Selection Monday is less than six weeks away. As college baseball approaches its stretch run, the postseason picture will become clearer and clearer. But, for now, there is still a lot of prognostication needed to produce a Projected Field of 64.
In this unique season, as college baseball plays through a pandemic, the NCAA has adjusted the host site selection. Instead of selecting the regional hosts the day before the Field of 64 is announced on Memorial Day, it will select the 16 hosts a few weeks in advance of Selection Monday. The changes are a result of the need to create a testing site at each regional, which can’t be done with just a few days of lead time. That accelerated timeline means potential hosts have just a couple more weeks to impress the committee.
In this week’s update, the host sites remain unchanged. That isn’t to say other teams aren’t in the mix, however. One key series to watch in the hosting race will play out over the next two weekends, as Charlotte (25-10, 14-2) and Old Dominion (27-7, 13-3) play an eight-game, home-and-home series. The winner will emerge as the Conference USA East Division leader and will join Louisiana Tech, the West Division leader, as potential hosts.
While the hosts remain unchanged, the seeds do not and ordering the top 16 teams is perhaps the hardest part of this process. The ACC continues to be underrated by RPI, which is sure to be at odds with how the regional advisory committee evaluate its teams. How the selection committee treats the conference is difficult to predict. The ACC champion is typically awarded a top-eight seed and it would be appropriate this year, so that’s what this projection says, even if Louisville’s metrics don’t rate as highly as other top-eight teams.
Similarly, how will the Pac-12 fare? The conference standings are incredibly tight – the top six teams are separated by just two games. Arizona and Oregon have separated in RPI’s eyes – both rank in the top 10, no other team in the conference ranks in the top 20 – but that isn’t reflected in the standings and probably won’t be before the host sites are awarded. How will the RAC rank the region’s contenders? That process has in previous years been fraught with tension and could be again this year.
Ultimately, if the Wildcats or Ducks win the conference (Arizona gets the nod in this projection), they figure to be a top-eight seed. But at the midpoint of the Pac-12 schedule, it’s difficult to mark any team as a clear favorite.
The NCAA Tournament bubble is also beginning to get more defined and, as it stands, it looks to be soft this season. There are a few reasons for that, but most notably the ACC and SEC have not produced as many regional contenders as they have in recent seasons.
Several solid conferences that have been squeezed on at-large bids in recent years stand to benefit from the ACC and SEC producing less depth than expected. The ASUN, Sun Belt and West Coast Conference have two bids in this projection and CUSA has four. The Atlantic 10, Missouri Valley and Southern Conferences could all be positioned to take advantage as well.
While the field is starting to become more defined, there’s still a long way to go. Baseball America will continue to update the projected field weekly throughout the spring.
|Fayetteville, Ark.||Blacksburg, Va.|
|1. (1) Arkansas^*||1. (16) Virginia Tech^|
|2. Nebraska||2. Florida|
|3. South Carolina-Upstate*||3. Charlotte|
|4. Florida A&M*||4. Fairfield*|
|1. (2) Vanderbilt^||1. (15) Louisiana Tech^*|
|2. Miami||2. Florida State|
|3. Florida Gulf Coast||3. Tulane|
|4. Lehigh*||4. Southeastern Louisiana*|
|1. (3) Texas^*||1. (14) South Carolina^|
|2. UCLA||2. Pittsburgh|
|3. San Diego||3. Liberty*|
|4. Bryant*||4. Connecticut*|
|1. (4) Louisville^*||1. (13) Mississippi^|
|2. Georgia||2. Georgia Tech|
|3. Baylor||3. South Alabama*|
|4. Fordham*||4. Northeastern*|
|Tucson, Ariz.||Knoxville, Tenn.|
|1. (5) Arizona^*||1. (12) Tennessee^|
|2. Gonzaga*||2. Michigan*|
|3. UC Santa Barbara||3. Western Carolina*|
|4. Sacramento State*||4. Wright State*|
|Starkville, Miss.||Lubbock, Texas|
|1. (6) Mississippi State^||1. (11) Texas Tech^|
|2. Southern Mississippi||2. Stanford|
|3. Louisiana-Lafayette||3. Alabama|
|4. Jackson State*||4. Southeast Missouri State*|
|Greenville, N.C.||Eugene, Ore.|
|1. (7) East Carolina^*||1. (10) Oregon^|
|2. Old Dominion||2. Oklahoma State|
|3. North Carolina||3. UC Irvine*|
|4. Stony Brook*||4. San Diego State*|
|South Bend, Ind.||Fort Worth, Texas|
|1. (8) Notre Dame^||1. (9) Texas Christian^|
|2. Indiana State*||2. Oregon State|
|3. Arizona State||3. Iowa|
|4. Ball State*||4. Oral Roberts*|
^ Denotes host school
* Denotes automatic qualifier
College Baseball Takeaways: Texas Tech, Ole Miss Bounce Back
Ten takeaways from Friday’s action around college baseball, including Texas Tech and Ole Miss getting important wins.
Last Four In
Florida Gulf Coast
First Four Out
Next Four Out
North Carolina State