Projected Field Of 64
College baseball has approached the midway point of the regular season. Plenty of baseball remains, but broader trends that will affect the postseason picture are emerging.
With that in mind, Baseball America presents out Projected Field of 64, as we will each week for the remainder of the season.
Examining the field at this stage still requires a lot of projection. RPI is instructive, but it is still normalizing as teams get into conference play. Teams such as Louisiana State and Texas Christian appear in the field despite RPIs north of 75, well shy of where they will need to be on Selection Monday to garner at-large berths. But both teams have time to improve those marks, especially in LSU’s case. Other traditional powers, such as Virginia and Houston, are in much deeper trouble as they currently stand outside the top 100. Both face uphill climbs in the second half.
At this stage, the hosting race and bubble are still very much developing. There is one new host this week, as Georgia replaces Southeastern Conference rival Kentucky. The Bulldogs are one of the season’s biggest surprises with a top-10 RPI and a 7-2 SEC record. The Wildcats got off to a hot start this season but have slipped in recent weeks and are just 3-6 in the SEC. Kentucky still has several strong points on its resume and seven weeks left to improve its conference record. But all 10 SEC teams in the projected field have the potential to put together a resume to host and Kentucky is already having to play catch up. Conference standings are likely to play a key role in sorting out which SEC teams are tabbed to host.
The SEC, No. 1 in conference RPI, has 10 teams in the projected field, which would match the record for one conference. The two previous times it has happened (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. It’s not clear that this year’s SEC has that kind of chaff and Alabama’s series win last weekend against Kentucky shows that the conference’s contenders can’t take any series lightly.
On the bubble, a couple mid-major conferences will be interesting to watch in the coming weeks. The Mountain West Conference ranks eighth in conference RPI and has a trio of intriguing teams in Nevada, Nevada-Las Vegas and San Diego State. All three can make regional cases, but how many bids can a seven-team mid-major conference get? There won’t be much margin for error for any of the three.
The same can be said for Conference USA, which is typically one of the strongest leagues outside the Power Five conferences but is down this year. Florida Atlantic, Louisiana Tech and Southern Mississippi all appear in the field, but CUSA’s lack of depth may drag them down. For Southern Miss, that means it has little margin for error if it is to host for the second year in a row. FAU has a strong RPI but is light on marquee wins and will have few opportunities to pick them up in the second half. La Tech needs to improve its RPI but has more series left against RPI 200+ teams than top-100 opponents. It will need to avoid any losses against the soft parts of its schedule to avoid torpedoing its RPI.
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 occurs in this projection in the 3-14 matchup between Mississippi and Georgia and the 4-13 matchup of Florida State and Duke.
|PROJECTED FIELD OF 64|
|Gainesville, FL||Hattiesburg, MS|
|1. (1) Florida^*||1. (16) Southern Miss^*|
|2. Creighton*||2. Louisiana State|
|3. Mercer*||3. Missouri State|
|4. Columbia*||4. Tennessee Tech*|
|Stanford, CA||Auburn, AL|
|1. (2) Stanford^*||1. (15) Auburn^|
|2. San Diego State*||2. Oklahoma|
|3. Minnesota||3. South Alabama|
|4. Grand Canyon*||4. Saint Mary's*|
|Oxford, MS||Athens, GA|
|1. (3) Mississippi^||1. (14) Georgia^|
|2. Wichita State||2. UCLA|
|3. Louisiana Tech||3. Georgia Tech|
|4. Alabama State*||4. Kent State*|
|Tallahassee, FL||Durham, NC|
|1. (4) Florida State^*||1. (13) Duke^|
|2. Florida Atlantic||2. Coastal Carolina*|
|3. Stetson*||3. Texas Christian|
|4. Stony Brook*||4. Wagner*|
|1. (5) Texas Tech^*||1. (12) Vanderbilt^|
|2. Dallas Baptist*||2. Louisville|
|3. Sam Houston State*||3. Illinois|
|4. Oral Roberts*||4. Army*|
|Corvallis, OR||Bloomington, IN|
|1. (6) Oregon State^||1. (11) Indiana^*|
|2. Missouri||2. Kentucky|
|3. Nevada||3. Oklahoma State|
|4. Hawaii*||4. Wright State*|
|Raleigh, NC||Greenville, NC|
|1. (7) North Carolina State^||1. (10) East Carolina^*|
|2. Central Florida||2. North Carolina|
|3. College of Charleston*||3. California|
|4. North Carolina Central*||4. Canisius*|
|Fayetteville, AR||Clemson, SC|
|1. (8) Arkansas^||1. (9) Clemson^|
|2. Texas||2. Texas A&M|
|3. Washington||3. South Florida|
|4. Saint Louis*||4. High Point*|
|*-Automatic bid; ^-Regional host|
Bubble Watch: LSU, North Carolina Bolster Hosting Cases
As conference tournaments continue, we look at NCAA Tournament bubble winners and losers from Friday.
Last Four In
- Louisiana Tech
First Four Out
- Nevada-Las Vegas
Next Four Out
- Ohio State
- St. John's