With only one weekend series and conference tournaments left to play, the national college baseball landscape is beginning to come into focus. Virginia has guaranteed entry into the ACC Tournament and unlike last year will avoid Tuesday's play in games. Depending on the weekend's results, the Hoos could be seeded anywhere between third and fifth in the ACC tournament.
Nationally, things look favorable for the Cavaliers as well. With a 33-18 record overall, 16-11 in the ACC, and an RPI of 13. They're in the discussion for a national seed, which just four weeks ago would have sounded ridiculous. They certainly have work to do, however the team is hot, and it certainly beats the sweat the Hoos had to survive last year.
On selection Monday, the NCAA Tournament Committee will name sixteen regional hosts, seeding the top eight of those. Let's see where things stand, and see what some teams around the country have to do to hear their name called early in two weeks time.
National Seeds (1-8)
Locks: Florida, Miami, Louisville, Texas A&M
Likely: Texas Tech, Mississippi State,
In the Discussion: NC State, Ole Miss, Virginia, South Carolina, Florida State
Prediction: Florida, Miami, Louisville, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Mississippi State, NC State, Ole Miss
While in basketball, conference affiliation, conference record, and geography are not often considered when seeding the NCAA Tournament, these factors play a large role in identifying national seeds and hosts. The committee looks for opportunities to reward teams from multiple conferences, as well as put Regionals in areas across the country. These projections will reflect that reality. Another consideration here is that no conference has ever been awarded four national seeds. That is likely to change this year, as both the ACC and SEC can make an argument. It is likely that seven of the National Seeds will come from the ACC and SEC. Which conference that will be is still to be determined.
Florida, Miami, Louisville, and Texas A&M are the cream of the crop this season. Those teams look solid for national seeds with Florida likely to be number one overall. Outside of the two power conferences, only Texas Tech has a resume worthy of national seed consideration, so to keep from it being an all SEC/ACC representation, the Red Raiders get the nod. Mississippi State has perhaps the best collection of road series win with wins at Florida, LSU, and Vanderbilt, so despite what happens the rest of the way, they look safe.
That leaves two spots up for grabs, including the Hoos. Here's a look at how the five teams in the discussion for the last two national seeds stack up.
Record: 39-13, 17-10 SEC RPI: 5, 13-12 vs Top 50
Quality Series Wins: Louisville, LSU, Georgia, Kentucky
Outlook: The Rebels have a chance to make a huge statement when they travel to College Station to take on Texas A&M this weekend. A series win and you can move them to a lock. A loss and they will need to make some noise in the SEC Tournament. The series win over Louisville will go a long way when compared to the ACC teams in this range.
Record: 32-17, 13-12 ACC RPI: 6, 16-13 vs Top 50
Quality Series Wins: @Virginia, @GT, Duke, Wake Forest
Outlook: Finishes with a series against UNC. A series win probably solidifies their case as the ACC's third national seed, as they get the nod over the Hoos based on head to head. They could have to back that up with a strong showing at the ACC Tournament, but as of now they are a lock to at least host a regional.
Record: 38-13, 17-9 SEC RPI: 7, 10-12 vs Top 50
Quality Series Wins: Ole Miss
Outlook: The Gamecocks finish with a series against Alabama. It's a chance for another Top 50 series win which they absolutely must have, as Ole Miss is their one notch in the belt. They've won enough single games to round out a resume, but when compared to the teams around them with four and five quality series, they'll really need to make something happen in the SEC Tournament.
Record: 33-18, 16-11 ACC RPI: 13, 14-14 vs Top 50
Quality Series Wins: @Miami, UNC, GT, Duke, Wake Forest
Outlook: The looming series with Virginia Tech is an RPI killer. Even with a sweep, the Hoos' RPI is likely to drop a little. However, 19-11 would be awfully strong and would look very good stacked up against NC State and/or FSU for the third national seed from the ACC. Virginia likely needs a series win, some help from NC State and FSU, and a strong showing in the ACC Tournament for a national seed. However, baseball in Charlottesville in June is looking pretty good right about now.
Record: 33-17, 15-8 ACC RPI: 15, 11-11 vs Top 50
Quality Series Wins: Louisville, GT
Outlook: FSU has been in the national seed conversation for most of the year, but when you peel back the onion, there isn't a lot there. The series win over Louisville is strong, but they lost several of their other quality series dropping weekends against Clemson, Duke, and Louisville. That can all change with a weekend series win over Miami and a nice showing in Durham.
Regional Hosts (9-16)
Likely: Virginia, South Carolina, Florida State
In the Discussion: ACC - Clemson, GT, UNC; Big 10 - Michigan, Minnesota; Conference USA - Florida Atlantic, Southern Miss, Rice; PAC 12 - Arizona, Arizona State; SEC - LSU, Vanderbilt; Others - Cal State Fullerton, Louisiana-Lafayette, TCU
Prediction: Virginia, South Carolina, Florida State, Southern Miss, Arizona, Vanderbilt, LSU, Cal State Fullerton
ACC - The ACC is extremely deep this year. Top to bottom it is easily the best conference in the country with Clemson, GT, and UNC all sporting both top 18 RPIs and losing conference records. It's not likely that one of these teams gets a host spot, but it wouldn't be crazy if one sweeps their final series, and makes the conference championship game that the ACC could get a sixth regional host.
Big Ten - The committee will be itching to put a team from the north as a host and the best chance could come from Michigan or Minnesota. Michigan sports an RPI of 29, while Minnesota checks in at 41. Minnesota however leads the league. The Wolverines finish the season at Illinois which will improve their RPI with a series win while, the Golden Gophers finish with Ohio State. If Michigan can beat Illinois and win a game or two in the conference tournament, look for them to tempt the committee.
Conference USA - The Owls, the Owls, and the Golden Eagles carry the torch for Conference USA. Rice's stranglehold on the league looks in jeopardy with Southern Miss currently leading the league. All sport solid RPIs with Southern MIss at 16, FAU at 22, and Rice at 26. There is probably only room for one of these teams to host a regional, so the conference tournament could be very interesting. At this point, the nod for me goes to Southern Miss. Not only do they lead the league, but their 12 top 50 wins trumps Rice (7) and FAU (6).
PAC 12 - The committee is going to be scrambling to find teams to host out west, and Arizona and Arizona State give the league its only two candidates. Arizona sits at 24 while Arizona State comes in at 37, though the Sun Devils are surging and got the better of the Wildcats this past weekend. The conference doesn't have a tournament, so these two teams will have to get it done in their final series. Neither team has any room for error as the Wildcats take on Oregon (83) and Hawaii (186), while the Sun Devils finish with UCLA (86) and USC (110).
SEC - The SEC is likely to have seven hosts this year. With three, maybe four national seeds, there is still room for a couple more host teams from the Southeastern Conference. Depending on how the tournament shakes out in Hoover, Alabama Vanderbilt and LSU could sneak into the conversation for national seeds, but that would be at the expense of Ole Miss or South Carolina. Vanderbilt has an RPI of 9 with 11 wins against the top 50. LSU sports an RPI of 12 with nine wins against the top 50. Normally, these resumes would be national seed worthy, but when they're the sixth and seventh best resumes in a conference, that's not going to get it done.
Others - Cal State Fullerton has come on strong recently and now leads the Big West by three games. A series win over UC Santa Barbara this past weekend has the Titans as the leader in the clubhouse for a host slot out west. Like the Pac 12, the Big West doesn't have a conference tournament so Fullerton finishes with series against Hawaii and Long Beach State to go along with a mid-week game against USC. Louisiana-Lafayette is currently second in the Sun Belt, but is coming off a huge series win over league-leading South Alabama. The Ragin' Cajuns have an RPI of 20 and are 8-9 against the top 50. For the sake of getting some other conference representation, ULL is a team to keep an eye on. Finally, Texas Christian is looking to host after coming off appearances in Omaha the last two years. This isn't a great year for the Big 12 with only three teams in the top 75 of the RPI, and the results for TCU bear that out. Their best series win on the year came against 38 Gonzaga and they didn't take advantage of weekends against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. They finish the season with no room for error taking on Kansas State and are likely going to have to hope that other teams falter if they want to stay in Fort Worth the first week of June.
As is always the case, May baseball is a lot of fun. With three-game series and the unpredictability of the postseason tournaments, it's going to be a wild week. Stay tuned to Streaking the Lawn as we cover Virginia's series against Virginia Tech, but also update you on the Hoos' prospects for the month of June.