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Discussion in 'The Mainboard' started by Beagle, Dec 20, 2019.
Holy War broke out
Great place to catch a college baseball game. Wvu Pitt
9-0 run to win 9-4
FadeMe por favor mi amor
Give me a minute and I’ll get this for you
Well? 75 minutes later….
has there ever been a more unreliable poster than him?
What a little rascal
Cleared those tall evergreen bushes in center
is florida supposed to be good
The two Florida bullpen implosions in the last week have been impressive.
Need to win the series now. Winning the first game hasn’t meant much the last two series.
Any help? FadeMe blind dog Lyrtch Houndster
Taques Lyrtch Daniel Ocean Whammy
Just found it Petry is from the city I’m living in here in the Tampa area. Would love to have seen him play in high school. Curious how he ended up at S.C. Did other schools overlook him or did he get offers from everywhere and chose S.C? Kid is fun to watch. Will be interesting to see what schools (LSU) try to steal him away with a big NIL deal over the summer.
First of all, lol at him leaving the Mecca of college baseball (Columbia SC).
All I know is he committed to us back in 2020 and his IG is all gamecock stuff
Postseason Stock Report: Week 10 At-Large & National Seed Analysis
STOCK REPORT Aaron Fitt - April 20, 2023
SEE ALSO: Field of 64 projection: Week 10
SEE ALSO: Nerdcast: Assembling the field of 64
SEE ALSO: RPI Nitty Gritty
This time of year, a hefty majority of all questions submitted in our weekly college chat, as well as those sent via e-mail or Twitter, center around the battle for postseason positioning. Our readers want to know how the races for national seeds, host sites and at-large bids are shaping up—so it’s time to roll out our weekly Stock Report feature. Every Thursday, we’ll examine how the postseason picture has shifted over the previous week. This analysis is intended to complement our weekly NCAA tournament field of 64 projection, which was put together in a conference call with Kendall Rogers, Mark Etheridge and me on Tuesday night. As always, you can listen to our deliberations in the weekly Nerdcast.
Below, we’ll look at who’s in, who’s out, who’s on the bubble for at-large spots, hosts and national seeds. This discussion is weighted more toward performance to date and remaining schedule than projection based on talent, but it’s also not intended to show exactly what the field would look like if the season ended today. We’re still looking ahead, and we’re still taking talent into consideration when putting together our forecasts.
During this discussion, we will reference the RPI Rankings through Tuesday’s games. And we’ll make use of records against the top 25, 50 or 100 in the RPI using the D1Baseball Nitty Gritty Report (also through Tuesday’s action).
We’ll get to at-large chances in a bit, but let’s start with a look at which teams are on track to earn national seeds and which are on track to host regionals through the first nine weeks of the season:
Top Eight National Seeds
SECURE TEAMS: LSU, Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, South Carolina
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Virginia, Florida, East Carolina
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Stanford, Kentucky
Two changes from our midseason Field of 64 projection two weeks ago: Arkansas and East Carolina replace Oklahoma State and Boston College as top-eight national seeds.
The Hogs were just outside our top eight at the midseason mark, checking in at No. 9 two weeks ago, but they have solidified their position in the two weeks since, climbing to our No. 4 national seed after winning a road series at Ole Miss and sweeping Tennessee at home. Arkansas leads the SEC West at 11-4 and has climbed to No. 5 in the RPI, putting them in dynamite position for the top eight. But even though the Hogs are ahead of LSU in the standings, we have them behind the Tigers in our pecking order because LSU won the head-to-head series, and LSU has already played the roughest part of its SEC schedule and won every weekend, and its remaining schedule is more favorable than Arkansas’.
East Carolina has kicked it into high gear since our midseason projection, which had the Pirates outside the top 16 hosts due to a modest RPI and a series loss at Houston in Week Seven. But the Pirates have not lost since, reeling off eight straight wins including quality midweek affairs against NC State and Old Dominion, helping them climb to No. 9 in the RPI, with a 28-8 overall record and a No. 27 nonconference strength of schedule. Assuming the Pirates continue to dominate the American as we expect, they should remain right in the mix for the top eight the rest of the way, but the weakness of the rest of the conference could still hurt them, as none of the other teams in the league are inside the top 100 in the RPI. The Pirates will have to continue making hay in their crucial midweek games at Charlotte, at NC State, vs. North Carolina, at ODU and vs. Campbell in order to give them enough high-end wins to offset their weak conference. Currently ECU is 2-2 against the top 25 in the RPI, and 5-3 against the top 50.
Virginia drops a few spots from the No. 4 seed to the No. 6 seed after losing a home series to Pitt, the second series loss in the last three weeks for the Cavaliers. Still, they’re in solid shape as the clear No. 2 team in the ACC pecking order, with a 32-6 overall record, a 12-6 record in the ACC (first place in the Coastal Division by two games), a 5-1 mark against the top 25, and a No. 6 RPI.
Florida also slides a few spots from No. 5 at midseason to No. 7 this week, even though the Gators have yet to lose a weekend this season. But as Mark Etheridge noted in the most recent SEC Weekend Dish, Florida has faced the easiest SEC schedule to date (its opponents have an aggregate 19-41 SEC record, not counting the games they have played against the Gators). Naturally, then, the remaining schedule presents more challenges, with road series left at South Carolina, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt, plus home sets against Missouri and Vanderbilt. The aggregate league record of Florida’s remaining opponents is 45-29, making it the second-hardest remaining slate behind only Kentucky. The Gators head into that stretch in great shape in the standings at 11-4, but their No. 10 RPI currently lags a bit behind the other top SEC contenders. We still really like Florida’s chances of landing a top eight, and it could easily jump way up the pecking order if it wins a road series at South Carolina this weekend.
The difficulty of Kentucky’s remaining SEC schedule explains why we have the Wildcats as our No. 10 national seed, instead of in the top eight despite their No. 1 RPI ranking and 10-5 SEC record. Kentucky’s remaining opponents have an aggregate 46-22 record in the league, and that stretch looks very daunting indeed: vs. Texas A&M, at Vanderbilt, vs. South Carolina at Tennessee, vs. Florida. We still think Kentucky has put itself in a strong enough position through nine weeks to wind up as one of the 16 hosts, but we don’t anticipate them finishing above powerhouses LSU, Vandy, Arkansas, South Carolina and Florida in the SEC pecking order. Of course, the Wildcats control their own destiny: if they win three of those last five series, they likely can beat out a couple of the other SEC national seed contenders. It just won’t be easy to pull that off.
The only other team that feels like a strong contender for a top eight seed at this juncture is Stanford, but the Cardinal slipped four spots to No. 18 in the RPI after a midweek loss to RPI No. 180 Sacramento State on Tuesday. Still, Stanford has the best profile of any Pac-12 contender, with the league’s top RPI ranking as well as an 11-4 record in conference play, and based on the Cardinal’s talent, we are betting on them to win the league. And the Pac-12 regular-season champion figures to stand a solid chance at landing a top-eight seed, even if its RPI finishes a little outside the top eight. Right now, though, Stanford is pretty clearly behind the eight teams we have pegged for top-eight seeds after nine weeks.
SECURE TEAMS: The eight national seeds listed above (LSU, Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, South Carolina, Florida, East Carolina); Stanford, Kentucky
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Coastal Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Miami, Connecticut, Indiana
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Southern Miss, Dallas Baptist, NC State, Louisville, Boston College, UCLA, Indiana State, Campbell, Arizona State
Four changes from our midseason projection two weeks ago: East Carolina, Coastal Carolina, Connecticut and Indiana replace Oklahoma State, Boston College, UCLA and Campbell as hosts. All that turnover shows just how quickly things can change at this point in the season, and these projections are likely to remain fluid for the next few weeks.
Oklahoma State and Boston College tumble from top-eight national seeds all the way out of the top 16 after two brutal weeks for both of them. Since our last projection, OSU lost back-to-back series at TCU and vs. West Virginia, with a midweek loss to Oral Roberts mixed in, leading to a five-game losing streak that was snapped in Sunday’s finale against the Mountaineers. Just like that, Oklahoma State is down to No. 29 in the RPI and 8-7 in the Big 12, good for fourth place. Clearly the Cowboys have significant work to do to climb back into the hosting discussion. BC remains in that discussion thanks to its stronger RPI (No. 16), but getting swept at Louisville and then losing a home series against Duke really hurt BC’s stock, and our faith is shaken that the Eagles will be able to weather road trips to North Carolina and Wake Forest over the next three weeks. If they can go 3-3 in those two series, and win a home series against Clemson in between, they could climb back into the top 16, but for now we need to see it.
UCLA has tumbled all the way to No. 35 in the RPI after sitting in the mid-teens two weeks ago, and the Bruins have lost three of their last five games against Pepperdine, UC Davis and UC Irvine. They are trending the wrong way, but they can resuscitate their hopes if they fare well over the next two weekends at USC and at Stanford. Again, it won’t be easy, but UCLA has a shot. Campbell, meanwhile, fell to No. 31 in the RPI at the time of our Tuesday night deliberations, though it shot back up to No. 23 with a Tuesday night win at UNC Wilmington. At 28-8, Campbell is having another great year, but there is little margin for error as a Big South team, because the Camels are the only team in the league with an RPI better than No. 100. It feels unlikely that Campbell will finish inside the top 20 and snag a host spot.
This weekend’s series between Southern Miss and Coastal Carolina in Conway will have enormous regional hosting ramifications; the team that emerges victorious figures to be in the catbird seat for one of the 16 spots, as both of them are strong in the RPI at No. 19 and No. 11, respectively. For now we’re giving Coastal an edge based on its RPI advantage, its 11-4 Sun Belt record (a game better than USM’s 10-5) and the fact that it faces Southern Miss at home; most of their other metrics are similar. It’s possible that both could host, but more likely that just one winds up in position.
Oregon boosted its stock with a home series win against Stanford this past weekend, climbing to No. 14 in the RPI heading into Tuesday. That’s where the Ducks sat when we constructed our field, but they slipped seven spots overnight to No. 21 after dropping a Tuesday game against Portland. Still, that’s a solid RPI for a West Coast team, and coupled with a 9-6 record in the Pac-12, it’s enough to keep Oregon as a host for now. But also keep an eye on Arizona State, which is up to No. 27 in the RPI and still sits atop the Pac-12 standings at 11-3. The meat of ASU’s conference schedule is still ahead, so we project the Sun Devils to drop back to the pack a bit, but if they can keep on winning series then obviously they will jump into hosting position.
The Big 12 remains a jumbled mess, but it stands to reason that the conference surely must produce at least one host, and Texas is clearly in the best position currently, with a No. 20 RPI and an 8-4 conference record, good enough for first place. The only other Big 12 teams within shouting distance of hosting position are Oklahoma State and West Virginia, which is 5-4 in the league and No. 31 in the RPI. For now, a Big 12 host spot feels like UT’s to lose — but there’s also no guarantee that the Big 12 will get any hosts. Should the Longhorns fall back to the pack, it’s conceivable that the league could get shut out. Stay tuned.
Miami, NC State, Louisville and the aforementioned Boston College are all part of a pack of viable ACC hosts, and right now we like Miami at the head of that group, thanks to a No. 12 RPI, a 10-8 record in the ACC, and some quality series wins vs. NC State, vs. Virginia Tech (a sweep), and at North Carolina. The Hurricanes are also through the toughest part of their schedule, and they managed to keep a winning league record despite getting swept twice at Wake and Virginia; now the schedule eases up, though a road series at Louisville in two weeks lurks as a potential landmine. The Cardinals are farther back in the RPI at No. 25, and a home series loss to Wake Forest left them at 8-7 in the league, though their 9-7 record against the top 50 is solid. The Cards remain right in the thick of the hosting race, and if they win that series against the Hurricanes in two weeks they could jump Miami in the pecking order.
But NC State might be the most intriguing ACC darkhorse hosting candidate, thanks to a No. 8 RPI and a schedule that really opens up in the second half. For now we have the Wolfpack still on the outside of the top 16 because it did lose four of its first five conference series — but its first five series were all against top 25 RPI teams, and the Pack did take two of three from Louisville. After sweeping Florida State this past weekend, NC State has climbed closer to respectability at 8-9 in the ACC, with winnable series ahead vs. Clemson, at Notre Dame and vs. Pitt, along with a tricky road test at UNC. We need to see the Wolfpack get above .500 in the league before we’re comfortable pulling the trigger on them as a host, but it feels like only a matter of time.
UConn and Indiana are in similar boats as cold-weather teams with RPIs in the mid-teens and positions atop their respective conference standings. That combination adds up to a strong hosting chance, but the key will be maintaining those lofty RPI rankings, which should be easier for Indiana than UConn given the Big East’s RPI reality. The Hoosiers are 9-3 in the Big ten with a quality series win against Iowa under their belts, and the committee could reward them for challenging themselves in the nonconference with series at Auburn and Texas right out of the chute, and managing to win a game at both. A home series in two weeks against Maryland will be critical, and a road series at Michigan State at the end of the year should be an RPI helper thanks to MSU’s 23-11 record. All these teams can do is try to dominate their leagues and hope the math works out. For now, we’ll give both of them the benefit of the doubt.
Finally, Dallas Baptist and Indiana State are both right in this hunt as well. The Patriots are surging in a big way, with 11 straight wins to climb to No. 14 in the RPI, with a 28-9 overall record and a 12-3 mark in Conference USA, just a half game behind UTSA. DBU remains a tick behind Southern Miss in our pecking order due to USM’s sweep of the Patriots back in March, but the Patriots are charging hard. Indiana State, meanwhile, is in the mix thanks to a robust RPI (No. 13) and an 11-1 record in the Missouri Valley. A 13-6 road record and a No. 3 nonconference strength of schedule have a lot to do with Indiana State’s RPI, but it is nonetheless light on high-end wins, with a 2-8 record against the top 50. And the Sycamores don’t have any games remaining against teams currently inside the top 70, so it seems unlikely that they will finish with enough quality wins to earn a host spot — but if they continue to dominate the Valley and maintain an RPI in the teens, they’ve certainly got a legitimate shot.
There are 30 automatic bids awarded to conference champions, and these 14 are safe bets to be one-bid leagues, regardless of how their conference tournaments shake out.
Sure-fire one-bid leagues: America East, Atlantic 10, Horizon, Ivy, MAAC, Mountain West, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southland, SWAC, Summit, WAC, WCC.
These six conferences are likely to be one-bid leagues, but each has at least one team with at least a shot at an at-large bid, though the poor RPIs of the rest of their conferencemates figure to drag some of them down below at-large range as the season continues.
Likely one-bid leagues (potential at-large teams in parentheses):
American (East Carolina)
ASUN (Florida Gulf Coast)
Big South (Campbell)
MAC (Kent State)
Missouri Valley (Indiana State)
Out of this group, East Carolina, Campbell and Indiana State are obvious locks for at-large spots if they don’t win their conference tournaments, so another team winning the American, Big South or Valley would turn those into two-bid leagues.
Wofford looks like the most viable at-large candidate out of the remaining three leagues, thanks to a No. 48 RPI RPI and a 6-3 record in the SoCon — but we all remember the Terriers getting snubbed by the committee after dominating the league last year and finishing with a No. 35 RPI, so Wofford really needs a torrid finish to have a realistic shot, especially since it currently trails Samford by a game in the SoCon heading into a huge series between the two clubs in Spartanburg. Of course, Wofford might have gotten in with a normal-sized bubble, rather than the unusually small bubble we had last year. But the Terriers’ 2022 fate is a sobering cautionary tale for mid-majors not to get their hopes too high. With that in mind, FGCU and Kent State feel like long shots for at-large bids with RPIs of No. 61 and No. 56, respectively — especially since both play in weaker RPI leagues that are likely to drag down their own RPIs as the season progresses. So even though FGCU and Kent State are having great years (and the Eagles even spent several weeks in the D1Baseball Top 25), the stark reality is that both probably need to win their conference tournaments to make the field.
AUTOMATIC QUALIFIER CHANGES:
Big 12: Texas replaces Oklahoma State
Big Ten: Indiana replaces Maryland
Big West: Cal State Fullerton replaces UC Santa Barbara
Conference USA: UTSA replaces Dallas Baptist
MAC: Kent State replaces Ball State
Mountain West: San Jose State replaces Fresno State
Southland: Incarnate Word replaces Southeastern Louisiana
Out of this group, Oklahoma State, Maryland, UC Santa Barbara and Dallas Baptist all make the field as at-large teams, rather than automatic qualifiers. But those four changes don’t affect the size of our field, as new automatic qualifiers Texas, Indiana, Fullerton and UTSA were already in our field as at-large teams two weeks ago.
IN: Oregon State, Auburn, Texas State, Troy
OUT: Xavier, Rutgers, Mississippi State, Old Dominion
ACC (9 bids)
SAFELY IN: Wake Forest, Virginia, Miami, NC State, Boston College, Louisville, Duke, North Carolina
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Virginia Tech
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Notre Dame, Clemson
No change from the midseason projection two weeks ago.
All nine of our projected regional teams feel pretty secure, as Virginia Tech is currently ninth in our pecking order based on its No. 43 RPI and 8-9 record, but the Hokies are trending in the right direction (a series win vs. Virginia, a two-game split at Duke and a sweep of Georgia Tech in the last three weeks) and are well ahead of a host of other bubble teams in our field.
Duke solidified its position considerably in the last two weeks, moving from the 3-seed line to the 2-seed line after splitting a pair against the Hokies and winning a series at Boston College, along with notching midweek wins against Campbell, Davidson and William & Mary. The Blue Devils now find themselves in the “solidly in” category with a No. 28 RPI and a 9-8 league record.
Notre Dame and Clemson have work to do, but both are alive with RPIs in the high 40s. Clemson feels like a long shot with a 6-9 record in the league and a brutal finishing schedule: at NC State, at BC, vs. Louisville, at Virginia Tech and vs. UNC. Notre Dame is somewhat better off at 8-10 in the league with series left vs. Virginia, vs. FSU, vs. NC State and at Boston College.
Big 12 (5 bids)
SAFELY IN: Texas, West Virginia, Oklahoma State
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): TCU, Texas Tech
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Kansas State
No change from the midseason field of 64.
A home series loss to UNC Wilmington followed by a Tuesday loss to Lamar caused TCU to plummet 24 spots to No. 51 in the RPI, putting the Horned Frogs on the bubble, but they remain in solid shape in the standings at 7-5, and we imagine they’ll make a regional if they can maintain a top 50 RPI and a winning record in the league.
Texas Tech’s case is more complicated; the Red Raiders sit inside the top 20 of the D1Baseball rankings thanks largely to series wins against Iowa, Oklahoma State and TCU, plus a midweek two-game split at Stanford and a two-game midweek sweep of Grand Canyon. But a four-game series sweep of Western Illinois in February is crushing the Red Raiders in the RPI, because the Leathernecks are just 4-27. And Texas Tech surely expected Gonzaga to be a strong WCC contender as usual when it scheduled the Bulldogs for four games to open the year, but Gonzaga is just 13-20, dealing another blow to Tech’s RPI. So despite the nice things at the top of TTU’s resumé, the reality is that the Raiders are No. 62 in the RPI and just 6-6 in the Big 12, so they clearly have work to do to bolster their at-large hopes. But we believe in their talent and project them to finish strong against a very manageable remaining schedule, so we’ll keep them in the field for now.
Big East (1 bid)
SAFELY IN: UConn
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): None
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Xavier
One change from our midseason projection: Xavier falls out of our projected field, making the Big East a one-bid league. The Musketeers were an early-season RPI darling thanks to 25 road games (they are 14-11 in those games), but their RPI dropped eight spots to No. 45 over the last week, following a home series loss to UConn and a Tuesday loss at Kentucky. Those games presented Xavier with its best opportunity to accrue some valuable quality wins, and they could not take advantage. We anticipate their RPI will continue to slide against their remaining Big East schedule, hence their omission from our field.
Big Ten (3 bids)
SAFELY IN: Indiana
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Maryland, Iowa
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Rutgers, Michigan State
One change from our midseason projection two weeks ago: Rutgers falls out of our field, making the Big Ten a three-bid league.
The Scarlet Knights remain alive in the at-large race with a No. 46 RPI, but they need to make a move up the standings, as they are currently 4-5, part of a three-way tie for seventh place. Iowa is also part of that 4-5 pack, and actually has a lower RPI than Rutgers at No. 58, but the Hawkeyes do have a 3-2 mark against the top 50 (compared with RU’s 1-6), highlighted by single wins against LSU, Indiana State and at Texas Tech. The path ahead leaves little margin for error for either of these teams, but Iowa will get to be at home for its two biggest remaining tests, vs. Nebraska and Michigan State. Rutgers has an easier remaining schedule but also has some real RPI drains ahead, with three games at No. 261 Northwestern, three at No. 219 Purdue, and three at No. 228 Minnesota. Iowa’s only remaining RPI suck is a set at Northwestern. So we believe the RPI math works out better for Iowa’s chances, provided the Hawkeyes can win their big series against Nebraska and Michigan State. Ultimately, though, it’s basically a coin toss between these two clubs, and it’s easy to envision either, both or neither making it to regionals.
Maryland is tied with Michigan State for third place at 6-3 in the league, and they are in similar RPI territory (the Terps are No. 60, the Spartans are No. 55). MSU actually has the superior top 50 record at 5-2, compared with Maryland’s 2-3. But we are impressed by Maryland’s series wins at Iowa and vs. Rutgers, both of which came in the middle of the Terps’ current six-series winning streak. Michigan State has some nice wins in nonconference (a two-game road sweep of Indiana State, single wins against Michigan, Fresno State and Grand Canyon in Week One), along with a road series win at Rutgers. For all intents and purposes, the quartet of Iowa, Rutgers, Maryland and Michigan State are in a dead heat, with pluses and minuses for all four. And all of them have regional-caliber talent, but we have the most faith in Maryland and Iowa to finish strongest. It also feels entirely possible that four of the five Big Ten teams listed here wind up earning bids, but five bids feels like a long shot. For now, we’ll take three of them and wait to see if the next week or two provide some clarity.
As for Nebraska, which sits in second place at 7-2 with a 21-11-1 overall record, a No. 108 RPI ranking is simply a nonstarter with the committee.
Big West (2 bids)
SAFELY IN: Cal State Fullerton
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): UC Santa Barbara
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Long Beach State, UC Irvine, CSUN
No change from the midseason projection.
Long Beach, CSUN and Irvine all look like legitimate regional contenders, with RPIs of No. 59, No. 69 and No. 32, respectively. At the time we assembled this field on Tuesday night, Irvine ranked No. 42 in the RPI, but it jumped 10 spots after taking down UCLA later that night, and it has jumped 19 spots in the last week thanks to a road series win at UCSB as well as the UCLA series win. So a week ago, the Anteaters would have been fifth in our pecking order, and they are still tied for seventh in the standings at 7-8 so there is still work to do, but clearly they are making a big move, and we will re-evaluate their case next week after a nonconference home series against Kansas State.
CSUN (8-4) and Long Beach (9-6) have an edge over Irvine in the standings, but trail in the RPI. Long Beach augments its record with a 4-3 mark against the top 50, highlighted by a 3-0 showing at the Keith Leclair Classic (with wins over ECU, Indiana and Georgetown) and a road series win at UCI, which helps keep the Beach ahead of the Eaters for us, although it is close. But Northridge has a series win at Long Beach just last week, complicating matters. Right the Matadors and Dirtbags are just a little shy of regional position, but they are certainly within striking distance, along with the Eaters. Stay tuned to see if the next week or two provide more answers.
Meanwhile, Fullerton sits atop the standings at 12-3, with a 2.5 game lead over the next postseason-eligible team in the standings, CSUN. The Big West does not have a conference tournament, so the team that wins the regular season takes the auto bid, putting Fullerton in a position of real strength. But even if the Titans don’t get the auto bid, they have a legit shot at an at-large bid with a No. 53 RPI and an 8-5 record against the top 50, with series wins vs. Texas, at Irvine and vs. UCSB. That’s a strong resumé.
The Gauchos are sliding, with back-to-back series losses to Fullerton and Irvine, leaving them 7-5 in the standings, but their No. 38 RPI combined with a winning league record and a 6-4 mark against the top 50 keeps them in regional position, at least for the time being.
Colonial Athletic Association (2 bids)
SAFELY IN: Elon, Northeastern
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): None
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): UNC Wilmington, William & Mary, College of Charleston
No change from the midseason field of 64 projection.
Elon (No. 33 RPI) sits atop the standings at 12-5 and feels like an at-large lock right now, barring a poor finish. Northeastern is in nearly as good shape at 10-5 in the league and No. 42 in the RPI, along with a 7-2 record against the top 50. Right now, those are the only two teams in the CAA with at-large-caliber RPIs, as 12-6 Charleston is No. 84, 10-4 UNCW is No. 78 even after winning a series at TCU, and 9-6 William & Mary is No. 66 even after taking a series from Elon. This will probably wind up being a two-bid league, so it’s just a matter of whether one of the CofC/UNCW/W&M group can run down Northeastern or Elon in the pecking order, which will require major RPI gains down the stretch. It could happen, but it seems more likely that all three will wind up short.
Conference USA (2 bids)
SAFELY IN: UTSA, Dallas Baptist
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): None
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Charlotte
No change from the midseason projection. UTSA and DBU are slam dunks currently, with sparkling records in the conference and overall, plus strong RPIs (Dallas Baptist is No. 14, and UTSA is No. 38). The only other viable at-large contender is preseason favorite Charlotte, which has recovered nicely from a rough start, climbing to 19-16 overall and No. 54 in the RPI. The 49ers aren’t there yet, and a 3-9 mark against the top 50 is a black eye that really makes this an uphill battle, but they are at least back on the radar.
Pac-12 (6 bids)
SAFELY IN: Stanford, Oregon, UCLA, Arizona State, Oregon State
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Southern California
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Washington
One change from our midseason projection: Oregon State joins our field, making the Pac a six-bid league.
The Beavers started Pac-12 ply with back-to-back series losses against Washington State and at Stanford, but since then they have reeled off four straight series wins: vs. Cal, at Washington, at Oregon and then a home sweep of USC this past weekend, propelling them up 14 spots to No. 39 in the RPI. They are now in the “safely in” category, and starting to look like a potential hosting darkhorse if their second half surge continues. A road series at Arizona State this weekend is huge, for both teams.
ASU sits atop the standings at 11-3 but has the meat of its conference schedule ahead of it: vs. OSU, at Oregon, vs. Stanford, at USC and vs. UCLA to close. Considering the Sun Devils have yet to play any of the other five projected regional teams in the Pac-12, it’s hard to evaluate just how good they are, despite their 11-3 record. But we’ll soon find out — and if Arizona State holds its own against that gauntlet, it could make a strong push to host a regional. But we are betting on ASU settling in the middle of the pack and winding up as a 2-seed.
USC’s fortunes have taken a hit in the last week thanks to that sweep at the hands of the Beavers, dropping the Trojans to 9-6 in the league. But a midweek win against CSUN undid all of the RPI damage from the OSU sweep, helping USC rebound 11 spots overnight to No. 64 in the RPI. Very, very few teams get at-large bids with RPIs outside the top 60, but Pac-12 teams with strong records in conference have done it before, as the committee sometimes extends more RPI latitude toward the West. And USC will have chances to boost its RPI down the stretch, with series left vs. UCLA, at Washington, vs. Oregon, vs. ASU and at Arizona. If USC can survive that stretch and finish with a winning record in the league, we like its chances.
Washington’s stock has sunk precipitously with three straight series losses at UCLA, vs. Oregon State and at Arizona. The Huskies are down to No. 65 in the RPI and 7-7 in the conference, and they must reverse momentum in a hurry to make a run to get back into the at-large mix. They have work to do.
SEC (10 bids)
SAFELY IN: LSU, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, South Carolina, Florida, Kentucky
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Texas A&M, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi State
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Auburn, Missouri
One change from our midseason field of 64 projection: Mississippi State replaces Auburn as the 10th and final team from the SEC.
Mississippi State looked dead in the water after starting SEC play 1-8, but since then the Bulldogs have rallied with back-to-back series wins at Alabama and vs. Ole Miss, improving them to 5-10 in the SEC and No. 26 in the RPI. The remaining schedule sounds challenging on paper — at Auburn, at Tennessee, vs. Arkansas, at LSU, vs. Texas A&M — but those five teams have an aggregate .500 record in SEC play, so perhaps there is a path for MSU to go 8-7 or better down the stretch. If they can get to 13 SEC wins, they’ll have the strong RPI and the positive momentum to get into a regional, we believe. And they are trending up, while some of the other SEC bubble teams are not.
Tennessee, Auburn and Missouri all share MSU’s 5-10 conference record, but Auburn and Tennessee are both 3-7 in their last 10 games, so they need to turn it around in a hurry. We still have faith in Tennessee’s pitching talent, so we are betting on the Vols to find a way into at-large position despite their poor conference standing and tough remaining schedule; but our faith is starting to waver. The time is now for Tennessee, which faces Vanderbilt this weekend. Likewise, Auburn’s home series against Mississippi State this weekend feels like a must-win for both clubs; the one that emerges will likely be in our field next week, while the loser will be in trouble. Missouri started strong and even climbed into the D1Baseball Top 25 in the first half, but the Tigers are losing steam, with four straight series losses, two of them sweeps. A home series vs. Alabama this weekend feels like a do-or-die for Mizzou.
Bama is in great RPI shape at No. 24 and gained a little momentum with a huge series win against Auburn last weekend. And the Tide also has a one-game edge over the 5-10 brigade in the standings. Considering how tight the margins are between these teams, a one-game edge matters. We anticipate Alabama taking that road series at Missouri this weekend to strengthen its position heading into a daunting two-week stretch at LSU and vs. Vandy.
Texas A&M is ahead of all these bubble teams in the pecking order thanks to its 7-8 SEC record, but its No. 44 RPI is the weakest of the bunch, putting the Aggies in bubble territory. And the Aggies have the fourth-toughest remaining schedule in the SEC, behind only Kentucky, Florida and Vandy. So the road ahead is not easy, but the Aggies are trending up with three straight series wins, and we believe their best baseball is ahead of them. They’re safe for now.
Sun Belt (4 bids)
SAFELY IN: Coastal Carolina, Southern Miss
ON THE BUBBLE (IN): Troy, Texas State
ON THE BUBBLE (OUT): Louisiana, Old Dominion
Changes from midseason projection two weeks ago: Troy and Texas State join the field, while Old Dominion drops out, making the Sun Belt a four-bid league.
The Bobcats (9-6) and Trojans (8-7) are back to back in the standings, but the Trojans have a 22-spot advantage in the RPI — they are No. 35, while Texas State is No. 57. This weekend’s series between the two teams is huge, and Troy is hosting it. But Texas State has more high-end wins, with a 6-6 mark against the top 50 compared with Troy’s 1-3. These two teams are a toss-up, but for now they both get into our field, while Old Dominion drops out on the heels of back-to-back losses against Southern Miss and Coastal Carolina. ODU is 9-6 in the league, but its resumé lacks meat, with a 2-6 mark against the top 50, and its RPI is down to No. 51, so it can’t lean on that metric like Troy can.
Louisiana has won seven of its last 10 games and is tied with USM for second place at 10-5, but its RPI is still a little outside at-large territory at No. 62. We like how the Cajuns are trending, and they are one of our first teams out of the field, ahead of ODU in our Sun Belt pecking order.
GSA Spotlight: West Virginia’s JJ Wetherholt
FEATURES Walter Villa - April 20, 2023
When JJ Wetherholt – a natural righthander – was about 6 years old, he saw his older brother, Brandon, take lefty swings.
Wetherholt decided to emulate his big bro, and he’s been a lefty-only hitter ever since.
Wetherholt, a 20-year-old true sophomore second baseman for the West Virginia Mountaineers, entered this week ranked second in the nation in hits (64), fourth in steals (27 in 31 attempts), fifth in batting average (.451) and ninth in doubles (16).
As it turns out, Wetherholt’s boyhood decision to swing lefty has proven to be pivotal.
“I’m right-eye dominant,” said Wetherholt, a 5-11, 190-pounder. “I’m better suited to the left side.”
Brandon Wetherholt, who is four years older than JJ, is now a lefty-swinging outfielder at Gannon University, a Division II program in Erie, Pennsylvania.
A graduate student at Gannon, Brandon Wetherholt is obviously proud of his younger brother.
“I’m glad he thinks I played a role in his career,” Brandon said. “But he’s just a freak athlete.”
Indeed, JJ Wetherholt played football and basketball into middle school before quitting those sports to focus on baseball.
“In football, he was getting 30 carries a game as a running back, and he was making 15 tackles as a safety,” Brandon said. “In basketball, by the time he was in the third grade, his team had plays drawn up for him in which he would pull up and hit 3-pointers.
“And in baseball, he always had better contact skills than I did, although I had more power because I’m older.
“But by the time I got to college, I saw video of his power. … Now I don’t have anything on the kid.”
Not many college players do have something on JJ Wetherholt, who entered this week leading the Big 12 Conference in batting average, hits and steals. He’s also the Big 12’s toughest player to strike out.
Wetherholt, who is the son of Mike and Holly, isn’t afraid to swim against the proverbial current. He was born in Baltimore, which explains why he is a Ravens fan, even though he was raised in Steelers Country (Mars, Pennsylvania).
In addition, Wetherholt grew up just 20 miles from the University of Pittsburgh campus. Yet, he signed with perhaps Pitt’s biggest rival, West Virginia.
It didn’t hurt that West Virginia is coached by Randy Mazey, who is also from Western Pennsylvania — Johnstown, Pa., to be specific.
Mazey and his staff started tracking Wetherholt early. As a freshman at Mars High, Wetherholt won the job as starting shortstop and leadoff batter. The Mars Fightin’ Planets had a loaded roster that year with four players besides Wetherholt who went on to play Division I baseball, including Will Bednar (Mississippi State); Jack Anderson (Pitt); Frank Craska (Lafayette/Quinnipiac); and Joey Craska (NJIT).
Andy Bednar, who coached Mars that year, said he knew Wetherholt was special – even as a 5-foot-7, 155-pound freshman on a team that made it all the way to the state quarterfinals that year.
“JJ’s hands and bat speed were unbelievable,” Bednar said. “He belonged.”
Following that season, Wetherholt committed to West Virginia. Among other things, Wetherholt liked the location – out of state but not too far that he couldn’t drive home in two hours.
“I had talked to the coaches at Pitt and Kent State, but they didn’t offer me in time,” Wetherholt said. “I jumped the gun and signed with West Virginia.”
Jason Thompson, who coached Wetherholt for his final two years at Mars High, said the WVU recruitment was low profile.
“He wasn’t trying to chase a name (university),” Thompson said.
Wetherholt doesn’t come off as bitter.
But, if he feels like he has to prove himself to doubters, you couldn’t blame him.
“I wasn’t highly recruited – nobody knew who I was,” Wetherholt said. “Part of that is because I didn’t compete in showcase events. Those events cost a lot of money.”
That, then, is how a player slips below the proverbial radar.
But he didn’t remain undetected for long.
Indeed, Wetherholt made the Big 12’s All-Freshman team last year, starting 53 of his 54 games while splitting his time between third base and second base.
Wetherholf was such an immediate success that he homered on his first career at-bat, going deep in a 13-8 win over Central Michigan last. year.
“I fell behind in the count 0-2 in that at-bat,” Wetherholt said. “I was nervous. My legs were shaking. I was thinking, ‘Good Lord, am I going to strike out in my first at-bat?’
“The next thing I knew, I was running around the bases, screaming.”
Wetherholt went on last year to hit .308 with a team-high 17 doubles, one triple, five homers, 39 RBIs, 51 runs and an .882 OPS. He also stole 15 bases in 23 attempts.
Tevin Tucker, West Virginia’s graduate student/starting shortstop, said he and his teammates starting noticing Wetherholt in the fall of his freshman year.
During a Mountaineers scrimmage, Wetherholt went 5-for-5 with two homers, one triple, one double and one single.
“I said, ‘Wow, this freshman just went for the cycle, and he didn’t even say anything,’” Tucker said. “It opened our eyes.”
Wetherholt has continued to get better. He has eight homers and a 1.264 OPS so far this year. That’s three more homers than he had all of last season, and his OPS is up by 382 points.
He has improved defensively, too. By ditching third base and playing what he says is his natural position at second exclusively this season, Wetherholt has improved his fielding percentage from .920 to .969.
JJ Wetherholt has improved defensively since moving to second base (WVU Athletics)
Although he is currently out after stealing second base last week and jamming his left thumb, Wetherholt is expected back soon, perhaps this weekend.
When he does return, Wetherholt – who is a finance major – figures to continue to use his impressive brain power on the field just like he does in the classroom.
Thompson calls Wetherholt an “intellectual” – even on the field.
“In high school, after he got a hit, you could see him reviewing his swing, trying to learn,” Thompson said. “He sees the game differently, and that’s what happened against Arizona.”
Thompson was referring to West Virginia’s 6-5 win over Arizona earlier this year on Feb. 24 in which Wetherholt snapped a tie score by a straight steal of home in the top of the 11th inning.
That play happened after Wetherholt noticed Arizona righthander Trevor Long putting his head down before delivering to the plate.
Wetherholt led off the 11th with a double and then stole third. With two outs and an 0-2 count on the batter, Wetherholt saw Long’s head down and took off. Long threw home, but his toss was high and went off the glove of catcher Tommy Splaine.
“That play was emotional,” Wetherholt said. “I talked to (third-base coach Steve Sabins about stealing home), but not a lot of words were said. (Mazey and Sabins) saw what I saw, and, with two strikes, I thought: ‘Might as well go crazy.’
“It was really emotional. I think it was my first steal of home since I was 12.”
Wetherholt finished that game 3-for-6 with a homer, a double, a single, two steals, two runs and two RBIs, and that’s the kind of across-the-board impact he is capable of having on games.
Tucker said Wetherholt’s bat-to-ball skills are “one of a kind”, and he added that he rarely sees the Mountaineers second baseman take an off-balance swing.
Mazey, meanwhile, marvels at Wetherholt’s consistency.
“JJ has tremendous vision and hand-eye coordination,” Mazey said. “Those are difference-maker (traits).
“He sees all pitches, and he hits to all fields.”
You are my hero
That area has too much talent to keep it all in-state
Big SBC series as Southern Miss goes to Coastal Carolina. I’m not hopeful we do well this weekend though.
Petry with his 20th. he’s unreal
Vols down 3-1 bottom 9 against Vandy
Hit two solo shots, one to leadoff the inning and one with 2 strikes, 2 outs.
Walk it off bottom 12 with another solo shot.
I hate our coaching this year. No fundamentals, terrible approaches at the plate, and just stupid mistakes.
Chants take game 1, 15-7
I feel the same but our players just suck except for a couple
Win over tcu!!
We took the series vs them. Not that special
I’m currently watching us play
Hopefully this weekend is just a blip for us, couldn't get a big hit or cash in chances.
Ran into a good team
Hating florida state because of these posts from last year has been so fun
He was utter shit at the plate during the summer and fall. His emergence was completely unexpected. Wasn’t even in the opening day lineup. He just forced his way into our lineup and being one of the best players in the country.
does Greene play baseball up there or just QB?
We just aren’t as good as our ranking. Love the respect we get finally, but this team isn’t has good as years past.
39 runs allowed in last 19 innings
Vols ran Vandys starter after 8 runs and 47 pitches in the 1st. That's after he got the first two batters out.
I wasn’t paying attention to time zones and thought the game started in 20 minutes. Can we just reset the score to 0-0 and start again at noon central?
I had a bad feeling about this weekend. UTs offense wasn’t going to stay cold all year long.
I've said many times the Vols are taking the 2022 Ole Miss approach.
Just settled in to eat lunch and turned on the game, wow
Y’all better get on it if you want to make it