As college baseball heads into the second half of the season, the postseason picture is starting to take shape. The races for hosting regionals and at-large bids are becoming more defined as RPI becomes normalized and conferences get deeper into their seasons.
The NCAA has also adjusted the host site selection and instead of selecting the regional hosts the day before the Field of 64 is announced on Memorial Day, it will select the 16 hosts a few weeks in advance of Selection Monday. The changes are a result of the need to create a testing site at each regional, which can’t be done with just a few days of lead time.
Because of the unique hosting arrangement and the unpredictable nature of the pandemic and local regulations regarding crowd size and travel, it is too early to change the way we’re projecting bids to be awarded. Until we can report that a school is passing on the biding process, we will continue to assume every team in the mix will submit a bid later this month.
In this week’s update, there is one new host, as Louisiana Tech joins the group. The Bulldogs are off to an excellent 24-7 start, including a pair of wins against Arkansas and Mississippi. La Tech is 10-2 in Conference USA going into this weekend’s showdown with Southern Mississippi, which it already won a road series against. If the Bulldogs take care of business at Love Field this weekend and goes on to convincingly win its division, there is likely to be a regional at the Love Shack.
There are 10 SEC teams projected in this Field of 64, which would tie a record. Included in those 10 teams is Louisiana State, which last weekend got a critical series win at Kentucky. At 3-9 in SEC play after four weeks, the Tigers continue to have no margin for error. But, for now, they’ve done enough to hang on to one of the last bids.
The top Pac-12 teams are faring particularly well early in RPI. Both Arizona and Oregon rank in the top five of the metric and the conference has four other teams in the top 50. Meanwhile, the ACC is in a tighter spot in RPI with only two top-20 teams. RPI is ordinarily a flawed metric, but is especially so this year with less inter-conference and inter-region competition. Still, the selection committee has typically relied heavily on it.
So, with Arizona as the projected Pac-12 champion and a top-five RPI, it rises not just into the top-eight hosting sites, but all the way to No. 2. At this stage of the season, nothing is close to a lock in the top-eight seeds, but minimally the Wildcats are tracking well toward the status.
The Big 12 presents an interesting case. Four teams from the conference are ranked in the Top 25 and are in the hosting mix (in this projection three are hosts). But will the conference produce any more at-large bids? Through three weeks of Big 12 play, none of the other five teams in the conference have a winning conference record and none rank in even the top 60 of RPI. The Big 12 is good enough to produce a fifth bid, but to do so one of those five teams needs to close strong in conference play. Any of the five could be that team and Baylor appears on the bubble in this projection. To push into the projected field, however, one of that group will need to prove a bit more.
Baseball America will continue to update the projected field weekly throughout the spring.
|PROJECTED FIELD OF 64|
|1. (1) Arkansas^*||1. (16) Virginia Tech^|
|2. Nebraska||2. Florida|
|3. Stetson*||3. UCLA|
|4. Florida A&M*||4. Connecticut*|
|Tucson, Ariz.||Ruston, La.|
|1. (2) Arizona^*||1. (15) Louisiana Tech^*|
|2. Georgia||2. Florida State|
|3. San Diego State*||3. Louisiana-Lafayette*|
|4. Army*||4. Southeastern Louisiana*|
|Nashville||Fort Worth, Texas|
|1. (3) Vanderbilt^||1. (14) Texas Christian^|
|2. Old Dominion||2. Stanford|
|3. Ohio State||3. Wichita State|
|4. Southeast Missouri State*||4. Northeastern*|
|1. (4) Texas^*||1. (13) South Carolina^|
|2. Alabama||2. Pittsburgh|
|3. Dallas Baptist||3. Charlotte|
|4. Bryant*||4. South Carolina-Upstate*|
|1. (5) Louisville^*||1. (12) Mississippi^|
|2. Indiana State*||2. Southern Mississippi|
|3. Louisiana State||3. Clemson|
|4. North Dakota State*||4. Samford*|
|Starkville, Miss.||Lubbock, Texas|
|1. (6) Mississippi State^||1. (11) Texas Tech^|
|2. Miami||2. Oregon State|
|3. UC Santa Barbara||3. UC Irvine*|
|4. Jackson State*||4. Fairfield*|
|Greenville, N.C.||Eugene, Ore.|
|1. (7) East Carolina^*||1. (10) Oregon^|
|2. North Carolina||2. Oklahoma State|
|3. Arizona State||3. Gonzaga*|
|4. Fordham*||4. Sacramento State*|
|South Bend, Ind.||Knoxville, Tenn.|
|1. (8) Notre Dame^||1. (9) Tennessee^|
|2. Michigan*||2. Georgia Tech|
|3. Ball State*||3. Liberty|
|4. Wright State*||4. Stony Brook*|
^ Denotes host school
* Denotes automatic qualifier
Last Four In
UC Santa Barbara
First Four Out
Florida Gulf Coast
Next Four Out
North Carolina State