Jacksonville replaces ETSU after the Buccaneers were swept at Belmont. East Tennessee State still owns an inexplicably high RPI (No. 30), but has just two wins against the top 50, and it lost the head-to-head series against the Dolphins, who have passed ETSU to move into second place in the A-Sun (13-5).

Big 12 (5 bids)

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

ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Baylor

ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Texas Tech, Nebraska

No change from last week. Baylor is on very thin ice at 20-17 overall and 6-9 in the conference, but the Bears are strong in the RPI (27), have a solid 5-5 mark against the top 25 and a 10-7 mark against the top 100. They have avoided getting swept despite losing four of their first five conference series. Texas Tech and Nebraska, by contrast, are a combined 4-11 against the top 25.

Big West (3 bids)

SAFELY IN: Cal State Fullerton

ON THE BUBBLE (IN): UC Irvine, Long Beach State

ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): None

No change from last week, though Long Beach (No. 64 in the RPI) has little margin for error. But the needs report says a 15-7 finish gets the Dirtbags into the top 45.

Conference USA (4 bids)

SAFELY IN: Southern Miss, Rice, East Carolina

ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Central Florida

ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Memphis, Alabama-Birmingham, Tulane, Houston

UAB drops back out of the field after getting swept by Memphis and sinking to No. 86 in the RPI. Memphis (No. 75) and Houston (just 19-19 overall) are part of the four-way tie atop the C-USA standings, but both have lots of work to do to get to the right side of the bubble. UCF is in a precarious spot after losing its third straight conference series to fall to 4-8 in C-USA, but it is in much better shape in the RPI, and a 10-10 finish would land it in the top 45. The Knights stay in for now, by a thread. ECU firmed up its position with a series win against UCF, and the Pirates (No. 21) are in very good RPI shape.

Independents (1 bid)

SAFELY IN: None

ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Cal State Bakersfield

ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): None

No change from last week for the Roadrunners, who swept a pair of games at UC Davis.

Pacific-10 (6 bids)

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

ON THE BUBBLE (IN): None

ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Washington State

No change from last week.

Southeastern Conference (10 bids)

SAFELY IN: South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Florida, Arkansas, Georgia

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

ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): None.

Mississippi moves into our field as the 10th team in the SEC after sweeping Kentucky to move into a three-way tie for first place in the SEC West. LSU has lost four of its first five conference series to plummet to last place in the West at 4-11, and the Tigers remain in our field simply because there are not enough other bubble candidates with better records. For all its struggles, LSU is still 31st in the RPI, and an 11-8 finish can land it in the top 32 at the end of the year. Its 12-12 record against the top 100 also compares favorably with most other bubble dwellers. So can the SEC become the first conference to send 10 teams to regionals? It's a real possibility this year, with so few worthy at-large teams.

Southern Conference (1 bid)

SAFELY IN: Elon

ON THE BUBBLE (IN): None

ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Georgia Southern, Samford, College of Charleston

As Elon strengthens its hold on the SoCon (the Phoenix is 14-4 after taking a series from CofC), the league is looking more and more like a one-bid league. No other team in the league has an RPI better than No. 69. Georgia Southern drops out of our field after a 2-2 week, due to an RPI that has fallen to No. 85. The Eagles need a 17-1 finish to land in the top 45—a tall order.

Southland Conference (2 bids)

SAFELY IN: Texas State

ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Southeastern Louisiana

ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): None

No change from last week, but the Lions are on uneasy ground after losing a series to Texas State. For now, we'll leave Southeastern in the field thanks to a solid RPI (45) and a 13-7 mark against the top 100.

Sun Belt Conference (3 bids)

SAFELY IN: Troy

ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Western Kentucky, Florida Atlantic

ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Florida International, Louisiana-Lafayette

Florida Atlantic's six-game winning streak has helped it climb to No. 50 in the RPI and a tie with Western Kentucky for second place in the Sun Belt at 10-5. An 11-7 finish lands the Owls in the top 45 in the RPI, and they are certainly talented enough to do better than that down the stretch. The Owls are in, for now.

West Coast Conference (1 bid)

SAFELY IN: None

ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Gonzaga

ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Loyola Marymount

No change from last week. Gonzaga strengthened its position with a road series win at LMU, but with an RPI of 48th and the bulk of the RPI-draining WCC schedule still ahead, it remains on the at-large bubble.

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