Projected Field Of 64 (4/25/2018)
Baseball America presents our latest Projected Field of 64, 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 on the host line. Clemson and Florida State move back into host position, replacing Duke and Kentucky. The Atlantic Coast Conference has five teams with hosting cases – Clemson, Duke, Florida State, North Carolina and North Carolina State. North Carolina State is just about locked in as a host and North Carolina has separated itself after moving into first place in the Coastal Division and rising to No. 6 in the RPI. Duke has the worst RPI of the three other teams and the hardest remaining schedule. That gave the edge to Clemson and Florida State.
The muddled SEC standings also make the hosting race difficult to parse. Florida clearly stands at the top of the conference with a 14-4 SEC record, but the next 11 teams in the standings are all clustered around .500 in the conference with between seven and 10 SEC wins. Mississippi and Arkansas are leading the West Division and get hosting nods. The league is likely at least one more host and we focused on the trio of Georgia, Kentucky and Vanderbilt for one spot. The Bulldogs have the best RPI and conference record of the trio but lost the head-to-head series against both the Wildcats and Commodores. The Wildcats are under .500 in the SEC but have series wins against Georgia and Texas Tech, which are both top-10 RPI teams. The Commodores have the worst RPI but have the most top-50 wins, including two against the Bulldogs. In the end, we gave the nod to Vanderbilt, but that is a race to watch over the next month. Most of the rest of the conference could still get in the race as well with a strong finish to the season.
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’ record 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 Big 12 Conference also presents an interesting situation with a month to go in the season. It ranks No. 2 in conference RPI but has just four teams in this projection. Baylor’s sweep of Texas Christian put the Bears on the bubble and dropped the Horned Frogs from the field. Both are under .500 in conference play, as is West Virginia, which has the best RPI of the trio. It seems likely one of those teams will heat up down the stretch and play their way into the field, but, for now, they all remain on the wrong side of the bubble.
The Big Ten Conference, conversely, ranks ninth in conference RPI, but has five teams in the field. A couple of them are very close to the bubble, however. The top teams in the conference continue to mostly play each other over the next two weeks, which will provide further clarity. Indiana, especially will need to close well. The Hoosiers took a hit in the RPI and the standings when they lost a series at Ohio State over the weekend. They now find themselves four games behind first-place Michigan in the standings with 12 games to play – none of which are against the Wolverines. If Indiana doesn’t make up that ground, will the lack of a conference title cost them a hosting spot? It’s possible, but a solid finish should keep the Hoosiers among the hosts because they still have nine games left against top-100 foes.
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 with the 4-13 matchup pitting North Carolina State against Clemson.
|PROJECTED FIELD OF 64|
|Gainesville, FL||Bloomington, IN|
|1. (1) Florida^*||1. (16) Indiana^*|
|2. Stetson||2. Kentucky|
|3. Troy||3. Arizona|
|4. Florida A&M*||4. Kent State*|
|Stanford, CA||Tallahassee, FL|
|1. (2) Stanford^*||1. (15) Florida State^|
|2. Ohio State||2. South Florida|
|3. Missouri State||3. Florida Atlantic|
|4. San Francisco*||4. Wagner*|
|Lubbock, TX||Conway, SC|
|1. (3) Texas Tech^*||1. (14) Coastal Carolina^*|
|2. Connecticut||2. Duke|
|3. Sam Houston State*||3. Louisiana State|
|4. Hartford*||4. Navy*|
|Raleigh, NC||Clemson, SC|
|1. (4) North Carolina State^*||1. (13) Clemson^|
|2. South Alabama||2. Georgia|
|3. St. John's*||3. Michigan|
|4. Yale*||4. UNC Greensboro*|
|Oxford, MS||Austin, TX|
|1. (5) Mississippi^||1. (12) Texas^|
|2. Southern Mississippi||2. Texas A&M|
|3. Illinois||3. Dallas Baptist*|
|4. Jackson State*||4. Wright State*|
|1. (6) Oregon State^||1. (11) Vanderbilt^|
|2. Auburn||2. Tennessee Tech*|
|3. Nevada*||3. Louisville|
|4. Grand Canyon*||4. Saint Louis*|
|Fayetteville, AR||Los Angeles|
|1. (7) Arkansas^||1. (10) UCLA^|
|2. Oklahoma State||2. Oklahoma|
|3. Wichita State||3. Houston|
|4. Oral Roberts*||4. Cal State Fullerton*|
|Greenville, NC||Chapel Hill, NC|
|1. (8) East Carolina^*||1. (9) North Carolina^|
|2. Jacksonville*||2. Minnesota|
|3. Northeastern*||3. Missouri|
|4. Campbell*||4. Canisius*|
|*-Automatic bid; ^-Regional host|
Three Strikes: Big Ten Begins Play, SIU's Hot Start
Three Strikes looks at the Big Ten, Southern Illinois and Northern Kentucky.
Last Four In
- Missouri State
- Wichita State
First Four Out
- San Diego State
- Mississippi State
- Central Florida
Next Four Out
- Georgia Tech
- College of Charleston
- Texas Christian
- Arkansas-Little Rock