Six Series To Watch With Postseason Implications
No. 10 Texas Tech (35-15, 12-9 Big 12 Conference) at No. 25 Oklahoma State (29-19-1, 16-5)
What’s at stake for Texas Tech: Hosting and top-eight seed status. Texas Tech has spent the whole year near the top of the RPI. But its lost seven of its last 10 games to slip to fourth in the Big 12 and ninth in the RPI. It’s still-gaudy RPI and 35 wins means Texas Tech is still projected as a host, but it's lost its spot as a top-eight seed. And if they don’t arrest their skid, the Red Raiders would fall closer to the hosting bubble going into the Big 12 Tournament. Further, Texas Tech has won back-to-back Big 12 titles and will be looking to avoid watching Oklahoma State claim this year’s title.
What’s at stake for Oklahoma State: The Big 12 title and a chance to host regionals. The Cowboys enter the weekend with a two-game lead on No. 15 Texas in the conference standings. A series win ensures the Cowboys win their first regular season title since 2014, regardless of what the Longhorns do this weekend against Texas Christian. Oklahoma State is just 2-5 since sweeping the Bedlam Series against archrival Oklahoma and its RPI has slipped to No. 22. To secure its spot as a host, Oklahoma State needs the boost that beating Texas Tech would provide.
No. 7 North Carolina State (39-12, 18-9 Atlantic Coast Conference) at No. 14 Florida State (37-16, 15-12)
What’s at stake for N.C. State: A chance at a top-eight seed. While the Wolfpack’s status as a regional host is essentially a lock, N.C. State’s national seed chances are currently weighed down by the team’s No. 16 RPI and its second-place standing in the Atlantic Division behind Clemson. While State likely won’t be able to catch the Tigers this weekend, a series win against No. 10 RPI FSU would offer a significant boost and make the team a strong top-eight seed contender.
What’s at stake for Florida State: A top-eight seed or hosting. Currently projected to host, the Seminoles could lose that status with another series loss at home. While FSU has a stout No. 10 RPI, the 'Noles have lost ACC series to Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and Clemson on the road, as well as a series loss to Duke at home. They need another marquee series win to prove they’re hosting-caliber. Should they get it this weekend, they'd have the RPI and conference record to be in the mix for a top-eight seed going into next week's ACC Tournament.
Texas Christian (30-19, 10-10 Big 12) at No. 15 Texas (34-18, 14-7)
What’s at stake for TCU: An NCAA Tournament bid. It’s do-or-die time for the Horned Frogs, who sit at .500 in the Big 12 and at a precarious No. 63 spot in the RPI. Give Jim Schlossnagle’s team credit—they haven’t folded after devastating season-ending injuries to star hitter Luken Baker and Friday starter Jared Janczak. But the Frogs remain in dangerous territory, and a series win at Texas—as well as a good showing in the Big 12 Tournament—could be just enough to earn them an at-large bid.
What’s at stake for Texas: A chance at the Big 12 title and hosting. Sitting just behind Oklahoma State in the Big 12 standings, the Longhorns could usurp the Cowboys—if they get some help from Texas Tech. Division title aside, Texas is on the bubble for a hosting nod at No. 20 in the RPI and could use every big win it can get down the stretch to solidify its standing.
No. 13 East Carolina (38-13, 13-8 American Athletic Conference) at Connecticut (30-17, 12-9)
What’s at stake for ECU: Securing a hosting bid. The Pirates already have an RPI in hosting range at No. 13. However, the Pirates currently sit at second place in the AAC after losing series at home to Houston and South Florida. If they fall to third or fourth place, the selection committee might be less inclined to offer the Pirates a hosting bid.
What’s at stake for UConn: Staying in the host race. The Huskies are a longer shot to host after dropping a series last weekend to Houston, but hosting is not out of the realm of possibility. Should UConn win this weekend—and add a win or two in the AAC tournament—its No. 23 RPI should rise back into hosting range.
Bubble Watch: LSU, North Carolina Bolster Hosting Cases
As conference tournaments continue, we look at NCAA Tournament bubble winners and losers from Friday.
South Alabama (29-21, 17-9 Sun Belt Conference) at Troy (36-17, 17-10)
What’s at stake for South Alabama: An at-large bid. The Jaguars came into the season as the Sun Belt Conference favorite but have been beset by injuries and now find themselves on the NCAA Tournament bubble. They are No. 56 in RPI and need the boost a series win this weekend would provide. It would also keep them second in the Sun Belt standings, which would help their resume.
What’s at stake for Troy: Locking up an at-large bid. The Trojans have floated around the NCAA Tournament bubble the last few weeks and have helped themselves a lot in the last week with four straight wins against Louisiana-Monroe and Auburn. A series win this weekend against South Alabama would probably ensure Troy of its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2013. The Trojans rank No. 40 in RPI and are just a half-game behind the Jaguars in the Sun Belt standings. A series win this weekend would push them into second place, keep their RPI in the top 40 and push them close to 40 overall wins—all of which would make for a strong resume.
Michigan (32-15, 15-5 Big Ten Conference) at Purdue (31-18, 14-6)
What’s at stake for Michigan and Purdue: An at-large bid and a shot at the Big Ten title. The Wolverines and Boilermakers have remarkably similar resumes. They are separated by just one game in the Big Ten standings and two spots in RPI. Neither has a particularly strong nonconference resume—Michigan struggled against a tough schedule and Purdue didn’t distinguish itself against a lackluster slate. Both have also taken advantage of favorable Big Ten schedules, piling up wins against the bottom half of the conference and not winning a series against any of the other six Big Ten teams competing for a regionals bid. This weekend provides both teams with a chance for a big series win that would boost their RPI and secure at least second place in the Big Ten standings. The winner is likely to garner a regionals bid and still has an outside shot at the conference title if first-place Minnesota stumbles this weekend at Rutgers.