Wednesday Roundup: Stock ReportFeatured
• Want more D1Baseball.com coverage? Subscribe Today
SEE ALSO: ACC Notebook: Midweek aces McClure, Lepore shine for Cards, ‘Canes
SEE ALSO: SEC Notebook: MSU’s Houston is a problem for Alabama
SEE ALSO: Vandy strengthens its postseason position
SEE ALSO: Florida State bolsters hosting case
SEE ALSO: College baseball embraces Frates’ fight against ALS
SEE ALSO: Eric Sorenson’s Off The Top Of My Head
SEE ALSO: Golden Spikes Spotlight on Mercer’s Kyle Lewis
We posted our most recent field of 64 projection on Monday, and until more teams start getting eliminated from their conference tournaments later this week, we won’t have any major changes to the field. But here’s a quick look at how Wednesday’s action affected races for national seeds, hosts and at-large bids.
National Seed Race
• We remain convinced that six teams are locked in as national seeds (Miami, Texas A&M, Louisville, Florida, Mississippi State and Texas Tech) regardless of what happens this week. South Carolina entered the week as a favorite for one of the last two spots, but the Gamecocks probably need to avoid an 0-2 showing in the SEC tournament, especially if LSU, Ole Miss or Vanderbilt makes a deep run — one of those three teams could displace South Carolina as the SEC’s fourth national seed with a strong week in Hoover. So South Carolina’s 10-4 loss to the Rebels on Wednesday could loom large; now the Gamecocks must face No. 1 ranked Texas A&M in an elimination game Thursday. A win against the mighty Aggies with Braden Webb on the mound might be enough to secure their national seed, when combined with their SEC East title and an RPI that remains strong at No. 7. But another loss would open the door for Ole Miss or LSU to push them aside.
• Virginia, our eighth national seed, was idle Wednesday. At No. 15 in the RPI, the Cavs need a solid showing this week to strengthen their case and keep a fifth SEC team from swooping in and taking their national seed. The two top candidates for that are Ole Miss (up one spot to No. 5 in the RPI after Wednesday’s win) and LSU (up two spots to No. 7 after a thrilling 14-inning win against Florida). Vanderbilt’s resume is still a tick behind those two (largely because of its poor nonconference SOS and head-to-head series loss to LSU), but the Commodores certainly helped themselves with a 6-5 win against Texas A&M on Wednesday. All of those teams remain within striking distance of a national seed.
• It looks more and more likely that the SEC will get seven hosts after Wednesday’s action. Vandy improved to 2-0 in Hoover and climbed to No. 6 in the RPI; there’s no way the committee can deny the Commodores a host spot now, after they went 18-12 in the SEC and climbed comfortably inside the RPI top 10. And the other six teams are all locks to host. I’m about ready to call it: the SEC will set a new record with seven hosts this year.
• If the SEC is a lock for seven hosts, that would seem to hurt the ACC’s chances to land six, because the committee could balk at the notion of awarding 13 of the 16 host spots to two conferences. So while we believe the top six teams in the ACC are all worthy of hosting, it’s likely that Florida State and NC State are competing for one host spot. Heading into the week, we had NC State ahead of FSU in the pecking order based on RPI, top 50 wins, and FSU’s poor final month. But the Seminoles might have moved back ahead with a 7-3 win against the Wolfpack Wednesday. Now FSU is 2-0 vs. NC State on the season, and the RPI gap is narrowing (FSU is up two spots to No. 14, while NCSU is down three spots to No. 10). And remember that FSU had the better conference record (16-10) than NC State (15-13). How these teams fare the rest of the week could wind up deciding it. There is also at least a chance that both teams host and Clemson gets sent packing if the Tigers (who were idle Wednesday) go 0-3 in pool play, but barring that, we think Clemson still has the better resume than either team (it won weekend series from both of them down the stretch). Of course, there’s also a chance for all six to host, but we’re not banking on it.
• We’ll be keeping a close eye this week on Louisiana-Lafayette, Tulane and Southern Miss, three teams that are likely competing for one or two host spots in their region. The Cajuns became the only higher-seeded team to win Friday at the Sun Belt tournament, beating Arkansas State 7-4. The Golden Eagles got off to a great start in the C-USA tourney that they’re hosting, pounding Old Dominion 17-5. And Tulane was idle. So status quo holds for another day in this race; ULL gets the slight edge over Tulane based on RPI, while Southern Miss needs to make a deep run to offset its third-place finish in C-USA and its poor final weekend.
• Big South juggernaut Coastal Carolina improved to 2-0 at the conference tourney with a 4-3 win against Gardner-Webb, helping the Chanticleers climb one spot to No. 13 in the RPI. If Coastal can win the Big South tourney, don’t be surprised if it hosts, regardless of that sweep at the hands of Georgia Tech a few weeks back.
• All three Big 12 powers won Wednesday. Projected national seed Texas Tech came from behind to beat Kansas State, while TCU clubbed Baylor 12-5 and Oklahoma State walloped Texas 10-4. TCU (No. 17) and OSU (No. 28) both remained static in the RPI, and both teams need to keep winning this week to boost their chances. Right now, we still have both projected as No. 2 seeds.
• Arizona escaped its two-game midweek series against Abilene Christian without any RPI damage. The Wildcats remain No. 25 after sweeping the two games. Their bigger problem is that they’re stuck in fourth place in the standings, but if Arizona State falters in the final weekend, don’t rule out Arizona as a Western host.
• The SEC has a real chance to get seven regional hosts but no other teams in the field of 64. Kentucky looks out of the race after losing Tuesday’s play-in game to Alabama and dropping to No. 63 in the RPI. The Crimson Tide is back up inside the top 60 (No. 58), but that’s still probably not good enough for an SEC team. Alabama needs a nice run in Hoover, and it suffered a setback witha 4-1 loss to Mississippi State on Wednesday. And now the Tide has to face Florida in Thursday’s elimination game. Good luck with that, Bama. If the Tide loses that game, it will likely miss the field of 64. If the SEC gets just seven teams in, that’s good news for other bubble teams (like North Carolina, sitting at home with its No. 15 RPI and No. 3 SOS after failing to make the 10-team ACC tournament… but of course, the Tar Heels might still be playing if the ACC invited 12 teams to its tourney like the SEC does. There is no doubt in my mind that UNC has a stronger resume than Alabama and Kentucky, even though both those teams went 15-15 in their league).
Potential at-large teams who lost Wednesday to fall into losers’ brackets:
• South Alabama lost 4-2 to Texas-Arlington and slipped three spots to No. 45 in the RPI. The Jaguars did win a share of the Sun Belt regular-season title, so they still have a decent shot at an at-large spot — but an 0-2 showing in the conference tournament after three straight series losses to end the regular season would probably doom the Jaguars.
• Big Ten tourney top seed Minnesota lost to Iowa, 8-2. Even with a borderline RPI (No. 50), we like Minnesota’s at-large chances thanks to its regular-season conference title, even if it goes 0-2 in the conference tourney.
• Second-seeded Nebraska was also knocked off at the Big Ten, 5-1 by Michigan State. Like the Gophers, the Cornhuskers should still be in decent shape even if they go 0-2, as their RPI remains inside the top 40 (No. 39), they finished just a half-game back in the regular season, and they finished strong. But a win against Indiana in Thursday’s elimination game would certainly give us more confidence that they won’t get snubbed by the committee.
• East Carolina lost to South Florida, 4-2. The Pirates dropped eight spots in the RPI, but at No. 32 and with a second-place finish in the American, they are in no danger of slipping toward the bubble. Other bubble teams are hoping for ECU or Tulane to win the American tourney to keep it a two-bid league.
• Ohio State jumped 10 spots to No. 47 in the RPI after an 8-3 win against Michigan, improving the Buckeyes to 4-0 against the Wolverines this year. The Wolverines actually managed to climb a spot to No. 36 in the RPI, but with eight losses in their last nine games, they’re in serious trouble if they can’t rally for some wins in the losers’ bracket.
• The other Big Ten team that really helped itself Wednesday was Maryland, which climbed five spots to No. 53 after beating Indiana 5-3. Mike Shawaryn struck out 16 in a complete-game four-hitter, and suddenly the Terrapins are starting to look like a real threat to make a regional — and maybe even to win a regional for the third straight year, if Shawaryn can pitch like that next week. Maryland’s 13-11 Big Ten record in the regular season is OK but not great, however the Terrapins are 7-4 against the top 50 and 18-15 against the top 100, both marks that compare favorably with many bubble teams. With another win or two in Omaha this week, you have to like their chances.
• UConn entered the week on the bubble, but on the wrong side of it. The Huskies need a nice showing in the American Conference tournament, and they got off to a good start with a 6-2 win against Memphis, keeping them at No. 51 in the RPI.
• Both Southland Conference at-large contenders won their openers Wednesday. Sam Houston State beat Stephen F. Austin 5-3, and Southeastern Louisiana beat New Orleans 5-4. The regular-season champion Bearkats are up three spots to No. 41 in the RPI, while the runner-up Lions are also up three to No. 43. Bubble teams want one of those two teams to win the conference tournament — but they might have liked to see SLU go 0-2 and Sam Houston win the auto bid, likely making the SLC a one-bid league. Now that both teams are in the winners’ bracket, two bids looks like a distinct possibility.
• If the committee is really paying attention, it will award Kent State an at-large bid should it get knocked out of the MAC tourney, even if its RPI is a little outside the normal range. The Flashes might make that discussion moot, of course — they got off to a nice start at the MAC tourney with a 1-0 win behind a four-hit shutout from Eric Lauer, who lowered his season ERA to 0.69. If Kent State does get upset this week and that winds up being Lauer’s final collegiate start, he’ll finish the season with the lowest ERA of any Division I starter this century. On a related note, Kent State should be a No. 3 seed if it gets into the tournament, because it isn’t fair for any No. 1 seed to have to face that guy in its first game. The Flashes did climb three spots to No. 63 in the RPI Wednesday.