Wake Forest missed out on a chance to go to the ACC title game with a 5-4 loss to Clemson, but we still believe the Deacs have done enough. Going 2-2 this week with quality wins against Duke and Virginia pushed Wake to No. 26 in the RPI on WarrenNolan.com, with 15 wins against conference opponents and 12 against the RPI top 25. Wake needed to do some work in Durham after getting swept at home by Louisville to end the regular season, and its acquitted itself well.
The AAC is officially guaranteed to be a three-bid league after Houston eliminated top-seed Tulane on Saturday. You can see highlights here. The Cougars will face Connecticut on Sunday for the automatic bid, with the winner joining Tulane and East Carolina in the NCAA field. The question is, could the loser also get in and make the American a four-bid league? For UConn, the answer is probably no. The Huskies made it to the title game, but not before losing once to Memphis—they were able to come back and win an if-necessary game—which hit their RPI down to No. 60. Should they lose to UH and fall another couple spots, they’re likely done for. On the other side, Houston is up to No. 53 after scoring a pair of win against Tulane this week. The Cougars were largely off the at-large radar after going just 11-12 in the AAC in the regular season, but they do have a respectable 9-10 record against the top 50 and have finished well, going 11-4 in their last 15 games heading into Sunday. The RPI would still be in a precarious position with a loss to UConn, but UH is the team that would have a better chance, albeit not a great one, should it come out on the wrong end of that game.
Ohio State should be going to regionals. The Buckeyes won twice on Saturday, finishing off their suspended game against Michigan and then turning around and beating Michigan State. OSU will play the Spartans against Sunday morning to the right to face Iowa in the Big Ten championship game, but it feels like a team that should be in regardless of the outcome at this point. The Buckeyes’ RPI is up to 44, and even if they lose at some point Sunday and fall few spots, their hot finish to the season, third place standing in a good conference and 7-3 top 50 record should be enough to overcome that. Meanwhile, Maryland’s late push for a bid ended with a loss to Iowa. The Terps are theoretically still within shouting distance with an RPI of 58, but they really needed to do more this week.
Marshall’s run is also over after a second loss to Southern Mississippi. A second-place finish in a strong conference will certainly be a selling point, as will its 13-8 record in road games, but the Herd’s RPI is down to 61 and it went just 4-9 against the top 50. Those aren’t at-large caliber numbers.
Bid Thief Watch
So far, this week has been largely devoid of bid thieving. Bryant, Coastal Carolina and Dallas Baptist all finished off tournament titles on Sunday, welcome news for bubble teams. The top two seeds in the Southland, Sam Houston State and Southeastern Louisiana, also both advanced to face each other in that league’s title game, so it will stay at just those two bids. UNC Wilmington looked it was going to do the same, but William & Mary rallied for seven runs in the ninth inning to tie it, and play was subsequently suspended because of bad weather. The teams will try to resume the game in extra innings Sunday—the forecast isn’t great—with W&M needing to win that one and then win an if-necessary game to steal a bid.
Bubble teams can also breathe a slight sigh of relief about the Big 12, for now. Texas beat Texas Christian once but wasn’t able to win an if-necessary game to go to the title game. So TCU will face West Virginia for the auto bid. WVU is another of those teams that would have at least a glimmer of a shot at being an at-large with its RPI at 59, but if you’re a bubble team, you still need to root hard for TCU. The other title game to keep an eye is in the Sun Belt, were top seed Louisiana-Lafayette faces Georgia Southern. This one’s a definite bid thieving situation, as GSU sits No. 79 in the RPI. Finally, Creighton earned a rematch with Xavier for the Big East title. As we’ve written earlier in the week, Creighton can no longer be considered a lock for an at-large, but bubble teams would still rather see it just take care of business in the conference tournament, though it’ll have to beat Xavier twice to do it.
We should also mention Saint Mary’s taking the West Coast conference title over Gonzaga, earning its first ever regional trip. Gonzaga will definitely still be in after tying for the regular-season title and owning the No. 31 RPI, while Saint Mary’s RPI issues had left it out of the picture before this week. The Gaels could be considered as stealing a bid, but with Brigham Young’s poor performance this week, the likely net result is that the WCC stays where it was at the beginning of the week as a two-bid league.