2023 NCAA Tournament Projected Field of 64 (4/26/23)

College baseball is nearly into the stretch run of the regular season. There are 33 days until Selection Monday and the focus is increasingly on the postseason race.

Still, at this time of the season, there is some projection involved with building a Field of 64. This is meant to illustrate what the tournament would look like on Selection Monday, not how it would be seeded if it started tomorrow.

We can no longer brush off RPI, however. There is enough data to take it seriously. That doesn’t mean that teams can’t fix a bad RPI or ruin what they’ve already put together, but no longer can we say it’s early and just expect the number to work itself out. Teams like Maryland, Southern California and Texas Tech, which are easily included as at-large teams here but have RPIs above 55, need to work to improve that number down the stretch or risk ending up on the bubble—or worse.

The reverse is also true. We must take Connecticut, Dallas Baptist, Indiana and Indiana State seriously as potential hosts. These are teams at the top of their conference standings and with top-16 RPIs. Their margin for error might be less than a team in the ACC or SEC, but they would need to take real downturns to fall out of contention.

This week’s projection includes a few new hosts as Boston College, Duke, Indiana State and West Virginia move onto the host line. BC flips spots with UConn following its sweep at North Carolina. The Northeast could plausibly have multiple hosts, but BC already has the edge in RPI and its ACC slate makes it likely to hold it over UConn. Duke has surged over the last few weeks and now has a top-15 RPI and is among the ACC’s leaders. West Virginia has pushed into the top 20 in RPI and is in first place in the Big 12.

Indiana State is the hosting race’s most surprising entrant. But the Sycamores have a 14-game winning streak, which has helped them shoot up in RPI (9) and now has them firmly in first place in the Missouri Valley Conference. They’ve played an incredibly difficult schedule (their non-conference strength of schedule is No. 1 and overall strength of schedule is 24) and while they’re just 2-9 against top-50 opponents, that mark won’t necessarily hold them back. Their resume is likely to end up looking a lot like Georgia Southern’s did a year ago. The Eagles hosted last season when they ranked 11th in RPI, 33rd in overall strength of schedule, fourth in non-conference strength of schedule and finished as runners-up in the Sun Belt standings and conference tournament. Every year is different, but if the Sycamores can maintain their position for the next month, they’ll likely be rewarded.

Just missing as hosts in this projection were UConn, DBU, East Carolina and Southern Miss. All are in the mix with the Patriots holding the strongest resume to date. ECU has become accustomed to having home-field advantage for regionals, having hosted four straight seasons, and could well make that five straight. But after getting swept at Wichita State last weekend, ECU is 5-10 away from home and has gone 1-5 against Houston and Wichita State, the two teams it is competing with for the conference title. ECU could flip the script down the stretch as it has a much easier conference slate to come but that schedule is more likely to harm than help its RPI, leaving the Pirates with little margin for error.

It’s still too early to really get into the tournament bubble, but last week’s results certainly shook up the bubble race. Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee landed huge sweeps in SEC play, opening clear paths for both teams to at-large bids. Clemson and Notre Dame made similar moves in ACC play. On the flip side, Louisiana-Lafayette, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Missouri and North Carolina State all suffered significant setbacks to their bubble hopes.

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