Midseason Update: Field of 64 Projection

Projecting the NCAA tournament field

Follow me on Twitter

Gainesville, Fla. Atlanta Columbia, S.C. Chapel Hill, N.C.
1. (1) Florida^* 1. Georgia Tech^ 1. (5) South Carolina^ 1. North Carolina^
2. Stetson* 2. Georgia 2. East Carolina
2. Oregon State
3. Florida international 3. Georgia Southern* 3. Clemson 3. Elon
4. Bethune-Cookman* 4. Jacksonville State* 4. Monmouth* 4. Marist*

Charlottesville, Va. Baton Rouge, La. College Station, Texas Houston
1. (2) Virginia^* 1. Louisiana State^ 1. (6) Texas A&M^* 1. Rice^
2. California 2. Miami 2. Texas Christian* 2. Baylor
3. Charlotte* 3. Coastal Carolina* 3. Gonzaga* 3. Auburn
4. James Madison* 4. Southern* 4. Wichita State* 4. Connecticut*

Nashville Austin Tallahassee, Fla. Hattiesburg, Miss.
1. (3) Vanderbilt^ 1. Texas^ 1. (7) Florida State^ 1. Southern Mississippi^*
2. Troy* 2. Texas State* 2. Alabama 2. Mississippi
3. Louisville 3. Oregon 3. Central Florida
3. North Carolina State*
4. Long Beach State
4. Michigan State* 4. Stony Brook* 4. Kent State*

Tempe, Ariz. Norman, Okla. Fullerton, Calif. Stanford, Calif.
1. (4) Arizona State^* 1. Oklahoma^ 1. (8) Cal State Fullerton^* 1. Stanford^
2. Oklahoma State 2. Arkansas 2. UCLA 2. Fresno State*
3. College of Charleston
3. Arizona 3. Cal State Bakersfield 3. UC Irvine
4. Dartmouth* 4. Oral Roberts* 4. Army* 4. Wright State*
* Automatic qualifier
^Regional host


• This week marks the midpoint of college baseball's regular season—seven weekends in the books, seven weekends to go before Selection Day. As part of our annual Midseason Report, we present our midseason field of 64 projection. That last word—projection—is critical; this is not how we believe the NCAA tournament field would look if the season ended today. Rather, we are taking into account first-half results and also projecting how teams will finish in the second half based on what we learned in the first half and what we know about the talent and makeup of each team.

The Division I baseball committee also factors the Ratings Percentage Index into its deliberations when filling out the field, so we considered where teams stand currently in the pseudo-RPI rankings at boydsworld.com (through Monday's games), and whether they are likely to rise or fall based on their remaining schedules and their talent.

• Finding 64 teams with postseason-caliber resumes is challenging. Our field includes some teams with strong RPIs but records hovering around .500 (Georgia, Long Beach State, Auburn), some teams that have simply underachieved in the first half that we believe will play better in the second half and get a bid (Oregon, Connecticut) and some surprise upstart teams with strong RPIs but unproven long-term track records (Cal State Bakersfield).

• The Southeastern Conference is characteristically deep, and we project it for nine regionals teams, in part because every team in the conference benefits in the RPI the more they play each other. So while Georgia is just 14-14 overall, it is off to a strong start in SEC play (6-3), it has a robust RPI (16th), and Boyd's World's RPI Needs Report estimates that if it goes 14-14 down the stretch, it will finish with an RPI in the top 16. That RPI would be good enough for a No. 2 seed easily, but a .500 record would not be. Still, even a 30-26 finish might be good enough for a No. 2, accompanied by a nice finish in the SEC standings and a strong RPI. We're projecting Georgia to do at least that well in the second half and wind up as a No. 2. Auburn has gotten off to a slower start in conference play (2-7), so the Tigers land as a No. 3 seed in our projection despite a comparable RPI. Alabama (7-2) leads the SEC West, but the meat of its schedule still remains, and we anticipate Louisiana State (3-6) surging to the top of the division by the end of the season, so LSU gets the nod as the SEC's fourth host, along with the big three of the SEC East (Florida, Vanderbilt, South Carolina). All three of those teams get national seeds, and although Florida lost a home series to South Carolina, we still believe Florida winds up as the conference champion and the top overall seed.

• The Pac-10 and ACC get seven bids apiece, tied for second-most of any conference, while the Big 12 gets five. Oregon has plenty of work to do as the seventh Pac-10 team; the Ducks are just 14-12 overall and rank 73rd in the RPI, but a 22-11 finish can get them into the top 45 (bubble range), and we believe they have enough pitching to make that happen. For this exercise, we are assuming Arizona State will be eligible for the NCAA tournament (as it currently stands, the Sun Devils are eligible until their May appeal for NCAA violations is ruled upon), and ASU is our projected conference champion, and the No. 5 national seed. Stanford's strong early-season schedule gives it a healthy RPI (No. 8), so the Cardinal get a hosting nod, as well.

• North Carolina and Georgia Tech both sport top-five RPIs currently, and both are off to very strong starts in ACC play (10-2 and 11-1, respectively). Right now, both are on track to earn national seeds, but we're still not convinced both clubs will keep up this blistering pace in the second half, when they face the more challenging parts of their conference schedules. Both teams are also relying upon a number of younger players who must prove they can withstand the long season. Florida State, conversely, is an older club, and it gets UNC at home and doesn't have to play Georgia Tech, so we're projecting the Seminoles as the ACC's second national seed, behind Virginia. UNC and Georgia Tech are near locks to host regionals, though, and remain in very good position to earn national seeds, as well. Clemson, meanwhile, is just 14-12 overall and 4-8 in conference play, so it slips to a No. 3 seed despite a strong RPI (No. 13).

• The Big 12 is up for grabs, but we're taking Texas A&M to win the league title, since it has won its first three conference series, including a huge road series at Oklahoma. That, and a strong RPI, propels the Aggies into a national seed, while Texas and Oklahoma wind up as regional hosts. Baylor has scuffled recently but is still in great shape in the RPI, and a 13-12 finish would land the Bears in the top 32 in the RPI. That's very manageable, so Baylor gets a No. 2, along with Oklahoma State. Texas Tech and Nebraska wind up on the wrong side of the bubble for now.

• Texas Christian certainly has the talent to host a regional, but the RPI is working against the Horned Frogs. TCU is 33rd right now, and Boyd's says they'd need a 27-3 finish to wind up in the top 16. The road is much easier for Rice (No. 21 in the RPI), which just needs to go 14-10 down the stretch to land in the top 16, so we're giving Rice a home regional over TCU. But we're projecting Southern Miss to edge the Owls for the Conference USA crown and host a regional as well. Southern Miss swept a road series against Central Florida, which beat Rice two out of three in Houston, and the Golden Eagles get to host their series against the Owls. UCF makes a regional as the fourth team in C-USA, but we anticipate Tulane will continue to slide because of its significant pitching injuries, so the Green Wave misses out.

• Fresno State is No. 9 in the BA rankings and sitting pretty at 20-3, but the road to a home regional is still daunting because of the WAC's lackluster RPI. Fresno needs to finish 24-4 to finish in the top 16 of the RPI, and that's a tall order. The Bulldogs wind up as a strong No. 2 seed.

• Connecticut needs to finish 28-3 to finish with a top-45 RPI, and that's very unlikely. But the Huskies have gotten on track recently, sweeping St. John's this weekend, and we like their chances to capture the Big East's automatic bid. Louisville is in much better shape in the RPI and earns a No. 3 seed as an at-large.

• The Southern Conference has five teams within 1.5 games of first place, and we like the three with the best RPIs (Elon, Georgia Southern and College of Charleston) to earn bids. For now, we're giving the automatic bid to Georgia Southern, which has already won a big road series at CofC, but the Eagles probably won't have a strong enough RPI to earn a No. 2 seed, so all three SoCon teams are No. 3s in our projection. It's easy to envision one or two of them getting hot and jumping up to a No. 2, though.

• Cal State Bakersfield might be the nation's biggest surprise, with a 20-7 record and single wins at Arizona State and South Carolina. Bakersfield currently sits 40th in the RPI, and its remaining schedule is strong enough that the Roadrunners can finish in the top 45 with a 17-12 finish. Upcoming series at UCLA and against Fresno State and UC Irvine will be challenging, but Bakersfield has proven it's no pushover, and it has a real chance to snag one of the last at-large spots. Loyola Marymount, another at-large hopeful out West, must go 23-6 to finish in the top 45. Those two teams play a three-game series in May, which could have major postseason implications. For now, we're giving the nod to Bakersfield, thanks to its more advantageous footing in the RPI.