NCAA Bubble Teams, May12th

By Eric Sorenson. Posted on May 15th, 2017 in National Stuff, Uncategorized
 
Louisiana Tech is obviously beyond elation on being an NCAA bubble team.

Louisiana Tech is obviously beyond elation on being an NCAA bubble team.

(To check out more of my work, a whole bunch of it can be found four times a week on D1baseball.com)

Okay StitchHeads, we are now fully immersed in the month of May. In other words, it’s put up or shut up time in college baseball. From here on out the season becomes like a hard-driving Metallica song, brutally honest, incredibly raw and no excuses for crybabies.

You’ll hear an awful lot about National Seeds, No. 1 seeds, at-large bids and of course, the omni-present bubble watch that kicks into high gear. So lets put our toes on the end of the board and dive into it.

BUBBLE UP.
It’s that time of year again, the excruciating part of the season where coaches obsess over things like their ranking, other people’s rankings and how unfairly their conferences get treated. But you know what?… none of them will admit they even look at the RPI rankings. But we know better.

Anyway, here are a dozen teams that are sitting squarely – or make that roundly – on the bubble for at-large consideration in the NCAA Selection Committee’s eyes. Going to do it in alphabetical order so not to anger anyone.

- Binghamton
Record: 27-9
RPI: 43
ISR: 58
Non-Conf RPI: 43
Non-Conf SOS: 145

Pluses:
The committee HAS to know there is something special to this team since they are an America East program with an RPI this high, this late in the season. That just doesn’t happen in our sport. Sweeping an ACC team on the road (Virginia Tech) early in the season is a feather in their caps.

Minuses:
C’mon, it’s an America East team. SOMEbody made a miscalculation in their RPI, right? The Bearcats have zero wins over Top 100 opponents. No matter who beats them, if BU gets bounced short of the AmEast tourney title, they will face the “they can’t even beat ___(fill in the blank)__ in their own tournament” ridicule.

What They Need To Do:
Gotta stay hot. Entering the weekend, BU is on a six-game win streak and has gone 14-2 in last 16. And for God’s sakes, don’t go 0-2 in the AmEast tournament. In fact, don’t go 1-2 either. The ‘Cats also have to hope the selection committee doesn’t view their high RPI as an aberration in the formula.

- BYU
Record: 29-15
RPI: 66
ISR: 32
Non-Conf RPI: 137
Non-Conf SOS: 186

Pluses:
The main reason the Cougars are listed here is because they lead the WCC with a very strong 17-4 mark and feature the No. 7 hitting team in the country at .322. The committee loves a hot streak and BYU is on one now, having won nine of their last 10 and going 19-4 since losing a series at LMU in late March.

Minuses:
The RPI is still high, obviously, and though they have won 16 games away from home, their non-conference schedule was a little light. The next four games won’t help considering they’ll come vs. No. 281 Portland and No. 259 Utah Valley. Oh, and their RPI dropped eight slots after Tuesday’s 7-6 loss to Utah.

What They Need To Do:
Sweeping those next four will certainly help avoid the “RPI anchor effect” that will already have some effect, win or lose. Winning the WCC regular season title (without sharing it like last year) would carry some weight as well. Any WCC wins over San Diego will help as well since they have the highest RPI of anyone in the conference.

- Connecticut
Record: 26-20
RPI: 45
ISR: 74
Non-Conf RPI: 63
Non-Conf SOS: 134

Pluses:
They’ve been hovering around in the 40s to low-50s nearly the entire year, so you have to figure they aren’t going to crash and burn down to the 70s or 80s anytime soon. Eleven wins vs. Top 100 teams is about as good as it gets for a New England program. Three-gamers remaining vs. No. 23 and No. 87 teams should help RPI win-or-lose.

Minuses:
Is a team with a 26-20 record is supposed to be under at-large consideration? And they’re not even a Power Five conference team either. A 8-10 record over the last four weeks isn’t going to leave much of an impression on the committee. UConn has gone just 2-7 vs. Houston, UCF and Tulane, the upper crust of the AAC.

What They Need To Do:
Right now the Huskies are tied with Tulane for fourth in the American. They probably need to finish above the Greenies, who swept them in New Orleans a couple weeks ago. This weekend’s series vs. AAC-leading South Florida (No. 23 RPI) is a must-win. No doubt. Especially at home.

- Liberty
Record: 29-18
RPI: 56
ISR: 77
Non-Conf RPI: 38
Non-Conf SOS: 6

Pluses:
The Flames are leaning big-time on their non-conference schedule, the sixth-toughest in the country, which leads to their stellar non-conference RPI. As part of that, their list of victims include Kentucky, St. John’s and North Carolina. They also have gone 7-3 in their last 10 to set up a good finish.

Minuses:
Unfortunately, 22 of their wins have come against teams rated 101 or above. Currently, the Flames sit in second place a half game behind Winthrop in the Big South standings, which doesn’t look impressive since it’s the 19th-ranked conference in the country. In addition to that, Winthrop swept the Flames in Lynchburg back in mid-April

What They Need To Do:
Their best chance to move up more in the RPI is to beat VCU this coming weekend. The Rams are only No. 104, but three road wins would go a long way for the Flames. If not that, President Trump is giving the graduation commencement on Saturday, so maybe an executive order could be signed to automatically qualify the Flames for the NCAA Tournament, regardless of how they end up in the Big South Tournament.

- Louisiana Tech
Record: 32-16
RPI: 39
ISR: 38
Non-Conf RPI: 15
Non-Conf SOS: 105

Pluses:
The Dogs are in pretty good shape as long as they keep the momentum going. If the RPI slips a little, it’s still not a big thing because that non-conference RPI is wicked-huge for the Bulldogs. Wins over Arkansas, Mississippi State, Louisiana and McNeese State look sparkling for them now.

Minuses:
At press time the Dogs are tied with UTSA for fifth place in the CUSA standings. Finishing in the fifth or sixth spot won’t curry a lot of favor with the Selection Committee. Gotta move up boys. Eighteen of their wins have come vs. teams ranked 101 or higher, 10 of them 200-plus.

What They Need To Do:
First and foremost, the Techsters can’t afford to lose this weekend’s series with Marshall, otherwise they’ll be in danger of finishing in sixth or seventh place in CUSA, which would do them no favors. Short of winning the CUSA tourney, of course, making a decent run in the conference tournament would be a solidifier.

- Mercer
Record: 36-11
RPI: 50
ISR: 55
Non-Conf RPI: 70
Non-Conf SOS: 224

Pluses:
The Bears trail only Oregon State, Louisville, North Carolina and Texas Tech for most Ws in D1. They’ve also won 18 road games, the second-most road wins in D1. They have also gone 10-1 in weekend series this season, including seven of them being three-game sweeps. And c’mon, which NCAA Selection Committee member doesn’t want to see a team that is fourth nationally in home runs make the spotlight of the post-season?

Minuses:
The Bears are trending in the wrong direction, dropping from No. 29 in the RPI three weeks ago, to this 50th position now. Only five wins have come against teams that are in the top 100 of the RPI, and eight of them have been against 200-plus teams. The overall strength of schedule is ranked No. 185

What They Need To Do:
Remember how we mentioned all those weekend sweeps above? Well they might need to continue that trend against No. 153 Wofford and No. 111 Western Carolina. They have got to turn this latest 4-5 skid around.

- Mississippi
Record: 29-20
RPI: 35
ISR: 46
Non-Conf RPI: 42
Non-Conf SOS: 75

Pluses:
Series wins against teams like Arkansas, Missouri and Vanderbilt are certainly helpful, as are road wins vs. LSU, Southern Miss and Kentucky. The RPI is still in the 30s, which is usually fine with getting an at-large bid, even for an SEC team.

Minuses:
The Rebels are youthful and their non-conference games show it. In their biggest spotlight of the season they went 0-3 in the Shriner’s Classic in Houston in games that weren’t all that close. The Rebels are also just 7-13 away from Swayze Stadium. And that losing conference record still sticks out like a bloated spleen.

What They Need To Do:
It won’t be easy, but the Rebs need to somehow pull their conference record out from underneath the Mendoza Line (11-13) against Texas A&M and Auburn in their final two SEC weekends. Obviously any games in the SEC tournament will be helpful since every team has a good RPI, so go as deep as you can at Hoover, Johnny Reb.

- North Carolina State
Record: 28-21
RPI: 48
ISR: 59
Non-Conf RPI: 53
Non-Conf SOS: 86

Pluses:
There are a lot of impressive wins on the Wolfpack docket, particularly vs. teams like Louisville, Wake Forest, Florida State and North Carolina. Not sure if the committee looks at things like this, but nine of the ‘Pack’s losses have come by a single run.

Minuses:
Remember how those rival Tar Heels got left out because of a losing ACC record last year? The Pack is currently 11-13. Of those wins listed above, the only series NC State won was vs. FSU. Getting swept at Boston College two weeks ago was pretty brutal. Did I mention the losing record in ACC play?

What They Need To Do:
The Pack hasn’t been the best road team, but they can’t afford to lose their series at Pitt. In fact, sweeping the Panthers may be a necessity. Winning two or three games vs. Clemson in the regular season finale would be huge as well. If their RPI drops into the 50s, it’s over.

- Old Dominion
Record: 33-15
RPI: 42
ISR: 46
Non-Conf RPI: 72
Non-Conf SOS: 146

Pluses:
The Monarchs have stayed fairly consistent in the upper-30s/low-40s of the RPI for the past month. A 12-8 mark vs. the top 100 ain’t too shabby, but 22-11 vs. Top 109 is great. They sit in second place in the No. 6-ranked conference in the country. Series wins over West Virginia (No. 20) and Southern Miss (No. 16) are the diamonds in the Monarchs’ crown. Also, they just entered the human polls at No. 25 in D1Baseball’s rankings, so that gives them some street cred too.

Minuses:
A few ugly losses to 200-plus teams is a concern, especially Tuesday night’s loss to No. 254 Richmond which dropped ODU from No. 39 to No. 44 (before moving up to 42 now). Their non-conference RPI is nearly double the regular RPI.

What They Need To Do:
Just stay in second place. They are three games behind Southern Miss in the CUSA ranks, so catching them with six games remaining won’t be easy. Still, winning their final two series vs. No. 77 FIU and No. 55 FAU (who sits in third place, a game behind) may be necessary.

- Rhode Island
Record: 28-16
RPI: 47
ISR: 88
Non-Conf RPI: 76
Non-Cont SOS: 78

Pluses:
Like Binghamton and UConn above, you don’t see these Northeast teams stick around the Top 50 of the RPI this late in the season, so this must be a really good Rams team. They beat N.C. State and won at Arkansas, actually going toe-to-toe with the Razorbacks in all three games. They’re on a hot streak, going 13-3 in their last 16 games.

Minuses:
I still shake my head over the Rams getting denied by the Selection Committee in 2009. (I know, I know, let it go). Obviously, a good portion of their wins have come against some poor teams as 19 of their 28 wins have been against No. 150-plus teams in the RPI.

What They Need To Do:
The midweek matchup with UConn next Tuesday has suddenly become very big. Before that, the Rams have No. 211 George Mason, who they may need to sweep. If you don’t win the A-10 tournament title, you must AT LEAST make the title game. Losing by some bizarre fluke, like a fan interference or something, may be helpful too.

- San Diego
Record: 30-16-1
RPI: 51
ISR: 28
Non-Conf RPI: 29
Non-Conf SOS: 29

Pluses:
It’s USD, you KNOW they schedule like madmen every year, this one is no different. Good wins vs. Vanderbilt, Oregon, sweep at Tulane, New Mexico, BYU and Cal State Fullerton. The Toreros started the month of April with an RPI in the 80s, so they have been trending up. Conference mate and University of San Francisco A.D. Scott Sidwell is on the Selection Committee chairman, so that’s got to help.

Minuses:
Despite the move up, USD has gone just 3-7-1 in its last eleven games. Of the seven games remaining, six will be played vs. teams with 200-plus RPIs. Ugh. Also, right now the Toreros are in fourth-place in the WCC, if they fail any more and don’t make the WCC tournament, it’s certainly over.

What They Need To Do:
Anything short of sweeping No. 230 Sac State and No. 210 Pepperdine could be detrimental to their cause. And yes, make the four-team WCC tournament and win a game or two while you’re there. Historically, the committee isn’t so kind to mid-major teams from the West, but with Mr. Sidwell at the helm maybe that’s a good omen for the Toreros.

- UCLA
Record: 24-21
RPI: 53
ISR: 33
Non-Conf RPI: 133
Non-Conf SOS: 24

Pluses:
The Bruins are tied with Stanford for second place in the Pac 12, the second-ranked conference in the ISR. Add to that they took two of three from the Cardinal. That 23rd-ranked non-conference strength of schedule is the norm for the Boys of Westwood. The quality of play is obvious as the Bruins rank nationally at 18th in pitching (3.36 ERA) and 12th in defense (.980 fielding). Bruins are on the rise as well, since one month ago they had an RPI in the upper 90s.

Minuses:
Tell me this, how does this team have a non-conference RPI of No. 133? That’s pretty ugly. Some of their marquee non-conference matchups have not turned out well, losing two of three at the DodgerTown Classic and getting swept at Texas. The Pac 12 has a history of getting slapped around by the Selection Committee, note Oregon State a year ago.

What They Need To Do:
Seven of their final ten games are on the road, so it won’t be easy, but earning a winning record in those games will help boost that RPI. If they can stay in the second-place slot in the conference, it’ll probably be a no-brainer that they get into the Big Dance.

.
BEWARE THE LOSERS
When it comes to Power Five conference teams with losing records in conference play, the selection committee has shown in the past that they give no quarter. Right now, there are four teams that rank very high in the RPI but sport a losing record in conference play. With a word of warning from 2016’s North Carolina team, these are the squads who are in danger of entering the post-season with a sub-.500 conference mark…

- Baylor, No. 19 RPI
29-17 overall, 8-10 Big 12
At Oklahoma State, vs. Kansas State.
That’s a pretty tricky trip to Stillwater against a fighting-mad OSU team.

- Texas, No. 21 RPI
31-19 overall, 9-11 Big 12
Vs. West Virginia
Longhorns have this weekend off but will then have to sweep WVU to avoid a losing mark.

- South Carolina, No. 24 RPI
29-19 overall, 11-13 SEC
At Missouri, vs. Georgia
Lucky Gamecocks, they have two of the bottom-feeders of the SEC East left to play.

- Florida State, No. 27 RPI
32-18 overall, 11-12 ACC
Vs. Wake Forest, at Louisville
Oh Lordy, this is as tough as it gets. Will help the RPI, but will hurt the drive to a winning ACC mark.

- Tennessee, No. 37 RPI
26-19 overall, 7-15 SEC
At Kentucky, vs. Missouri
The Wildcats lost a series vs. Georgia last week, so they could be vulnerable. But that 7-15 record… oof.

 

Comments are closed.