May 22, 2008
Wait 'Til Next Year
End of the Line
Before I start today, I'd like to say that this will be my last regular article for Baseball Prospectus. Those who have followed me in the journey of the college baseball season won't be disappointed: I won't be a total stranger from these parts, as I'll be moving over to BP's friends at Major League Baseball Advanced Media. It's an opportunity that has absolutely been afforded because of this outlet, and for that, I thank the people who brought me in: Nate Silver, Will Carroll, and my friend Kevin Goldstein. I also owe significant thanks to Christina Kahrl, who in just 13 months has made me a better writer. I was a fan of BP before I wrote here, a bigger fan while I wrote here, and given what I know lies beyond the horizon, there's no reason to think I won't be a bigger fan still yet. Thanks for all the questions, all the kind words, and of course, all the criticisms.
There's no uniformity in conference baseball tournaments, so while previewing the battles to be waged in the SEC, ACC, Big 12, and more would have been fun for my last article, it's not entirely practical. Instead, I thought I should channel my best Joe Lunardi, and see what lies ahead of us beyond this weekend. The NCAA Tournament will be announced next week, and as a college baseball analyst, there isn't a more exciting time of year, because between the televised baseball draft and the College World Series, the pinnacle of college baseball's visibility is on the horizon. With help from Pseudo-RPIs generated by Boyd Nation (as of Wednesday morning), here is my Thursday projection of the college baseball tournament.
Miami Regional (National #1 Seed: Miami)
Ann Arbor Regional
Fullerton Regional (National #8 Seed: Cal State Fullerton)
College Station Regional (National #5 Seed: Texas A&M)
Houston Regional (National #4 Seed: Rice)
Myrtle Beach Regional
Tempe Regional (National #3 Seed: Arizona State)
Athens Regional (National #6 Seed: Georgia)
Baton Rouge Regional
Tallahassee Regional (National #7 Seed: Florida State)
Palo Alto Regional
Cary Regional (National #8 Seed: North Carolina)
Compilation Note: To put this together, I started by creating the regional sites and ranking my #1 seeds. From there, the key was to give the national seeds the easiest roads to the next round, while attempting to remain slightly geographical with my assignments. Using RPIs and an atlas, I pieced together the rest so the best regional host (Miami) had a far easier time than the shakiest regional hosts, Michigan and California.
Conference Tournament Favorites Sure to Win At-Large Bids
College basketball fans will understand this concept, but it's key to cover it here: bubble teams are always rooting for the favorites in conference tournaments, because should a favorite lose, often that team is in better position to gain an at-large bid than the bubble team. Here are nine non-power conference teams that would be ahead of most programs sitting on a bubble.
St. John's lost their opener in the Big East Tournament on Tuesday to Villanova, and the road looks quite difficult for the Red Storm to win the Big East automatic bid. However, it's a 40-win season for the Johnnies, and the committee will not overlook their dominance in the Big East all spring. I think a bad tournament showing leaves them as a three-seed, while a good post-Tuesday turnaround could move them up to a second slot. Coastal Carolina (Big South) and UNC Wilmington (CAA) are RPI beauties, so little is left to be won in the conference tournament. The Chanticleers have a decent argument to host a regional, and a dominant tournament showing could be enough to secure it, while Wilmington lies in the same position as St. John's--only a collapse could take them down to a three-seed.
Obviously, things don't matter much this weekend for Michigan (Big Ten) or Wichita State (MVC). I think one of the two, not both, is going to host, so the more dominant weekend could secure that. We've talked about Texas Christian ad nauseam, and the Horned Frogs might even be a two-seed if they don't win the Mountain West Conference. If they do, there's a host argument given some of their attendance numbers this season, I just don't think it's there. Oral Roberts (Summit), Elon (SoCon), and New Orleans (Sun Belt) are 38, 40 and 42 respectively in Boyd's RPIs. If they don't win their conference tournaments, they become bubble teams, but bubble teams that are likely still in the tournament.
The Last Five In
These are the five teams with the most to lose this weekend. Given a bad week or a few conference tournament upsets, they won't make it in. We'll start with the teams that were last to make it into my bracket, and end with the surer bets.
The Next Five Out
On the opposite side of the coin, here are a few teams that have really good arguments for getting in, but during my compilation, there was no spot for them. Opposite of the last one, we start with the team with the best argument:
Wednesday Night Implications
I wrote this story during the day Wednesday, and while I made a few changes when the wild Big 12 featured wins by Oklahoma and Kansas State, there were still some other noteworthy happenings that have tournament implications.
First, Rice's chance at a national seed took a hit when they lost in the first round of the Conference-USA Tournament to UAB. Give credit to Brian Shoop and the Blazers for holding Rice to just two runs, thanks to pitcher Kyle Roberson's eight-inning gem. UAB took advantage of a pair of early errors and really hit the Rice bullpen--Matt Langwell and Bryan Price--hard. Rice plays East Carolina tomorrow to see who goes home first. East Carolina's loss to Houston had me switch their seedings above, as I put the Cougars as a two-seed rather than the Pirates.
Missouri moved into a host spot for me by beating Texas last night, or, more specifically, thanks to losses by Texas A&M, Nebraska, and Oklahoma State. The latter moved the Cowboys down to the two-spot, as a loss to Kansas State is the least impressive of the bunch.