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Bubble Watch: Auburn, Texas A&M Score Key Wins

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Mitchell Kilkenny (Photo by Danny Parker)

As conference tournaments heat up around the country, teams have just a few more chances to improve their standing in the NCAA Tournament race. We look at the winners and losers from Wednesday’s action.

Winners

Auburn: The Tigers came into the week ranked No. 12 in RPI but after finishing at .500 in Southeastern Conference play, the Tigers still had work to do to earn a hosting bid. Auburn got a crucial victory in Tuesday’s play-in round and then doubled down on that Wednesday with a 9-3 victory against Mississippi to advance in the winners’ bracket of the SEC Tournament. Auburn remains No. 12 in the RPI and is now 17-15 in conference games. That may be enough to already put Auburn on the host line, but another victory – which would see the Tigers through to Saturday’s semifinals – would likely secure it. Auburn will get a chance to get that win Thursday with ace Casey Mize on the mound against Texas A&M.

Michigan: The Wolverines spent much of the spring leading the Big Ten Conference standings but went 1-5 in conference play over the last two weekends. That dropped Michigan to third in the standings and No. 53 in the RPI. It on Wednesday got a key 2-1 victory against Iowa on the opening day of the Big Ten Tournament in Omaha. That sets up another game for Michigan against Purdue, which swept the Wolverines last weekend to pass them in the standings for second place. The Wolverines need to keep winning and Wednesday was a good start.

Texas A&M: The Aggies came to the SEC Tournament on the regionals bubble owing to their 13-17 SEC record. Texas A&M has done its best to play itself off the bubble the first two days in Hoover, Ala. It on Tuesday opened the tournament with a win against Vanderbilt and on Wednesday beat Georgia, 7-0, to advance in the winners’ bracket. The Aggies would do well to avoid taking two more losses, which would drop their conference record to 15-19, but with 15 SEC wins, an RPI of 15 and the rest of their strong metrics, the Aggies can feel good about their position going into Thursday’s matchup with Auburn.

Texas Christian: Getting swept last weekend at Texas left TCU in a position where it needs to win the Big 12 Conference Tournament. It got off to a strong start in that regard Wednesday, routing Texas Tech, 12-2. The top four seeds in the tournament all lost Wednesday, leaving the field wide open for a team such as the Horned Frogs to make a run.

Losers

Central Florida: The Knights went two-and-out in the American Athletic Conference Tournament, a result that shouldn’t drop them out of the NCAA Tournament field but does drop them closer to the bubble. UCF had a tough draw, and on Tuesday lost to East Carolina before falling 6-2 to Houston, the regular-season conference champion. Now, UCF ranks No. 39 in RPI and is 13-12 in conference games. Strongly in UCF’s favor, however are its dozen wins against top-50 RPI opponents.

Dallas Baptist: The Patriots finished in second place in the Missouri Valley Conference standings and have been staples in the Projected Field of 64 all year. But a 13-10 loss Wednesday to Valparaiso to open their MVC Tournament campaign leaves them on shakier ground. DBU tumbled to No. 45 in RPI and will now have to play through the losers’ bracket. The Patriots aren’t out yet, but a second bad RPI loss this week would leave them in a bad spot as Selection Monday approaches.

Texas: The Longhorns last week secured their status as regional hosts by sweeping Texas Christian to win the Big 12 Conference title. They had a chance this week to move up to a top-eight seed with a strong week at the Big 12 Tournament. Those chances likely were dashed Wednesday with a loss to Kansas in their first game of the tournament. Texas’ RPI slipped to No. 18 and it will now need a run to the title out of the losers’ bracket in Oklahoma City.

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Automatic Bids

Columbia beat Yale, 2-1, in 15 innings in Game 2 complete a sweep of the Ivy League Championship Series and claim the league’s automatic bid. The Lions (20-27) will make their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in six years and sixth appearance in program history. Yale won the regular-season title and hosted the series but was unable to make its homefield advantage count. Columbia became the first road team to win the Ivy League Championship Series since 2010 and the first road team to sweep the series since 2006.

Columbia is the fourth team to punch its ticket to the NCAA Tournament, joining Cal State Fullerton (Big West Conference), North Carolina A&T (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) and Texas Southern (Southwest Athletic Conference).

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