Projected Field Of 64 (5/2/18)
As the calendar flips to May, college baseball enters its stretch run. And with less than a month until Selection Monday, Baseball America presents our latest Field of 64 projection, as we will every week for the remainder of the season.
There is still projection required to put the field together, but RPI and conference standings—two important factors for the selection committee—are sharpening into focus.
This week’s update sees two changes in the race for top-eight seeds, with North Carolina and Clemson earning those spots. The Tar Heels last weekend swept rival North Carolina State on the road to take control in the Atlantic Coast Conference and move into the top five in RPI. The Tigers swept Virginia on the road and the combination of the two sweeps saw them move into first place in their division, passing the Wolfpack. While North Carolina State swept Clemson earlier in the year, the Tigers have the better RPI, strength of schedule and more wins against top-100 teams. All of that, in addition to the conference standings, give it the nod over North Carolina State.
Duke, Georgia and Oklahoma State move up to the host line this week. Duke and Georgia have been hosts in previous projections and their strong position in the ACC and SEC standings, respectively, has them in a good position. Oklahoma State has made a big move over the last month and, after sweeping Oklahoma, holds a three-game lead in the Big 12 Conference. The Cowboys’ RPI is not yet good enough for a top-eight seed, but if they continue to win at the pace they have for the last month, it could still reach that level.
The hosting race remains in flux, in part due to the muddled Southeastern Conference standings. More than half the league is capable of putting together a hosting-caliber resume with a strong finish, and teams such as Auburn, Kentucky and Texas A&M can easily get back in the mix.
The nature of the SEC standings also creates an interesting dynamic for the number of bids the conference will get. The record for one conference is 10, which has happened twice. In both previous instances (the 2014 SEC and 2016 ACC), the three worst teams in the league all finished with conference winning percentages under .400, helping to pad the rest of the teams’ records without hurting their RPI. That will not be the case in this year’s SEC. Instead, it appears outside of Florida at the top and Alabama at the bottom, the rest of the conference will wind up with 12-17 SEC wins. Getting to .500 in the SEC will ensure any team of a berth and just getting to 13 or 14 SEC wins will probably at least put a team on the bubble. It is not difficult to imagine a scenario where the SEC breaks the record for most bids.
The Pac-12 Conference is one of the strangest races at this stage. The top three teams in the conference—Oregon State, Stanford and UCLA—are all worthy hosts. The rest of the conference still has work to do to get into the tournament. A fourth team is likely to emerge down the stretch but determining what team it will be is difficult. Arizona and Washington are two teams to watch and the Wildcats get the nod here, despite their 7-11 Pac-12 record. They’ll have to get that closer to .500 over the next month.
The Big Ten Conference race also remains fascinating. This weekend’s showdown between Indiana and Minnesota is critical for both teams' hosting hopes. The Hoosiers can’t afford to lose any more ground in the standings, while the Gophers need the RPI boost that would come with beating a top-25 team. Meanwhile, five other teams in the league are putting together solid at-large resumes. At least a couple are sure to get in the field, but at this stage it is difficult to say with confidence which teams it will be. Illinois, Michigan and Ohio State get the nod here, but Iowa and Purdue are not far off and the Hawkeyes have a huge opportunity this weekend in Iowa City with Oklahoma State coming to town.
It is also important to remember that this season the way the Field of 64 is constructed has changed. No longer does the selection committee choose eight national seeds and then pair them with another host side based primarily on geography. Instead, they will seed all 16 host sites and pair the regionals accordingly. That means No. 1 seeds from the same conference can be paired together for super regionals, as is the case in this projection with the No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchup of Clemson and North Carolina State.
|PROJECTED FIELD OF 64|
|Gainesville, FL||Bloomington, IN|
|1. (1) Florida^*||1. (16) Indiana^*|
|2. Jacksonville||2. Kentucky|
|3. St. John's*||3. Louisville|
|4. Hartford*||4. Kent State*|
|Stanford, CA||Tallahassee, FL|
|1. (2) Stanford^*||1. (15) Florida State^|
|2. Northeastern*||2. South Florida|
|3. Illinois||3. Florida Atlantic|
|4. San Francisco*||4. Sam Houston State*|
|Chapel Hill, NC||Conway, SC|
|1. (3) North Carolina^*||1. (14) Coastal Carolina^*|
|2. Ohio State||2. Connecticut|
|3. Arizona||3. Missouri|
|4. North Carolina A&T*||4. UNC Greensboro*|
|Oxford, MS||Durham, NC|
|1. (4) Mississippi^||1. (13) Duke^|
|2. Southern Mississippi*||2. Vanderbilt|
|3. Troy||3. Houston*|
|4. Jackson State*||4. Navy*|
|Fayetteville, AR||Stillwater, OK|
|1. (5) Arkansas^||1. (12) Oklahoma State^*|
|2. Oklahoma||2. Minnesota|
|3. Missouri State||3. Dallas Baptist*|
|4. Oral Roberts*||4. Saint Louis*|
|Corvallis, OR||Athens, GA|
|1. (6) Oregon State^||1. (11) Georgia^|
|2. Auburn||2. Stetson*|
|3. San Diego State*||3. Central Florida|
|4. Grand Canyon*||4. Wright State*|
|Lubbock, TX||Los Angeles|
|1. (7) Texas Tech^||1. (10) UCLA^|
|2. Texas A&M||2. Texas|
|3. Michigan||3. Cal State Fullerton*|
|4. Canisius*||4. Wagner*|
|Clemson, SC||Raleigh, NC|
|1. (8) Clemson^||1. (9) North Carolina State^|
|2. Tennessee Tech*||2. East Carolina|
|3. Baylor||3. South Carolina|
|4. Yale*||4. Campbell*|
|*-Automatic bid; ^-Regional host|
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