Conference tournaments begin in a few days for most and the NCAA postseason is nearing. With that, many fans around the country are increasingly curious about the postseason picture, particularly the national seed and NCAA regional host contenders in addition to those fighting for at-large berths to the postseason.
With that in mind, we're deviating from the usual daily roundup format to give fans a comprehensive look at how Saturday's action might've affected the postseason landscape.
Let's start with the national seeds in our latest NCAA postseason projections:
1. Virginia -- STATUS: No change -- The Cavaliers might've lost their No. 1 overall seed with a series loss to Wake Forest, but they're still in terrific shape for a national seed. Wake Forest starting pitcher Connor Kaden allowed just three hits in five shutout innings, while Virginia lefthanded pitcher Brandon Waddell allowed three runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings of work. The Hoos enter the ACC tournament as the No. 3 seed behind top-seeded Miami and Florida State, only because FSU won its division, thus leaped Virginia.
2. Oregon State -- STATUS: No change – The Beavers dropped the series opener to the Huskies on Friday, but bounced back in impressive fashion Saturday with lefthanded pitcher Jace Fry leading the way in a 1-0 victory. Fry struck out nine, walked three and allowed just seven hits in a complete game performance. OSU remains rock solid as a national seed entering the series finale.
3. Florida -- STATUS: No change – Though the Gators pretty much assured themselves a national seed with Friday's series-clinching win over Tennessee, which gave them the SEC regular season title, coach Kevin O'Sullivan still wanted to finish the series on a high note. UF, though, was tripped up by the Vols, 7-5, with starting pitcher Danny Young allowing four runs on six hits in 2 1/3 innings. The Gators are an absolute lock for a national seed.
4. Florida State -- STATUS: No change – Sure, there's a chance the NCAA Selection Committee could give Miami a top eight national seed and snub the Seminoles in the process, but I don't see that happening at this juncture. FSU was unable to sweep Duke, losing the series finale 7-5 with starting pitcher Peter Miller allowing two runs in just an inning of work.
5. Indiana -- STATUS: No change – The Hoosiers wrapped up the Big Ten regular season with a dominant 8-0 win over Minnesota, as starting pitcher Brian Korte tossed five shutout innings, and first baseman Sam Travis smacked a pair of doubles. The Hoosiers are now 7-5 vs. RPI Top 25, 9-6 vs. RPI Top 50 and 17-9 vs. RPI Top 100. Those metrics combined with a top five RPI and 40 wins equals a national seed.
6. Louisiana-Lafayette -- STATUS: No change – Ragin' Cajuns outfielder Seth Harrison smacked a walk-off RBI single in the 14th inning to give his team a 6-5 win and series sweep over Louisiana-Monroe. It's hard to deny the Cajuns a national seed with a 49-7 overall record and 50 wins very likely in the Sun Belt Conference tournament. However, as teams such as South Carolina, and potentially Oklahoma State and Washington, rise in the RPI, the confidence decreases. I'm keeping the Cajuns as a national seed right now, but it's not a lock.
7. Miami (Fla.) -- STATUS: No change – We already had the Hurricanes as a top eight national seed earlier this week, and they only solidified their case this weekend with a home series win over North Carolina. Miami captured the series win and the ACC regular season title with a 2-0 win over the Tar Heels, as lefthanded pitcher Bryan Radziewski struck out six, walked one and allowed just six hits in six shutout frames.
8. Mississippi -- STATUS: No change – Just a day after clinching the SEC West Division, the Rebels struggled late in a 9-6 loss to Texas A&M, with starting pitcher Sam Smith allowing five runs on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings. With that said, I still have the Rebels in as a national seed after taking an impressive road series from the Aggies. The Rebels are now 5-7 vs. RPI Top 25, 14-11 vs. RPI Top 50 and 21-14 vs. RPI Top 100, along with a second-place SEC finish. For now, the Rebels remain a national seed, but South Carolina is just about dead even entering the conference tournament.
Other national seed notes: Not worrying about the order of the top eight national seeds until Sunday night, there are no changes to the top eight tonight. However, the situation remains fluid and there's plenty of competition. Miami captured the ACC regular season crown and has a high RPI, thus should be a lock for a national seed. Meanwhile, Indiana moved a step closer to a lock with a home series win over Minnesota, while Louisiana-Lafayette swept its home series against Louisiana-Monroe, thus remains a national seed with a high RPI. I do think the Cajuns' position as a national seed is vulnerable entering conference tournament action with South Carolina hot on their and Ole Miss' heels. The Gamecocks captured a road series win over Vanderbilt and has a solid resume. In addition to a solid conference finish in the SEC, the Gamecocks are 8-7 vs. RPI Top 25, 12-9 vs. RPI Top 50 and 20-12 vs. RPI Top 100, along with a non-conference RPI of 8. Those are very solid marks and makes this a tough situation entering next week. TCU is right behind South Carolina with an RPI of 14, while Washington and Cal Poly could make things interesting with strong finishes. The Huskies, for instance, face Oregon State in the rubber match of a three-game series Sunday afternoon. There's also Oklahoma State, which has an RPI in the 20s, and will need a strong showing in the Big 12 tournament to get into national seed contention.
LOOKING AT THE HOSTS
There are some things to discuss from a hosting perspective after Saturday's contests. Beyond the national seeds, we entered the week with Houston, Cal Poly, Oklahoma State, South Carolina, Washington, TCU, Vanderbilt and Rice as hosts. However, LSU and Louisville also are teams to watch entering conference tournament action next week.
The Tigers took a major step back in the hosting discussion three weeks ago with a series loss at Texas A&M, but have played well since, splitting a rain-shortened series at home against Alabama last weekend, while hitting the road and sweeping Auburn this weekend. I don't think the Tigers have surpassed Houston or Rice just yet, but they're close, and a strong showing in the SEC tournament might do the trick.
Going inside the Tigers' resume, they have an RPI of 16 after Saturday's victory over Auburn, while they're 4-8 vs. RPI Top 25, 12-12 vs. RPI Top 50 and 18-12 vs. RPI Top 100. LSU also finished the regular season third in the SEC standings. Those are compelling arguments and it makes next week's SEC tournament crucial. If the Tigers don't host, a seamless transition over to the Lafayette, La., Regional likely is on the docket.
As for Louisville, it also is very much in the hosting mix, and there are reasons for committee members to choose the Cards over UH as a host. For instance, the Cards took a road series over UH and won the American Athletic Conference crown, finishing four and a half games in front of the Cougars. UL has an RPI of 19 with a 4-5 mark vs. RPI Top 25, 6-7 mark vs. RPI Top 50 and 13-8 record vs. RPI Top 100.
I'm not ready to officially make the switch to LSU or Louisville as host sites, but my confidence level with Houston and Rice has decreased this weekend.
If you're looking for a surprise host, watch out for Texas Tech. The Red Raiders are a long shot to host right now, but always think outside the box. Tech has a head-to-head series win over Indiana to its credit, a fourth-place Big 12 finish, 40 wins, a top-15 RPI, and eight wins vs. RPI Top 25 teams to go with a 26-15 mark vs. RPI Top 100.
WATCHING THOSE AT-LARGES
Texas A&M: The Aggies won't be without some nervousness entering the SEC tournament, but I thought A&M was in good shape for an at-large berth with at least one win over Ole Miss at home this weekend. The Aggies defeated Ole Miss 9-6, have a relatively high RPI, and have marquee series wins over Vanderbilt, Mississippi State (both on the road), along with LSU at home just a few few weeks ago.
Tennessee: The Vols dropped a pair of heartbreaking contests to Florida to begin the weekend, but responded in impressive fashion Saturday afternoon with a 7-5 triumph with A.J. Simcox going 2-for-3 with two RBIs. The Vols didn't punch their ticket to the NCAA postseason with the win over the Gators, but it certainly helps. Now, with the Vols in the SEC tournament, they could punch their ticket with a couple of wins. Remember, Tennessee has some high quality series wins, including over Arizona State, UNLV and Vanderbilt, among others.
Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons entered the weekend with an RPI around 90, but are up to 70 in the latest RPI after taking two of three from top-ranked Virginia this weekend. The Deacs would have to do some serious damage in the ACC tournament to get into the NCAA postseason, but it's doable. Wake is now 3-3 vs. RPI Top 25, 8-8 vs. RPI Top 50 and 14-17 vs. RPI Top 100.
West Virginia: Remember when everyone, including us, were sky high on the Mountaineers possibly making some noise in the NCAA postseason? Well, at this point, I'd be surprised if WVU made the field of 64. WVU has struggled since that home series win over Texas a few weeks ago, losing six-straight Big 12 contests, including Saturday's 4-0 setback to Texas Tech with Dylan Dusek shining for the Red Raiders.
Florida International: The Panthers were in our NCAA postseason field just a couple of weeks ago, but things have since taken a turn for the worse. FIU had an RPI in the 60s entering the weekend against Tulane, which obviously is in at least the discussion for a potential at-large bid. Well, the Panthers are now down into the 70s after losing 2-1 to Tulane on Saturday, thus losing the three-game series. It's win the conference tournament or bust for FIU.
Illinois: The Fighting Illini are very much still in the mix for an at-large bid, but could've made their situation much better Saturday afternoon with a win over Nebraska. Instead, the Illini dropped a 7-4 contest in thrilling fashion (Pat Kelly walk-off homer for Nebraska) and in 10 innings. Illinois now has an RPI of 52 with a 5-4 mark vs. RPI Top 50. Illinois has some work to do in the conference tournament to make the Big Ten a three-bid league.