2018 Final Projected Field Of 64Projections
• RPI Nitty Gritty
The 16 regional hosts were announced Sunday night, so it’s time for our final field of 64 projection. Here’s a snapshot of the conferences we project to land multiple bids (automatic qualifiers denoted by an asterisk). Teams are lined up the way we would rank them within their conferences:
SEC (11): Florida, *Ole Miss, Arkansas, Georgia, Auburn, South Carolina, LSU, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Kentucky
ACC (6): *Florida State, Clemson, North Carolina, NC State, Louisville, Duke
Big 12 (5): Texas Tech, *Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma
Big Ten (4): *Minnesota, Indiana, Purdue, Ohio State
Pac-12 (4): *Stanford, Oregon State, UCLA, Washington
American Athletic (4): *East Carolina, UConn, South Florida, Houston
Atlantic Sun (2): *Stetson, Jacksonville
C-USA (2): *Southern Miss, Florida Atlantic
Ohio Valley (2): Tennessee Tech, *Morehead State
Sun Belt (2): *Coastal Carolina, Troy
Changes from yesterday: Morehead State enters the field after winning an automatic bid, making the OVC a two-bid league. That bumps out Illinois, which was our final team in this morning. Here’s our at-large ladder:
LAST FIVE IN:
61. Ohio State
64. Dallas Baptist
FIRST FIVE OUT:
67. Central Florida
69. Sam Houston State
• Troy and Dallas Baptist get our last two spots, as teams with top-40 RPIs along with 40 wins overall. Teams with that combination almost always get at-large bids — in fact, our research turned up no 40/40 teams in the last decade that have been snubbed. Both teams also finished second in their conferences in the regular season and as runners-up in their conference tournaments. All of that is enough to overcome lackluster records against the top 50 (6-10 for Troy, 5-9 for DBU).
• Despite a 13-18 record against SEC foes, we still think Kentucky deserves to be in based on a 16-16 mark against the top 50, with a very impressive collection of high-end series wins that trumps all the other bubble candidates (Texas Tech, Auburn, South Carolina, at Georgia, Mississippi State, plus a strong 3-0 weekend at Shriners College Classic). No other bubble team has nearly as many quality series wins over regional teams.
• Illinois just misses the cut, at No. 47 in the RPI, 17-11 vs. Big Ten teams, 7-7 against the top 50 — it’s a nice resumé, worthy of an at-large spot. We just ran out of room. We also rank the Illini ahead of Arizona, thanks in part to their 3-0 weekend against Pac-12 contenders Arizona, UCLA and Washington in Minneapolis early this year (while Arizona went 0-3 against the Big Ten in the same weekend). The Wildcats also have fewer top 50 wins (5-7) and a comparable RPI (No. 46), and they finished with a losing record against Pac-12 teams (15-16). We don’t project either to make it, but we’d give Illinois a slightly better chance than Arizona.
• Northeastern is the highest-ranked RPI team that misses our field, at No. 35. A 3-9 record against the top 50 simply torpedoes the Huskies’ case, as does the fact that they lost their series against the other top two teams in the CAA (UNCW and College of Charleston). Northeastern just doesn’t have enough quality wins — it did not take a series against a projected regional team this year.