Bubble Wrap: Conference Tournaments Head to Semis
With most conference tournaments in their semifinals rounds, here's a conference-by-conference look at the key wins and losses Friday and how those games might impact the NCAA tournament field.
Atlantic Coast Conference
After back-to-back trips to Omaha, Miami was going to go through some growing pains this spring. The Hurricanes lost the core of those Omaha teams to the draft, and with a young team still searching for an identity, the opening weeks of the season were a struggle. But the Hurricanes have grown up quickly, and suddenly, after being on the outside looking in, Miami has the look of an NCAA tournament team. The Canes came back late against Wake Forest on Friday, rallying against closer Griffin Roberts to win, 5-2, and advance to the ACC tournament semifinals. With the win, Miami's RPI surged to No. 39. With the Canes now safely above .500 and a couple of marquee wins added to their resume, expect to hear their name called on Monday.
Florida State, another Florida team with a rough opening to the season, has emerged as a hosting candidate after the Seminoles beat Louisville for the third time in the last week. FSU defeated the Cardinals, 6-2, and the team is now sitting at No. 11 in the RPI, putting it in hosting range. The Seminoles leapfrogged No. 12 Clemson in the RPI, and the Tigers—at one time a lock to host—look as though they've played their way out of a hosting bid. The Tigers came into the ACC tournament on the heels of three straight ACC series losses—two via sweep—and they came away with an 0-2 showing in Louisville. A 10-2 loss to Virginia on Friday likely sealed Clemson's fate, while it also locked in the Cavaliers as hosts themselves.
Another day, another ⚾️.
Here's a 👀 at how they got to day four. pic.twitter.com/DPKIjR23FN— Big 12 Digital (@Big12DN) May 27, 2017
Though Texas Tech won the regular season title for the second straight year, the Red Raiders won't be winning the Big 12 tournament title. They fell to West Virginia on Friday, 12-7, in 10 innings and were eliminated from the tournament. West Virginia, which is safely in the tournament but on the hosting bubble, improved its hosting chances with the win, although the Mountaineers still might need to win the tournament to lock that up. In other tournament action, Texas Christian eliminated Kansas with a 6-0 win. The Jayhawks entered the tournament on the NCAA tournament bubble, and they'll stay there. At No. 59 in the RPI and with six other Big 12 teams already in line to get bids, Kansas' at-large odds appear slim.
Full Highlights: pic.twitter.com/cl4glHzdid— BIG EAST Conference (@BIGEAST) May 26, 2017
At one point an at-large shoo-in, St. John's came into Friday's action approaching somewhat dangerous territory. The Red Storm needed a win, and it got it, beating Seton Hall, 3-2. With an RPI at No. 34, St. John's should be in line for an at-large bid, which could make the Big East a two-bid league if Xavier or Creighton win the tournament.
Double play ends it!!May 27, 2017
Both regular season title winner Nebraska and Indiana were eliminated from the tournament Friday. The Cornhuskers are safe for the NCAA tournament, but the Hoosiers remain on the bubble. Indiana's No. 27 RPI could be enough to earn the at-large, but the Hoosiers also finished sixth in the Big Ten, which complicates matters for the selection committee. The final four teams remaining are Maryland, Minnesota, Iowa and Northwestern. Of those teams, only Maryland has an at-large case; the rest would need to win the tournament to advance.
Rice, Charlotte, Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss all advanced to the semifinals. Old Dominion and Louisiana Tech were both sent packing, and with those teams ranking No. 49 and No. 45 in the RPI, respectively, at-large bids are by no means guaranteed. Outside of Southern Miss, Conference USA is now wide open, and Rice, Charlotte and FAU are all putting themselves in position to make a late push into the field. With RPIs for those three teams hovering in the 50s, the semifinals will be a fight for their postseason lives.
South Carolina is still alive. The Gamecocks defeated Kentucky, 3-1, on Friday to live another day, but they'll need another win against Louisiana State to re-enter at-large discussion. And even still, there are no guarantees. A tournament win is South Carolina's best bet. Kentucky, meanwhile, was eliminated from tournament play with the loss, and that could have put a damper on the team's national seed chances. The Wildcats are neck-and-neck with Stanford for the last national seed. Kentucky ranks No. 8 in RPI, and Stanford sits at No. 9. The Cardinal is a gaudy 28-13 against Top 100 teams, and at second place in the Pac-12, would seem to have the slight edge.
Arkansas firmed up its hosting case with a win over Mississippi State, sending the Bulldogs packing. The Razorbacks join Florida, LSU and South Carolina in the semifinals. Of those teams, only South Carolina truly has something to gain.
With a 5-4 loss to Samford, Mercer was eliminated from the SoCon tournament and also from NCAA Tournament play, as the Bears rank 79th in RPI. The SoCon is a one-bid league. UNC-Greensboro, Samford, Furman and East Tennessee State are the last teams standing, and one of them will earn the automatic bid.
Both McNeese State, the regular season champion, and Southeastern Louisiana were eliminated Friday, leaving open the possibility that the Southland could be a three-bid league. Both McNeese and Southeastern Louisiana are within at-large range. One of Sam Houston State, Central Arkansas or Houston Baptist—the last teams standing—will join them in the field. If the Southland were to earn three bids, that's bad news for other teams on the bubble, as there will be one less at-large bid to steal.
The defending national champion Coastal Carolina Chanticleers as well as Louisiana-Lafayette were both eliminated from the tournament on Friday. Both teams have bubble-quality resumes with Coastal at No. 57 in the RPI and the Ragin' Cajuns at No. 60. Coastal won the regular season title, which is certainly a factor in its favor, but not a guarantee for an at-large bid. South Alabama, Arkansas State, Texas State and Georgia Southern are the last four teams remaining.
The WAC is a one-bid league, and that one bid won't be going to New Mexico State, the conference's leading postseason-eligible team heading into the tournament. The Aggies lost, 11-7, to Cal State Bakersfield. Bakersfield, Northern Colorado or Sacramento State will earn the automatic bid for the WAC.
West Coast Conference
Three Strikes: Big Ten Begins Play, SIU's Hot Start
Three Strikes looks at the Big Ten, Southern Illinois and Northern Kentucky.
The WCC tournament comes down to Brigham Young and Gonzaga. The WCC is likely a one-bid league. However, the Zags do have a chance at an at-large were BYU to win. Gonzaga is tied for first in the WCC regular season standings and is at No. 46 in the RPI.