Baseball America presents our latest Projected Field of 64, which we will continue to update until Selection Monday.
Some projection is still required when putting the field together and this field is forward-looking, not meant to be taken as if the season ended today. With less than two weeks until Selection Monday, however, there is much less projection in the field now than in previous editions.
The hosting race has become very muddled at the back. In this edition, Louisiana State and UC Santa Barbara are back as hosts, while Baylor and Mississippi have fallen out. UCSB has done nothing but win since surprisingly dropping a series against UC Riverside a few weeks ago and, accordingly, its RPI is hanging tough in the top 16. It also has already amassed 41 wins and is leading the Big West. It currently has no top 50 wins, however, as UC Irvine has slipped out of the top 50, but everything else on the resume says host. And, as we’re about to get into, the rest of the candidates are lacking themselves.
You can go around and around on the final two hosting spots right now. We went with LSU and North Carolina, but they both must win their final regular season series (or make deep conference tournament runs) to get those spots. Both teams are at home and should finish in the top 20 in RPI with series wins. But Baylor, Missouri, North Carolina State, Texas A&M and West Virginia can all also stake claims to those hosting spots and a darkhorse, such as Dallas Baptist, could still emerge.
Baylor’s hosting case is simple – win the Big 12 regular season. But it now holds just a half-game lead on Texas Tech and has the difficult task of traveling to red-hot Oklahoma State this weekend, while Texas Tech gets Texas Christian at home. Because Baylor’s RPI lags, it very much needs a series win for the RPI help and the resume boost winning the Big 12 regular season title would provide. West Virginia has a solid RPI (18), but it finished 13-11 in the Big 12 and sits in fourth place. It’s also only 7-9 against top 50 opponents and has a series against George Washington this weekend that could well do more harm than good to its RPI.
Texas A&M has the best RPI of the group and is 14-12-1 in the SEC. But it has the unenviable task of hosting Arkansas this weekend. A series loss wouldn’t torpedo its hosting chances, but it would mean the Aggies would go to Hoover with work to do in the SEC Tournament. Missouri gets Florida at home this weekend, but its just 13-13-1 in the SEC. A sweep would probably do the trick, but if it just wins the series, it’ll finish at 15-14-1 in the SEC, which probably would be good for seventh place behind LSU and Ole Miss. While it won series against both those teams, would it really host over them with a losing road record (11-12-1) and a losing record against the top 50 (10-13-1)? It seems unlikely.
UNC hosts NC State this weekend in a pivotal series for hosting chances. We went with UNC in this projection because the series is in Chapel Hill and it has the better RPI. But NC State is playing well, and a series win would likely mean a third-place finish in the ACC. Its RPI is 24, but with a couple wins in Chapel Hill, that would certainly improve. If the Wolfpack can win this series or make a run in Durham in the ACC Tournament, they could well end up on the host line.
The tournament bubble is a little less muddled and far more lacking on good candidates. After last year making a big deal of limiting the number of at-large bids that were awarded to teams with losing records, the selection committee may be hard pressed to make such a claim this year. With few mid-major teams combining the RPI and strong position in their conference standings typically needed for at-large bids, the committee is likely going to have to turn to Power Five teams with subpar conference records.
That isn’t helped by Auburn (13-14) and Tennessee (12-15) currently ranking in the top 20 in RPI with losing records in the SEC. They’re both in here but need to do something this weekend – in Auburn’s case that probably means not getting swept at LSU and Tennessee needs a series win against Ole Miss – or else they’ll go to Hoover with serious work to do. As a guide, Texas A&M went 13-17 last year during the regular season but made it all the way to the SEC Tournament semifinals to earn a bid.
Virginia (12-15 ACC) also gets a nod here. The Cavaliers have closed hard and gotten their RPI to 45 ahead of their regular-season finale at Virginia Tech. A sweep probably assures Virginia of a bid, but even a series win – provided the Hoos don’t go 0-2 during the ACC Tournament – is probably enough. Oklahoma (9-12 Big 12) is in a similar situation at 44 in RPI but here is bubble out owing to its 4-11 record against top 50 opponents. And don’t lose sight of Arizona (12-14 Pac-12), which is up to 56 in RPI and has six very winnable road games against Penn State and Washington State to finish the season. There’s no margin for error, but if the Wildcats can win out, they may get into the tournament yet.
You can see last week’s projection here.
||Chapel Hill, NC.|
|1. (1) Vanderbilt^*||1. (16) North Carolina^|
|2. California||2. West Virginia|
|3. Virginia Commonwealth*||3. Illinois State|
|4. Alabama State*||4. Campbell*|
|Los Angeles, CA.||Baton Rouge, LA.|
|1. (2) UCLA^*||1. (15) Louisiana State^|
|2. Indiana State||2. Baylor|
|3. Liberty*||3. Houston|
|4. Canisius*||4. Sam Houston State*|
|Fayetteville, Ark.||San Bernardino, CA.|
|1. (3) Arkansas^||1. (14) UC Santa Barbara^|
|2. Creighton*||2. North Carolina State|
|3. Connecticut||3. Arizona State|
|4. Nebraska-Omaha*||4. Wright State*|
|Starkville, MS.||Corvallis, OR.|
|1. (4) Mississippi State^||1. (13) Oregon State^|
|2. Florida State||2. Texas A&M|
|3. Texas State*||3. Fresno State*|
|4. Jacksonville State*||4. Bryant*|
|Athens, GA.||Coral Gables, FL.|
|1. (5) Georgia^||1. (12) Miami^|
|2. Michigan*||2. Florida Atlantic*|
|3. Clemson||3. Auburn|
|4. North Carolina A&T*||4. Samford*|
|Greenville, NC.||Stillwater, OK|
|1. (6) East Carolina^*||1. (11) Oklahoma State^|
|2. Ole Miss||2. Dallas Baptist*|
|3. Virginia||3. Nebraska|
|4. Navy*||4. Harvard*|
|Louisville, KY.||Atlanta, GA.|
|1. (7) Louisville^*||1. (10) Georgia Tech^|
|2. Indiana||2. Illinois|
|3. Tennessee||3. Southern Mississippi|
|4. Ball State*||4. Elon*|
|Lubbock, TX.||Stanford, CA.|
|1. (8) Texas Tech^*||1. (9) Stanford^|
|2. Missouri||2. Brigham Young*|
|3. Duke||3. UC Irvine|
|4. New Mexico State*||4. Stony Brook*|
^ Denotes host school
* Denotes automatic qualifier
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