College Top 25 Chat: May 21




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Aaron Fitt: Hi everybody. Welcome to the final Top 25 chat of the regular season. Hope you enjoyed a compelling final weekend of the regular season for most leagues. Now things are really getting interesting... let's chat.

    D.J. (Winona, MS): Last year, the committee left LSU out of the tournament because it 1) did not make its conference tournament and 2) played a weak non-conference schedule. Now that the SEC is letting 10 teams into its tournament, will the committee look more favorably on #9 and #10; or will the committee automatically reject anyone seeded below #8 just to prove their terrible logic can't be manipulated? I ask because Ole Miss has a worse resume this year than LSU did last year. Both finished 9th in the SEC and have RPIs of 23. LSU was 36-20 overall including an OOC sweep of Cal State Fullerton. Ole Miss is 34-22 overall with no top 30 OOC games played.

Aaron Fitt: You make some pretty good points there, D.J. The Rebels are one game better in the SEC (14-16 vs. 13-17), and generally 14-16 teams in the SEC get in�but should a one-game difference in the standings make that big of a difference? Some other considerations: LSU got swept three times last year, while Ole Miss just got swept for the first time this weekend. I think Ole Miss played a very solid nonconference schedule this year (TCU and UNCW won their conferences and will likely be at-large teams if they don't get automatic bids), but it's easy to forget LSU swept Fullerton last year. The more you look back at last year, the harder it is to believe LSU got snubbed. I don't foresee the committee repeating that mistake with Ole Miss, but you make enough good points that maybe Ole Miss should be a bit nervous.

    Curtis (Columbus): As much as us baseball fans like to criticize college football's championship system, can we really award South Carolina a national seed after losing a home series with supposedly everything on the line? It sounds a lot like Alabama's path to the football championship game.

Aaron Fitt: To me, the flaw in South Carolina's national seed case is that it lost all three of its series against the SEC's other big three. Obviously Kentucky has fallen out of national seed position with an RPI down at No. 19, and that will help the Gamecocks. There's a lot to be said for winning all those series in a row against the middle and bottom teams in the SEC, because that isn't easy. South Carolina will probably be rewarded for winning the East by getting a national seed — but you're right, its case isn't exactly a slam dunk, for me.

    Josh (Auckland, NZ): Hi Aaron, my question pertains to the Conference Tournaments and their impact on host/National Seed chances...Which teams could help themselves the most in terms of getting a host or a NS and which teams could hurt themselves the most with a poor week from host perspective or losing a NS wise?

Aaron Fitt: To piggyback on the last answer, I think South Carolina could lose a national seed with an 0-2 week, opening the door for a team like Rice to snatch a national seed with a strong conference tournament. Maybe Texas A&M could sneak into a national seed too. As for the hosts, it's starting to feel like all the hosts are set except on the West Coast, where Arizona, Fullerton and Stanford are competing for two spots. A&M's surge into the top eight in the RPI and its strong finish in Big 12 play probably secures it as a host, leapfrogging Arizona and Fullerton in the pecking order (even though the Wildcats and Titans still have more quality wins). A&M, as I've mentioned repeatedly, is just 1-6 against the top 25 in the RPI, while Arizona is 7-6. The Titans (4-6 vs. the top 25) might be on the outside looking in despite winning two of three at College Station. Maybe A&M or Virginia falls out of a host spot with a really poor conference tournament showing, because all those other candidates are strong... but that seems unlikely to me. Four West hosts seems more likely. Rambling answer to your question, sorry.

    Harris (Dallas): If Rice wins the C-USA tourney, does that give them a national seed? At that point I think only South Carolina could take it away from them.

Aaron Fitt: I think you've got it handicapped correctly — it could come down to the Owls and Gamecocks for the last national seed. That is still in play this week, I think.

    Chip (Houston): How in the mix is Texas A&M for the #8 seed? Would a Big 12 tournament championship do it? When you combine our RPI, record against top 50 RPI opponents, late season hot streak, and crown jewel of a stadium, you'd think the committee would show the love, right?

Aaron Fitt: I think a Big 12 tournament title could do it, especially if South Carolina and Rice don't have great weeks. The Aggies really have come on strong�didn't see them factoring into this discussion a month ago, but they have elbowed their way in. Still, a lack of top 25 victories holds them back. That's why this week is important.

    Donnell (Ft Lewis): Aaron, die hard LSU Tiger fan here, how impressive is this team to beat both FLA, USC, and Ole Miss on the road this year and is there anyway that you see this team not being a national seed even if they are two and done in the SEC Tournament. Love the coverage of college baseball that you give us daily. Thanks.

Aaron Fitt: Very impressive to win all those series on the road — that helped us jump LSU back up to No. 2 in the rankings this week. It's not just that LSU won the SEC outright (although that is very impressive), but also that they did it by winning those road series. I think LSU is a lock for a national seed now regardless of Hoover.

    Steve L. (Corvallis, OR): What is your take on the Ducks visiting the Beavers this weekend? Has Michael Conforto (.349 avg., 13 HR, 69 RBI) pushed himself to Freshman POY?

Aaron Fitt: What a great series to end the season — the Pac-12 did it right this year, with all the natural rivalries scheduled for the last weekend (that Arizona-Arizona State series is incredibly compelling). And of course you've got Utah taking on its natural rivals, Cal State Bakersfield and UC Santa Barbara. Let's hear it for conference realignment... Anyway, that series could go either way. The Beavers are young and dangerous but also streaky, so they're a tough team to predict. Oregon has been very steady all year, by and large, but it finishes with a five-game week (two midweeks against Portland) that could tax its pitching a bit heading into this weekend. The Ducks have handled those five-game weeks very well this year, but that is a factor, and the fact that this series is in Corvallis leads me to pick the upset. Beavers take two of three, I say, and Arizona takes two of three against A-State, and UCLA and Stanford sweep — resulting in a four-way tie atop the Pac-12! As for Freshman of the Year, it's a two-man race between Conforto and Carlos Rodon (we don't give separate awards for pitcher and player).

    GalvoAg (Galveston, TX): Aaron- I want to believe my Aggie's belong with the big boys. We have a great RPI and an impressive record. Our pitchers are dominant. However, we've only played 7 games against teams with a shot of making it to Omaha - Baylor, Rice and Fullerton. We played 5 of those games at home. We went 1-6. Tell me we are for real.

Aaron Fitt: You have pointed out the real flaws in Texas A&M's resume — but regardless, I certainly believe the Aggies are for real. I just don't see many teams beating Wacha and Stripling in the postseason, and I like the overall balance of that club. Every time I've seen A&M this year, I come away with the impression that it is a really good, complete team. I continue to believe the Aggies will be an Omaha team and a top contender for the national title, 1-6 against the top 25 be damned.

    Peter (Chicago): What does Michigan State have to do in the Big Ten tournament to receive an at-large bid?

Aaron Fitt: I really don't feel good about the fifth-place team in the Big Ten as an at-large team. I thought the Spartans would get in if they won that home series against Penn State this weekend, and they did not. So they will not be an at-large team. Automatic bid or bust.

    Francis (Chicago): Aaron, How many bids is CUSA going to get do you think? If the number is greater than or equal to 3 does that mean Tulane is in over ECU? They have won the season series, finished ahead of them in regular season conference standings, and just have straight up more wins. Are we really going to be punished because Alabama laid an egg this season and a couple of other teams we played ended up being horrible RPI teams instead of just the standard tune up RPI teams? Would it be spiteful if I rooted for only two teams from CUSA if ECU were to #3 getting in over Tulane. Thanks, sorry if this was a bit long, but it's that time of year.

Aaron Fitt: I am always prone to judging teams based on how they fare against the best opponents on their schedules, rather than penalizing them too much for the records of the weaker opponents on their schedule (especially if they take care of business against the soft teams). Using that standard, Tulane still went just 1-5 against the two best teams it played (Rice and UCF) and lost a series against a nonconference bubble team (Wichita State). The best thing on its resume is a series win at an East Carolina team that is pretty mediocre, as you suggested and I agree with. That said, I like Tulane's resume more than ECU's and think it is more deserving of a bid, because the Pirates haven't won any series against at-large teams (their best series is sweeping a good Stony Brook team). ECU has to be considered on the bubble (just compare it with LSU's resume last year, and it's no contest for me — LSU's resume was much better). But there's no getting around that 35-spot RPI gap, as misleading as it may be. ECU probably gets in with a couple wins in Pearl, whereas Tulane might need to do more than that. It gets awfully sloppy trying to sort out the bubble this year — and Tulane is largely to blame! The Green Wave has a weird resume, and it complicates everything. Thanks for making Stock Report a nightmare, Tulane!

    Good2BeGold (Vandyland): With the sweep of Ole Miss and a guaranteed winning record, is Vandy a lock for the NCAA tournament? How dangerous will they be in Hoover and the NCAA tournament?

Aaron Fitt: The 'Dores are a lock — take that one to the bank. That was an awfully loud finishing kick, just a furious second-half rally. I think they're very dangerous — loaded with quality arms and hard-nosed everyday players with Omaha experience. And they're brimming with confidence.

    Kurt (Oregon): Hypothetically, if Oregon State can beat the Ducks in their first two games this weekend, do they have any shot at hosting a regional?

Aaron Fitt: No chance — too many teams in front of them. I've already got 17 very worthy hosts for 16 spots — either Fullerton, Arizona, Stanford, Virginia or A&M is going to have to be on the road, and all those teams have better resumes than Oregon State.

    Brett (Florida): FSU is still #1?...i guess i will go ahead and print this poll off, so i can throw it in the garbage where it belongs.

Aaron Fitt: Throw it in the garbage, Brett! That'll show us!

    Bill (Atlanta, GA): Before their last head to head game you said you considered Georgia a safer NCAA pick than Georgia Tech. Yet GT has a better record, a better RPI, and went on to beat UGA 2 out of 3. Neither is Top 25 by anyone. I'm not claiming GT is safe - far from it. I think they need to win 2 out of 3 this week, a very difficult thing. I just don't see how UGA is in even as good a position. Do you still think so? Thanks.

Aaron Fitt: Yeah, Georgia has really tumbled. With an RPI of No. 50, the Bulldogs definitely need to make a deep run this week in Hoover to get back into at-large position — it's hard to win 14 SEC games and still have an RPI that low. That said, I'm still more impressed with Georgia going 14-15 in the SEC than I am with Tech going 12-18 in the ACC. But Georgia Tech has one quality series win (at UNC), and Georgia has one (vs. Ole Miss — not as impressive). And Tech has that 14-spot RPI advantage and the head-to-head series advantage over UGa. You can slice it a number of ways — the bottom line is both teams need to do work this weekend.

    JAYNE (LONG BEACH, CA): HELLO, WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON NEW MEXICO'S D J PETERSON? AND WILL THE LOBOS GET INTO THE DANCE?

Aaron Fitt: I wrote about Peterson on the College Blog in today's Golden Spikes Spotlight (http://www.baseballamerica.com/blog/college/2012/05/three-strikes-week-14-2/). He's an awfully dangerous hitter with electric bat speed. The Lobos have played themselves into the at-large discussion, but they'll need to keep bringing up that RPI (No. 62) into the 50s at least in order to have a shot. I like their case better than, say, ECU's or Tulane's. New Mexico has more top 50 wins than either of them.

    Steven (Montgomery, AL): Aaron, you mentioned Auburn needs a deep run in the SEC tourney to get an at-large bid. What qualifies as a deep run? 2-2 seems like a long shot in my mind considering who our potential opponents are. We haven't been good against the teams on our side of the bracket. Would 2 wins be enough in your mind?

Aaron Fitt: With an RPI of No. 53 and a 13-17 SEC mark, I think 2-2 is not enough. Maybe three wins — Auburn does have four very impressive series wins (at Ole Miss, at Arkansas, vs. LSU, vs. Mississippi State). If only Auburn hadn't been swept by Alabama, it wouldn't be in this position — it would be in safely.

    Taylor (Houston): Aaron - does Texas make the post-season?

Aaron Fitt: Ultimately, yes... but they better not go 0-2 in OKC.

    Chris S. (Baton Rouge, LA): Raph Rhymes went 4 for 11 this weekend and dropped to a .469 batting average. Kind of hard to be disappointed about a .469, but how do you think this affects his chances to win player of the year?

Aaron Fitt: Rhymes doesn't hit for much power and doesn't play a premium defensive position, so his candidacy is based largely on his gaudy batting average. James Ramsey is slugging 100 points higher and has a nearly identical OBP while playing center field — for me, he's still got the upper hand on Rhymes. But .469 is still very loud, and it does keep Rhymes in the discussion. The batting average stat has its limitations as a measure of offensive productivity, however.

    Shawn (Fort Worth): TCU's FRHP Preston Morrison has to be the front runner or freshman of the year. He is 9-0 with a 1.55 era, 61 SO to only 8 walks, and opponents are hitting .189 against him. Those numbers are beyond belief for a true freshman that does not have over-powering stuff. So the question becomes, where is he in your freshman of the year running? Also, how do you're TCU doing in the post season?

Aaron Fitt: He's had an amazing season and is definitely in the discussion, but for me he's behind Carlos Rodon, who has a similar W-L record and ERA while posting a much higher strikeout rate and doing it in a stronger conference and a less pitcher-friendly ballpark. And TCU should be safe for an at-large spot regardless of this weekend.

    Jason (Austin): How much trouble is Texas in? All along you all have said they would be fine and get it together, well they are terrible across the board right now. Will they have to win the Big12 championship in order to reach the postseason?

Aaron Fitt: I think early on I said they'd be fine but never said they'd be elite�I came to the conclusion very quickly that this is not a special Texas team, and I've been saying for months now that they are very ordinary. That said, I don't think they have to win the Big 12 tourney to get in. One win this week keeps them on the bubble (but probably in), and two wins gets them in, I say.

    Doug (Baum Stadium): Aaron—Great work all the time and the twitter updates have rocked. I'll be the first to admit that my Hogs have had a disappointing season but I believe BAs ranking underestimates them given their strong RPI (16, I believe) and the fact that their pythagorean numbers (158 runs scored v 128 runs agains in SEC play) suggests that they've been unlucky (60% expected win rate vs 52% in SEC play). What's your take on their prosepects in the tournament?

Aaron Fitt: Thanks for the kind words, Doug. I will say, first of all, that I don't believe in using the RPI as a justification for ranking any team — the RPI is extremely flawed, and I only refer to it because we know for a certainty that the committee uses it very heavily to fill out its field of 64. The RPI has East Carolina as the No. 24 team when all the rest of its resume points suggest it shouldn't even be a regional team. The RPI has Miami 14th, and Miami is a mediocre club that is rightfully outside our Top 25 right now. The RPI has Maryland No. 27, and the Terps went 10-20 in their league. Dallas Baptist 22? New Mexico State 26? Those teams have had nice enough years, but there's no way they're top 30 teams in the country right now. Sorry about that little tangent... as for the Hogs, they have lost four of their last six series and head into the SEC tournament as the No. 6 seed. That's a borderline Top 25 season, regardless of their RPI or their talent. And I happen to believe in their talent quite a bit — I still think that's a very dangerous team in the postseason, capable of making an Omaha run. I had Arkansas as a CWS team heading into the year, and depending on its draw I might stick with Arkansas as an Omaha team when I see the brackets. But the resume is uninspiring.

    Tiger 1 (SC): What is happening at Clemson...how can you take a series from FSU and get swept by Wake? Nothing against Wake because they are a good club but they are not FSU. Sounds like Clemson is a solid 3 seed again.

Aaron Fitt: Yeah, what a weird up-and-down season for the Tigers. Clemson's RPI is strong enough (No. 25) that it could still be a No. 2 seed, but I'd like to see a couple wins in the conference tournament to make sure.

    Paul (Washington, DC): Maryland has significantly improved over the past three years under Coach Erik Bakich. With RPI around 30 reflecting a number of quality wins and playing in a tough conference, what are the chances the Terps will be rewarded this year with an at-large bid?

Aaron Fitt: Virtually no chance — just can't overcome that 10-20 ACC record. They definitely have made progress, though. The fact that Bakich has gotten that program to a place where it is even in the discussion for an at-large spot (and inside the top 30 in the RPI) is a significant turnaround.

    Josh (San Luis Obispo, CA): What are the chances Cal Poly SLO can slip into the regional mix? Where do you see their center fielder Mitch Haniger going in this year's draft?

Aaron Fitt: With an RPI of No. 74, the chances are miniscule at best. I see Haniger as the top college position player drafted out of SoCal this year — I'll say supplemental first round, no later than second round.

    Adam (Starkville): What does Mississippi State need to do in the SEC tournament to host a regional? How far can the Bulldog pitching staff take them in the NCAA tournament

Aaron Fitt: Just not gonna happen — too many teams ahead in the pecking order (see my answer above about Oregon State). But I do believe MSU is very dangerous in the postseason because of that deep staff. John Manuel's preseason Omaha sleeper might very well come through for him. We'll see how the draw looks.

    Justin (Fullerton, CA): Tough weekend series loss for the Titans. Any chance they still host a regional? Or do you see them getting sent to UCLA as a Number 2 seed?

Aaron Fitt: Sure, there's still a chance. RPI isn't everything — UCLA hosted last year with an RPI outside the top 25. Of course, UCLA was the Pac-10 champion last year, and that is more meaningful than being the Big West champion, especially this year. This weekend was definitely a blow, but that lost host spot is still in play, and the Titans are right in the mix for it.

    Jason (Minnesota): Aaron, Quick fact to start. Vandy pitching held Raph Rhymes and Alex Yarbrough to 3 for 25 at the plate the past two weekends. Would it be fair to say that this staff may not have a true #1 starter, but it has 4 "#2 starters" in Pecoraro, Selman, Ziomek, and Beede. Also, can Vandy do anything to earn a 2 seed? Thanks, Jason

Aaron Fitt: Great stat, Jason! It's an interesting staff because all of those guys have serious upside, but their lack of consistency prevents any of them from being a bona fide No. 1, as you say. On any given day, those guys can beat anybody�or give you 3.1 innings. Maybe you'd rather have a solid, reliable veteran with less prospect cachet as your No. 2 — somebody more like Taylor Hill. But that is a nice group.

Aaron Fitt: OK folks, that'll do it for this week. Thanks for all the great questions, as usual!