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NCAA Baseball Bubble Watch

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In a surprising twist to the season, Virginia is squarely on the NCAA. But is the NCAA Tournament a possibility?

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Oklahoma State vs UC Santa Barbara Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

With just one series remaining in the regular season, and the ACC Tournament still on the horizon, the Virginia Cavaliers find themselves squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble.

This is a statement that would have been laughed at just three weeks ago when the Hoos saw their RPI in the low 100s. A mid-week sweep over VCU and a series win over Louisville later and Virginia’s is up to 45 and the Hoos are garnering attention in NCAA Tournament projections.

On the year, the Hoos are 30-21 overall, and 12-15 in the ACC. They’ve already secured a spot in next weekend’s ACC Tournament with one final series left in the regular season. Thursday night, they kick off a three-game set against the rival Virginia Tech Hokies. A series sweep almost assures the Hoos of a post-season berth while a series win is probably still enough to get it done. Lose the series and the Cavaliers likely have to make the ACC Tournament Semifinals to feel comfortable come Selection Monday.

The key here is conference record. With Virginia sitting 12-15 in conference, they’ll need to get closer to .500 to keep that from being a big black mark on the resume. It’s a situation the Hoos have actually found themselves in more recently than one might remember. In the 2015 season, Virginia came off the exam break with the same 12-15 record heading into the season series finally at UNC. Virginia swept the Tar Heels to even up their conference record and slip into the NCAA Tournament as a three seed. UNC, who had a similar conference record (they finished 13-16 in the league) missed out on the tournament altogether and Virginia went on to catch fire and win a little competition played annually in Nebraska. While I won’t predict similar results from the Hoos this season, it is nice that the team can draw on that model as motivation.

As far as the bubble is concerned, Virginia actually rates out well in comparison to other teams with borderline resumes. Based off my model for projecting the NCAA Tournament, I have the Hoos ranked 37th with 45 teams or so making the NCAA Tournament once all the automatic bids are awarded. That ranking would suggest the Hoos are pretty safe. However, in baseball, RPI is huge for the committee and Virginia’s RPI of 45 should have them sweating. Here’s a group of teams I have right on the edge of at-large contention (sorted by RPI).

2019 NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams

Team Conference Overall Conference Rec RPI Top 50 W-L Top 50-100 W-L Bad Losses Good Series Wins
Team Conference Overall Conference Rec RPI Top 50 W-L Top 50-100 W-L Bad Losses Good Series Wins
Illinois State Missouri Valley 30-21 12-6 25 4-12 3-1 8 None
FAU Conference USA 34-18 19-8 36 5-7 2-5 6 @Southern Miss
Houston American Athletic 31-20 11-10 39 5-7 11-5 8 @Dallas Baptist
Southern Miss Conference USA 33-17 19-8 41 3-5 6-4 8 None
Oklahoma Big 12 31-20 9-12 43 4-11 12-4 5 None
UCF American Athletic 32-19 9-12 44 5-8 11-6 5 None
Virginia ACC 30-21 12-15 45 8-14 6-5 2 vs. Louisville
Fresno State Mountain West 32-14-1 17-8-1 47 1-3 7-4 7 None
Duke ACC 29-22 14-13 49 8-12 6-6 4 @Clemson, @Virginia
Florida State ACC 34-18 16-11 57 7-9 8-7 2 vs. Clemson, @Virginia

Of note is a lack of good series wins by the teams listed above. That makes Virginia’s series win over Louisville all the more important. You’ll also note Virginia’s ACC rivals Duke and Florida State both boast series wins over the Hoos (at the Dish nonetheless). So should all other things be equal, the Hoos may lose out when compared to the ‘Noles or Blue Devils.

First pitch from Blacksburg is 6 P.M. on Thursday. The series can be seen on ACC Network Extra.