By Trey Mongrue
College basketball ended rather emphatically last night with Duke capturing its fifth national title. While the Blue Devils likely won’t be making an identical run to Omaha for the College World Series a few months from now, the usual blue bloods of college baseball (your USC’s, Florida St.’s, LSU’s, etc.) appear to be on the right track.
And with that, from one madness to the next we go with our first regional projections of the 2015 season.
Yeah, there’s still some time until Selection Monday next month, but the end of basketball coincidentally signifies the beginning of the postseason push for baseball. For the next month and a half, you will be hearing a lot about RPI, strength of schedule, conference, record in last 15 games, record versus the RPI top 50… Really, just loads and loads of numbers.
The plan for a weekly regional projection is to create a postseason snapshot each week, making those numbers a lot less overwhelming. Keep in mind, these projections are based on how a team’s current resume holds up i.e. just because (SPOILER ALERT!) UCLA is the top overall seed this week, doesn’t mean that the Bruins could just coast the rest of the way.
So, to not ramble any further, here we go:
LAST FIVE IN: Kentucky, Central Florida, Notre Dame, Long Beach St., Middle Tennessee
FIRST FIVE OUT: New Mexico, Cal St. Northridge, Michigan, Texas Tech, California
|AAC||South Florida, Houston, Central Florida, Connecticut|
|ACC||Louisville, Florida St., Miami, Maryland, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Virginia, North Carolina|
|Big 10||Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio St.|
|Big 12||Oklahoma St., TCU|
|Big East||St. John’s|
|Big South||Radford, Coastal Carolina, Liberty|
|Big West||UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, Long Beach St.|
|CAA||Charleston, UNC Wilmington|
|CUSA||Florida Atlantic, Rice, Middle Tennessee|
|MVC||Dallas Baptist, Missouri St., Bradley|
|MWC||Nevada, San Diego St.|
|OVC||Southeast Missouri St.|
|PAC 12||UCLA, USC, Arizona St., Oregon St.|
|SEC||Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, LSU, Florida, Missouri, Kentucky, South Carolina|
Bolded – Autobid (current conference leader)
Breaking Down LSU’s Position
Since the majority of the readers – if not all – are LSU fans/followers, in addition to the regional projections, we’ll also be taking a look each week at where the Tigers’ stand amongst the field of 64. For starters, here is their basic resume:
|Strength of Schedule||114|
|Record v. RPI Top 50||8-3|
|Record Last 15 Games||11-4|
– All RPI data provided by WarrenNolan.com
LSU is no stranger to having a strength of schedule in the triple digits. They hardly leave Alex Box Stadium during the out of conference portion of the schedule, because frankly, they don’t have to. To his credit, Paul Mainieri actively tried to put together a stiffer February/March schedule with a couple of series against Power 5 schools in addition to a trip to Minute Maid Park for the Houston College Classic. However, neither Kansas nor Baylor were the RPI boosters that the Tigers had hoped for and a handful of midweek games agains the likes of Southern, Grambling and Stephen F. Austin have anchored the strength of schedule rating.
That said, the Tiger’s boast a winning percentage against RPI Top 50 teams that is near the top among teams that have played five or more games. On top of that, the Southeastern Conference once again is rated as the toughest in the country by a fairly large margin over the ACC. All of that plus the fact that LSU is a known commodity (yeah, that does play a part – these are humans ultimately making the final decision), has the Tigers in comfortable national seed territory at the moment.
In terms of getting a top eight seed, the RPI of 15 does fog up things a little bit, but we are still at a point in the season where the RPI is still a tad out of whack. As the Tigers get deeper into SEC play, the RPI will push upward – assuming they continue winning games.
– In this first projection, the ACC leads all conferences with eight entrants. The SEC is closely behind with seven. No surprise that those two once again have the strongest teams in the field, what is interesting though is that seven entrants from the SEC would be a low number for a conference that usually lands eight or more. Beyond the four no-brainers (Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, LSU and Florida), plus Missouri, there is a lot of jockeying going on in the conference right now. South Carolina, while still comfortably in, is in the midst of some struggles and Kentucky, who only has four wins in conference, is one of the last teams to make the projected field. After that, there is no discernible choice to bump the SEC number of to eight. Ultimately, that team (plus maybe another) will likely reveal itself, but for now, it’s capped at seven.
– Just as is the case with basketball, teams from mid-major conferences make up a big part of the fun that is the college baseball postseason. At this early stage, one conference to keep an eye on is the Missouri Valley. In this projection, we have the MVC getting three teams in and that includes Missouri St. and previously-independent Dallas Baptist as host teams. DBU actually enters this week with the top RPI in the country. The Bears though gained the inside track to winning the conference over the weekend with a series victory over the Patriots this past weekend.
– The toughest part with these is always making the decision on what teams to leave in and who to leave out. This week, the last spot came down to New Mexico and Middle Tennessee. It pitted two teams that had relatively high RPI, but not optimal results when it came to, you know, actually playing the games. In the end though, the nod went to the Blue Raiders and it was a fairly painless one to make.
|New Mexico||Middle Tennessee|
|11 (MWC)||Con. RPI||8 (CUSA)|
|3-8||v. RPI Top 50||4-6|