Projected Field of 64 (4/17/19)
Baseball America presents our latest Projected Field of 64, as we will weekly for the remainder of the season.
Some sweeps last weekend produced big developments in the shape of the field, both in the hosting race and the at-large field. Louisville and UC Santa Barbara were two of the biggest movers as they swept key series that have vaulted them onto the host line and into the driver’s seat in their conference races. Florida State’s sweep of Clemson made its path to regionals much more manageable, and Houston’s sweep of Wichita State has the Cougars in a much better position than a week ago.
Some projection is still required when putting the field together and this field is forward looking, not meant to be interpreted as if the season ended today. That is why some teams with RPI work to do—Michigan, North Carolina State and Texas Christian among them—are included either as at-larges or hosts.
The hosting race got a shakeup last weekend. Louisville’s sweep of NC State vaulted the Cardinals into first place in the ACC and into the top-five in RPI and, accordingly, they are now looking like a top-eight national seed. NC State’s RPI math is tricky as a host. It ranks 26 and getting into the top 20 requires a strong finish. But if the Wolfpack can regain their form, it is manageable.
Speaking of tricky RPI math: UCSB. The Gauchos finished the weekend No. 4 in RPI after sweeping UC Irvine and are in the driver’s seat in the Big West Conference. But Boyd’s RPI Needs Report shows that staying there is a mathematical impossibility because of how many games UCSB has left against teams outside the top 100 in RPI. If the Gauchos roll through the Big West they should still host—many times West Coast schools are given a little more margin for error due to scheduling difficulties, though being a top-eight seed is unlikely. As for where UCSB hosts, that is unsettled. The last time it hosted it did so at high Class A Lake Elsinore, but the Storm are home the weekend of regionals. That leaves San Manuel Stadium in San Bernardino, home of high Class A Inland Empire, as the most likely option.
The race for the final host spot remains wide open. North Carolina gets the nod here thanks to its strong RPI and position in the ACC race, as well as its favorable remaining schedule. But any of half a dozen Big 12 teams could finish strong and claim that spot. Also in the mix are Auburn, Clemson and Mississippi. Indiana and Nebraska are on the edge of the race right now, but both have paths to host, though the margin for error is slim.
The SEC has 11 bids in this field, which would set the record for one conference. The selection committee last year placed a heavy emphasis on finishing with at least a .500 conference record and it seems likely that will again be the case. Presently, Missouri (7-7-1) is .500 and Florida and Tennessee (6-9) are still trying to get back to that mark. Will all three get to .500? It’s a tough needle to thread, especially when they all still have to play each other. But it may be more relevant to get to 15 conference wins than to be .500 in conference play by the time the SEC Tournament starts. Conference tournament wins count toward a team’s conference win total, meaning that a couple wins in Hoover could help push one of those teams over the line. But it would still behoove them to have their work done by the time they got there.
The Conference USA race got more interesting last weekend when Louisiana Tech beat Florida Atlantic and Southern Mississippi lost at Florida International. The standings are unchanged, ultimately, with FAU leading Southern Miss and LaTech, but it was enough to move LaTech into the field. The Bulldogs have the best RPI of the trio and are compiling a solid resume. Both FAU and Southern Miss are running short on margin for error, but they can still compile compelling at-large cases with solid finishes, especially if they can add a regular season title to their resume. Overall, the conference is looking pretty good as a two-bid league.
Baseball America will continue to update the projected field weekly throughout the season.
|PROJECTED FIELD OF 64|
|Los Angeles||Chapel Hill, N.C.|
|1. (1) UCLA^*||1. (16) North Carolina^|
|2. UC Irvine||2. Ole Miss|
|3. Bryant*||3. Coastal Carolina*|
|4. Coppin State*||4. Liberty*|
|Stanford, Calif.||Raleigh, N.C.|
|1. (2) Stanford^||1. (15) North Carolina State^|
|2. Florida||2. West Virginia|
|3. Brigham Young*||3. Tennessee|
|4. Canisius*||4. Campbell*|
|Starkville, Miss.||San Bernardino, Calif.|
|1. (3) Mississippi State ^*||1. (14) UC Santa Barbara^*|
|2. Nebraska||2. Arizona State|
|3. Louisiana Tech||3. Illinois|
|4. Alabama State*||4. San Diego State*|
|Athens, Ga.||Baton Rouge, La.|
|1. (4) Georgia^||1. (13) Louisiana State^|
|2. Connecticut||2. Baylor|
|3. Florida State||3. Sam Houston State*|
|4. Samford*||4. Stony Brook*|
|Corvallis, Ore.||Greenville, N.C.|
|1. (5) Oregon State^||1. (12) East Carolina^*|
|2. Oklahoma State||2. Clemson|
|3. Michigan||3. Virginia Commonwealth*|
|4. Navy*||4. Elon*|
|Louisville, Ky.||Lubbock, Tx.|
|1. (6) Louisville^*||1. (11) Texas Tech^|
|2. Indiana*||2. Missouri|
|3. Oregon||3. Creighton*|
|4. Ball State*||4. Nebraska-Omaha*|
|1. (7) Vanderbilt^||1. (10) Georgia Tech^|
|2. Miami||2. Auburn|
|3. Oklahoma||3. Southern Mississippi*|
|4. Jacksonville State*||4. Harvard*|
|Fayetteville, Ark.||College Station, Texas|
|1. (8) Arkansas^||1. (9) Texas A&M^|
|2. Texas Christian||2. Texas|
|3. Dallas Baptist*||3. Houston|
|4. Wright State*||4. New Mexico State*|
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