NCAA Tournament Stock Report: Week 10
This time of year, a hefty majority of all questions submitted in our weekly college chat, as well as those sent via e-mail or Twitter, center around the battle for postseason positioning. Our readers want to know how the races for national seeds, host sites and at-large bids are shaping up—so it’s time to roll out our weekly Stock Report feature. Every Wednesday, we’ll examine how the postseason picture has shifted over the previous week. This analysis is intended to complement our weekly NCAA tournament field of 64 projection, which was put together in a conference call with Kendall Rogers, Mark Etheridge and me on Tuesday night.
Below, we’ll look at who’s in, who’s out, who’s on the bubble for at-large spots, hosts and national seeds. This discussion is weighted much more toward performance to date and remaining schedule than projection based on talent, but it’s also not intended to show exactly what the field would look like if the season ended today. We’re still looking ahead.
During this discussion, we will reference the NCAA’s official RPI report, which is released every Tuesday and does not include Tuesday’s action (we also did not consider Tuesday’s results when building this field). And we’ll make use of records against the top 25, 50 or 100 in the RPI using the D1Baseball Nitty Gritty Report (also through Monday’s action).
We’ll get to at-large chances in a bit, but let’s start with a look at which teams are on track to earn national seeds and which are on track to host regionals through the first nine weeks of the season:
SECURE TEAMS: Texas A&M, Louisville, UCLA
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Florida, Miami, LSU, TCU, Arizona State
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Florida State, Vanderbilt, Oklahoma State, Dallas Baptist
Changes from our midseason Field of 64 projection last week: Florida, Miami and LSU replace Florida State, Vanderbilt and Oklahoma State as national seeds.
The turnover from a week ago is a reminder that the postseason picture is still very fluid with six weekends of play remaining before Selection Monday. The Seminoles, Commodores, Cowboys and Horned Frogs all took hits this past weekend by losing series. Florida State took the biggest hit because it got swept (by Notre Dame), which gave the Seminoles five losses in a six-game span before Tuesday’s win against Florida. FSU remains firmly in the mix for a national seed based on its top-10 RPI and its 11-5 record against the top 50 (after Tuesday), but it has fallen behind surging Miami in the ACC pecking order. The Hurricanes have won eight straight games to climb to 14-4 in the conference and build a five-game lead in the Coastal Division, and they have a sterling No. 2 RPI ranking.
Oklahoma State also took a significant blow by losing a series at sub-.500 Kansas, but the Cowboys remain tied for the Big 12 lead and No. 12 in the RPI, so they’re still very much in the national seed mix. So is Vanderbilt, which lost a home series to .500 Ole Miss this weekend. The Commodores are No. 19 in the RPI and lack quality series wins, their best being against bubble teams Arkansas, Georgia and Auburn. Vandy is just 3-3 vs. the top 25 in the RPI and 6-6 vs. the top 50. Vandy remains in the national seed discussion largely based on its 11-4 conference record in first-place status in the SEC, as well as its talent, which gives it a good chance to finish strong.
Florida has better quality wins, with a 6-4 record against the RPI top 25 and a 12-9 mark against the top 50 heading into Tuesday. The Gators are two games behind Vanderbilt in the standings, but they are well ahead in the RPI (No. 5) and they own a signature series win against Miami.
LSU has rebuilt its momentum after losing its first series of the year at home against Kentucky at the end of March. Since then, the Tigers swept a road series at Alabama and won two of three from Auburn, giving them a strong 10-5 SEC record and a No. 15 RPI. A strength of schedule ranking of No. 128 is still a blemish on LSU’s resume, dragging down its RPI (No. 15), but LSU’s 31-6 overall record and 11-4 mark against the top 50 offset those deficiencies at this stage.
The most interesting debate in Tuesday night’s field of 64 podcast centered around our eighth national seed, Arizona State. The Sun Devils are currently outside national seed range in the RPI, as they dropped from No. 17 to No. 23 in the official RPI over the last week following a midweek loss at UNLV and a home series win against an Arizona team that began the week ranked 131st in the RPI. Arizona State is 5-4 against the top 25 in the RPI but hasn’t played any games against teams in the 26-50 range. Still, ASU has a robust SOS (No. 20) thanks to early series against Oklahoma State (which it won), TCU (which it lost) and Long Beach State (which it won). All of those series were at home, so they didn’t help ASU in the RPI as much as they could have, but at least the Devils played front-line nonconference opponents, and went 5-4 against them. ASU is also in great shape in the Pac-12 at 11-4, and the West usually gets at least two national seeds, so that helps ASU a bit too. All of that was enough reason for us to give ASU our eighth national seed despite its RPI, but the Devils have little margin for error against a remaining schedule that features two marquee series vs. UCLA and USC, but also four series against teams outside the top 50 (including an RPI-killing series against No. 230 Tennessee Tech).
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