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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Postseason snapshot: May 26 Part II

Kendall Rogers        

With the remaining conference automatic bids punched later today, we'll do a fresh batch of NCAA postseason projections later this afternoon.

However, to tie you over until that time, here are a few notes on where the postseason situation stands for several conferences around the country.

Of course, you can take a look at our latest national seeds/hosts to begin things. North Carolina State replaced Florida State as one of our eight national seeds, while Oregon remains the No. 8 national seed. We'd like to see Florida State give the ACC four national seeds -- the Seminoles deserve it -- but again, we're not convinced, and neither are inside FSU sources, that it will happen. Stay tuned on that front.

As for the hosts, as we explained in the other postseason snapshot, the NCAA Selection Committee is choosing two hosts out of a grouping that includes Arkansas, South Carolina, Virginia Tech and Clemson. For now, all intel points to those two teams being South Carolina and Virginia Tech, though, it wouldn't be shocking to see the committee go with both the Gamecocks and Razorbacks on Selection Monday.

Let's get to the notes.

Bubble teams have several conference tournament title games to watch as Sunday progresses.

* Conference USA: The title game in Houston features host Rice and Southern Mississippi. The Owls are a lock to be in the NCAA Field of 64 no matter what happens, so bubble teams must hope USM doesn't win the contest. The Golden Eagles currently have an RPI of 104 with a 5-12 record vs. RPI Top 50, so an at-large berth isn't really possible. Keep an eye on Houston as a potential at-large bid, though it seems unlikely with an RPI of 67. Either way, a USM win is bad for all bubble teams involved.

* Atlantic Sun: This is another tournament title game to keep an eye on today. Mercer, which was eliminated a couple of days ago, is not playing in it. Instead, the title game will feature North Florida and East Tennessee State. UNF actually has a chance to earn an at-large bid, though it's considered a long shot, while ETSU can't say that. UNF has an RPI of 58 with a 4-4 mark vs. RPI Top 50, while ETSU has an RPI of 88 with a 5-2 mark vs. RPI Top 50. Chances are good UNF would slip a few spots with a loss, so this is likely a two-bid league no matter what, but it's something to watch.

* Big Ten: One of the big ones bubble teams should keep an eye on today, Nebraska will face Indiana in a second Big Ten tournament title game. The Huskers are just .500 overall, so will need to win the game to earn a bid to the NCAA postseason. That means if they beat the Hoosiers, it knocks someone out of the postseason, whether it's Ohio State or Illinois, or someone from another league. The Huskers have an intriguing resume with that overall record combined with an RPI of 28 with an 8-10 mark vs. RPI Top 50.

* Big 12: Another big one, bubble teams should be huge fans of Oklahoma today. The Sooners are 3-0 thus far in the Big 12 tournament and will now face Kansas in the tourney title game. The Sooners, Kansas State and Oklahoma State are locks to be in the postseason at this point, so if Kansas wins, that would give the Big 12 four bids, thus knocking someone out of the bubble mix. KU has an RPI of 66 with a 1-5 mark vs. RPI Top 50 clubs.

* Big East: Bubble teams are in bad shape no matter what happens in this contest. Louisville and Seton Hall, both postseason locks by us, aren't in the title game, and that leaves Notre Dame and Connecticut fighting it out. The fact it's the Irish and Huskies makes me believe whoever wins will push Pittsburgh out of the mix. By comparison, the Fighting Irish have an RPI of 29 with an 8-7 mark vs. RPI Top 50, while Connecticut has an RPI of 83 with a 7-9 mark vs. RPI Top 50.

* Mountain West: Yet another conference tournament title game to keep an eye on, New Mexico was expected to close out San Diego State on Saturday. However, that didn't happen as the Aztecs captured an 8-7 victory. Should the Aztecs beat the Lobos in the second meeting on Sunday, it would knock someone out of the postseason mix. The Aztecs are 93 in the RPI with an 8-13 record vs. RPI Top 50. Interestingly, the Aztecs could be a dangerous team in the postseason with right-handed pitcher Michael Cederoth leading the charge.

* Northeast: I don't have Bryant in the field if it doesn't capture the NEC automatic berth, but it's a situation worth watching. The Bulldogs face Sacred Heart later today, with Bryant at least somewhat still in the mix for an at-large berth. The Bulldogs have an RPI of 50 with a 1-4 record vs. RPI Top 50 teams. The NCAA Selection Committee could decide to throw the Bulldogs a bone on Monday. For now, we're thinking it's unlikely, and that, as usual, the NEC will be a one-bid league.

Here are some additional notes after Saturday's tournament action:

* Virginia Tech will meet North Carolina in the ACC tournament title game on Sunday. The Hokies are 3-0 in the tournament and are in good shape to host an NCAA Regional. We're not expecting a potential loss to North Carolina being a determining factor in whether the Hokies host, or whether that host goes to Arkansas. But again, stay tuned, as the situation with the committee is always fluid no matter which sources we speak with.

* Could the Big East be a four-bid league come Selection Monday? It's possible, but not likely, after today's action. Louisville and Seton Hall are the slam dunks, and either Notre Dame or Connecticut will be the third. Then there's the potential for Pittsburgh to grab a spot. The Panthers are in the danger zone RPI-wise at 60 with a 4-5 record vs. RPI Top 50, however, always leave open the possibility that a northern team with 40-plus wins gets the benefit of the doubt.

* The Big South suddenly feels like a three-bid league after Liberty beat Campbell for the tournament title in Lynchburg, Va., on Saturday. The Camels are safely in the field despite the loss, Liberty obviously is in the field, and that leaves Coastal Carolina as a bubble team, one that we have him in the field at this point. The Chanticleers are 37-21 overall with a 45 RPI and 5-8 mark vs. RPI Top 50.

* How about the Towson Tigers? There's no doubt who everyone will be rooting for in the postseason after they beat William & Mary to capture the Colonial Athletic automatic bid. The Tigers were on the brink earlier this season when the athletic department announced it was cutting the sport. However, the program has enough money from the state to now at least keep going for a couple of more seasons, giving ample time to find a significant donor to keep things going long-term. You can read more about Towson's situation.

* Kent State was sizzling hot down the stretch, but it won't get a chance to return to the College World Series. The Golden Flashes were ousted from the Mid-American Conference tournament by Ball State, which now will play Bowling Green for the right to an automatic bid. The MAC absolutely is a one-bid league, but what a story it would be for Maloney to reach the NCAA postseason in his first season on the job.

* Wichita State returns to the postseason after beating Missouri Valley tournament host Illinois State 5-2 to earn the league's automatic bid. Though Illinois State has a compelling case with a good overall record despite fighting through enormous adversity, it'll be interesting to see if the committee weighs that against the Redbirds' overall resume. ISU has an RPI of 72 with a 1-5 mark vs. RPI Top 50, i.e., not exactly in great shape to earn an at-large bid at this point. 

* Elon and The Citadel will play for the Southern Conference automatic bid on Sunday. Neither team will make the field as an at-large team with a loss, but keep an eye on Western Carolina. WCU is in a rather precarious situation right now, teetering on the edge as the committee lays out cases for all the bubble teams WCU has an RPI of 55 with an 0-3 record vs. RPI Top 50. That's probably not going to do it, but we'll see.

* San Diego defeated San Francisco 2-0 on Saturday to win the West Coast Conference's automatic bid. Despite the loss to the Toreros, I still like USF's chances of making the NCAA postseason. The Dons have an RPI of 51 with a 4-6 record vs. RPI Top 50. I think the WCC is a two-bid league at this point, with BYU a possibility for a third, but not likely at this point.

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