top of page

Bo's Baseball Bites 06/02/23

More Cussed or Discussed?

A Look Inside, And Back, At the NCAA

Ratings Percentage Index (RPI)

DALLAS – Ahh, the NCAA Ratings Percentage Index…

Don’t feel singled out, college baseball coaches, players, and fans. It remains literally as one of the most cussed and discussed areas of NCAA selections in multiple sports since 1981, with deciding metrics such as strength of schedule, team winning percentage, opponents’ composite winning percentage, and even teams’ opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage.


In recent days, the NCAA Division 1 Baseball RPI has come under even more scrutiny, as the 2023 NCAA selection committee made its 64-team invitations--with a NCAA-record eight Southeastern Conference schools hosting NCAA Region tournaments, and first-time NCAA first-round locales for Coastal Carolina and Indiana State. For the first time since 2011, there is not a regional tourney in Texas.

And interestingly, for the first time in NCAA annals, the committee went 1-16 with the top 16 RPI teams as of May 29 gaining hosts’ roles.

ESPN on its selection show also made some comparisons of the 1-64 public RPI numbers and discerned some close comparisons of teams that made the field and those who were omitted.

There were some familiar college baseball names who "missed it by that much." The school deemed "first team out" was Arizona State (RPI 52), followed by Kansas State (35-24 overall record and 55 RPI), Kent State (No. 46 and regular-season champion of the Mid-American Conference, also the school where Alabama coaching legend Nick Saban played centerfield in baseball and defensive back in football), and UC Irvine (No. 49 and in the Big West Conference, which is the only D1 league without a postseason tournament). All four were left at the diamond altar.

And if the committee had stayed with its sites’ model and selected the rest of the tournament field, Nos. 1-64, purely on the RPI scale for the tournament, the last four teams into the field by RPI would have been:

#61. Florida State (with a 23-31 record, its first losing season in 76 years on the diamond, no

qualification for the Atlantic Coast Conference tourney for the first time since 1991, and ending a

NCAA-record, 44-consecutive-year appearance streak in the NCAA tourney)

#62. Samford (which won its Southern Conference tourney to gain automatic qualification and

enters the regionals at 36-23 overall)

#63. Non-qualifier Georgia Tech (30-27)

#64. UCLA (28-24-1 and once a NCAA qualifier with a high RPI and 28-27 overall record in the


Things also have changed since the pre-1998 era, when the NCAA went to a 64-team bracket from its previous fields of 42-48 teams throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and when regional site bids often were based on monetary expectations.

In other words, the NCAA might assign a No. 2 seed (in that region) Texas, Texas A&M or Cal State Fullerton to host a higher-ranked RPI school and possibly some determined Nos. 3 and 4 seeds to toughen up the competition for the team with a higher cash offer for a site.

In the 1980s, the Southwestern Athletic (SWAC) and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) were required to win “play-in” games against the lowest-RPI-rated teams from other Division 1 conferences (even some conference champs who were automatic qualifiers), with the matchups based on success (or lack thereof) of these conferences in preceding NCAA Baseball Championships.

And fans of Alabama State (41-18 overall and a runaway winner of the 2023 SWAC conference crown), Wofford (40-19), FGCU (42-18), and some others were doomed by the “one-bid conference” misnomer assigned to some of the leading circuits in NCAA Division 1.

Even more complicated for the “bubble” teams missing the 64-team 2023 field were upset wins by Tulane (19-40, most losses ever for a NCAA-qualifying team as winner of the American Athletic Conference tourney) and Charlotte (34-26 and upset victor over runaway Conference USA regular-season titlist DBU). Those two automatic qualifiers probably spelled the difference for the Kansas States and Arizona States of the world.

What might be next for the 2024 NCAA Division Baseball Committee in this morass of RPI bids and non-bids? The 2022 and ’23 committee chair, John Cohen, longtime former D1 baseball coach and current Director of Athletics at Auburn, thinks there must be some soul-searching for a possible solution, such as the one taken by D1 men’s and women's basketball after the 2017-18 season. That selection group came up with the idea to use the basketball NET ratings, based on other factors than the RPI to make those critical, non-conference qualifying decisions.

Some are even calling for a four-game play-in "First Four," similar to NCAA men’s and women’s basketball, that would add teams from the current contingent of 305 NCAA Division I baseball members.

Regardless, it did not take long for the sting of rejection to elicit similar comments from some other college coaches and administrators this season.

A disappointed Kansas State head baseball coach Pete Hughes issued a cogent statement:

“The DI Baseball Committee and the system failed our program and our seniors. It was obvious that the committee overemphasized the RPI – a flawed metric. The regional disparities of the RPI are glaring, and still were used as a tool to form, shape and make decisions. The most important criteria that has 'zero' gray area is head-to-head competition. We were left out in place of two teams that we finished ahead of in overall conference play, and also two teams we beat head-to-head. Why play the games if the records are not valued? When did we stop rewarding winning? It’s inexplicable and disappointing. Our players and our community deserved better.”

Coach Hughes' points are well taken and may express some of the frustrations of many, as college baseball’s popularity continues to zoom nationwide but may need some immediate adjustments for fairness and geographical bias for the so-called Sun Belt areas.


Trivia Questions taken from the COLLEGE BASEBALL CENTRAL LIBRARY (answers below):

  1. Today’s Bo’s Baseball Bites talks about a record number of SEC teams being selected as regional hosts. Statistically, LSU led the SEC in at least eight offensive team categories, Florida held down two, Auburn one, and one team led in three categories. Who were they and what were the categories?

  2. Along with 10 from the SEC in the NCAA field, the usual "power" conferences of ACC, Big 12, PAC 12, and Big 10 make up exactly half (32) of the 64-team 2023 field. What other conferences have two or more teams in the tournament field?

  3. Wake Forest, the #1 overall seed, leads everyone with 47 victories, but interestingly, the teams with the second-most wins and the most losses in the 2023 NCAA baseball tournament are both #4 seeds. Can you name them and their records?

Bo Carter is the Executive Director of the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and is a long time professional in sports media and information. He is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and has plied his trade in the Southeastern Conference, the Southwest Conference, and the Big 12 Conference. In addition to his NCBWA duties, he also serves as a consultant and columnist for the National Football Foundation. Follow the NCBWA, which produces ranking polls for D1, D2, and D3, as well as naming All America teams at both the D1 and D2 levels and the Dick Howser Trophy (presented each year in Omaha at the Men’s College World Series) at @NCBWA. And, if you’re a college baseball fan, you don’t have to be media to be a member, check them out at and join today!

Trivia Answers

1. Texas A&M led three categories, a couple thanks to playing the most games so far (61), and

despite having the second lowest team batting average in the SEC (.269): total plate appearances,

at bats, and walks.

2. The Sun Belt (4), American, Big East, Colonial, and Conference USA, with 2 each.

3. Oral Roberts (46-11) and Tulane (19-40), which Bo already gave you!

19 views0 comments


bottom of page