College Baseball’s Conference Races Counting Down

May 4, 2012
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A Look At Potential “One Bid” Leagues & More…

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Current Atlantic Sun leader USC Upstate has been one of the bigger surprises in DI baseball this season (Upstate photo).

With just three weekends remaining in the regular season, selection Monday is on the horizon for college baseball teams looking to make final statements to the NCAA selection committee. This CB360 Notebook special takes a look at a handful of conferences that could receive just one NCAA bid at the end of this month, what their current conference standings look like, RPIs of the top teams in the standings, and who could end up with the bids. Not every conference listed below will end up with just a single NCAA bid, but how things go down the stretch in the regular season and in their postseason tournaments (for those that have them) will greatly affect their bids and the bids of other leagues.

We’re not looking at the SEC, ACC, Big 12, or Pac-12 that are locks to get multiple spots in the tourney, we are looking at the conferences battling for a single spot and what some of them need to do to get multiple bids.

We will look at more conference races next week as well…

America East      Record      RPI

Stony Brook (34-10, 12-2)  119
Binghamton (18-18, 9-3)  201
Maine (22-19, 8-4)  210

Stony Brook, which won a school record 42 games last year, came into the season as the favorite to win the America East. The Seawolves have played like the favorite all year long. Maine claimed last year’s automatic NCAA bid after knocking-off Stony Brook in the conference tournament. Winning another postseason crown this year will be the only way the Black Bears gain NCAA entry this season.

 

Atlantic Sun       Record      RPI

USC Upstate (30-13, 13-5)  73
Belmont (28-17, 12-6)  60
Stetson (29-15, 11-7)  50
Kennesaw St. (28-20, 12-9)  81

South Carolina Upstate is the biggest surprise in the conference. In its first season of full DI eligibility, the Trojans have 30 overall wins and lead the conference heading into the homestretch of the regular season after being picked to finish last in the 10-team league. Upstate just completed a five year transition from Division II.

Stetson was the co-preseason favorite to win the A-Sun. The Hatters’ overall record is solid, and a good non-conference schedule with games against the likes of Florida State, Central Florida and Miami gives them the best RPI in the conference and the best chance for the league to receive an at-large NCAA bid if they don’t win the conference postseason tournament. Stetson and Jacksonville both received at-large bids last year, joining tournament champion Belmont in the NCAA Tournament. It marked the first time in four years the league received multiple bids.

Big series this weekend with Upstate at Stetson.

 

Atlantic 10          Record  RPI

Rhode Island (26-19, 11-4)  101
Dayton (21-24, 10-5)  196
St. Joseph’s (19-24, 9-5)  217
St. Louis (30-14, 11-7)  150

Charlotte was the preseason favorite to win a third straight A-10 crown, but the 49ers are sitting in the lower half of the conference standings at 20-23 overall and just 8-9 in conference play. Current leader Rhode Island was picked to finish second, while St. Joseph’s and St. Louis have both played a little above preseason expectations. Bottom line-the conference tournament champ will receive the 13-team league’s lone NCAA bid.

 

Big East           Record     RPI

St. John’s (29-16, 14-4)  35
Louisville (31-14, 12-6)  69
USF (29-16, 12-6)  82
UConn (24-20, 12-6)  77
Rutgers (26-18, 11-7)  79
Seton Hall (26-19, 11-7)  95

The Big East has shown itself to be a multi-bid league in recent years, and that should be the case this season. However, things could get interesting down the stretch. St. John’s and Louisville are on the most solid footing for a potential at-large bid and they play each other next week. What happens if a lower seed, like Seton Hall last year, wins the Big East postseason tournament puts things in doubt. That said, St. John’s benefitted from the de-emphasis on RPI last year when it received one of the final at-large bids with an RPI outside the top 60.

 

Big South             Record        RPI

Coastal Carolina (30-13, 12-3)  36
Radford (25-18, 10-5)  93
Campbell (33-12, 9-6)  104
Liberty (34-15, 10-8)  76

Things have pretty much gone as expected in the Big South this season. Coastal Carolina, which has won a league record five straight Big South titles, was the near unanimous preseason favorite to win another conference crown in 2012. The Chanticleers have won each of their conference series this season, including last week’s sweep of the team that was picked to finish second in the conference – Liberty. The Big South’s best chance for two NCAA bids is for Liberty or someone else to win its postseason conference tournament. With seven regular season games to go the Flames can also make a strong at-large case for themselves if they can get to 40 wins. Even if they don’t get to 40 they already have similar credentials as last year’s St. John’s team from the Big East that received an at-large invite.

 

Big Ten              Record          RPI

Purdue (34-7, 14-4)  5
Minnesota (27-20, 9-6)  130
Indiana (22-23, 9-6)  116
Nebraska (28-16, 8-7)  80
Michigan St. (27-15, 8-7)  51
Illinois (25-19, 8-7)  57
Penn St. (22-22, 8-7)  136

B1G’s best chance to get two NCAA bids is for someone to beat Purdue in the postseason conference tournament. The Boilermakers are an absolute lock for a bid, despite having the credentials to host a regional, they don’t even know if that will happen. Purdue is in the process of building a new stadium that won’t be done until July. Their best bet to host looks like playing at the Ft. Wayne Tincaps’ minor league facility, but that’s a drive of more than 2 ½ hours to the northeast. The Boilers are at UCLA for three games this weekend with a possible national seed on the line.

Back to the bids though. Michigan State and Illinois, last year’s regular season co-champions, play a big series this weekend in Champaign. The winner has the only likely chance for an at-large berth by season’s end. Nebraska’s RPI won’t climb enough with Indiana, Minnesota and Michigan (116, 130, 230) in the RPI remaining.

 

Big West             Record            RPI

Cal St. Fullerton (27-14, 9-3)  13
Long Beach St. (21-21, 11-4)  56
Cal Poly (26-17, 9-6)  65
UC Santa Barbara (23-19, 9-6)  115
UC Irvine (24-17, 8-7)  67

Preseason favorite and perennial NCAA Tourney team Cal State Fullerton is the only lock for a bid this season. The Titans took two out of three games earlier this year from current second place team Long Beach State and those two close the regular season with three games in Long Beach. That series looms large since the Big West does not hold a postseason tournament.

Irvine and Santa Barbara face off this weekend. The Anteaters still have a chance to get back in the mix with two midweek games against San Diego (26 RPI) and another vs. UCLA. Cal Poly just got a nice win over Pepperdine (27 RPI), but their chances to get more style points are long gone. Poly’s remaining series are against UC Davis (197), Cal State Bakersfield (161), Santa Barbara (115), and UC Riverside (147).

The fact that WCC teams San Diego, Pepperdine and Gonzaga all have top 30 RPIs severely hinders the Big West’s chances to receive two or more bids.

 

Colonial               Record          RPI

UNC Wilmington (27-7, 17-4)  48
Hofstra (26-17, 14-7)  120
George Mason (32-17, 15-9)  103

One of the problems the CAA has is the team with the second best RPI in the league, VCU at 92, is just 25-20 overall, 11-13 in league play and in eighth place in the current conference standings. James Madison was the overwhelming preseason favorite to win the CAA, but the Dukes are sitting in ninth place at 15-29-1 and 9-15 in the conference. Wilmington is sitting on solid ground and has a chance to add several more wins with 11 left in the regular season. An RPI building opportunity comes next week when they travel to Chapel Hill to face North Carolina.

 

Horizon            Record          RPI

Wright St. (31-14, 16-5)  110
Valparaiso (23-20, 15-6)  156

Wright State and Valpo go head-to-head in Dayton, OH this weekend with the top seed in the Horizon’s postseason tournament on the line. The Raiders have become the team to beat in recent years in the six-team league, earning two of the last three automatic bids by winning conference tournament crowns. Wright State and Valparaiso are the only teams in the league with winning records this season.

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