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Bo's Baseball Bites for May 10



The Fortnight View: With Two+ Weeks Remaining In Regular Season, Many D1 NCAAT Questions Remain


DALLAS – Will the Southeastern Conference get another eight first round NCAA host bids similar to 2023, and as many as 10 or more total berths in the 2024 D1 NCAA Baseball Championship?


Will the Atlantic Coast Conference, with as many as 10 teams ranked among the national Top 25 polls this year, have another bid bonanza in the 2024 NCAAs?


Or will the dissolving Pac-12 Conference, with 10 members leaving July 1, gain some nostalgic looks from the NCAA Baseball Selection Committee and maybe an additional bid or two as a goodbye gift?


These questions and more will be answered in a national ESPN telecast on Monday, May 27 (Memorial Day), and the 64-team bracket (for the 26th year, minus the COVID-19 cancellations in May 2020) will be established with 16 first round NCAA Region sites (actually designated via a release from the NCAA office the day before, Sunday, May 26).


The usual shouts of joys and groans of sorrow will reverberate from Maine to California, and some are wondering if the NCAA Baseball Committee will take the same path as its 2024 NCAA Men’s Basketball counterpart and possibly leave out some deserving teams.


Fans will remember NCAA men’s hoops Selection Sunday, which included the omission from the NCAA field of No. 28 NET-rated Indiana State and No. 32 NET-rated St. John’s (NY), much to the dismay of fans, student-athletes and administrators of both schools.


It had been almost annual precedent in men’s and women’s basketball and baseball selections that teams as high as No. 40 or better in the NCAA NET or Ratings Percentage Index were virtual locks for at-large bids – especially with the men’s and women’s basketball 68-team draws.


And though it will be a completely different group of delegators from the Baseball Committee, after hours of discussions there never is certainty about at least one of the 64 squad bids for Division I Baseball, which has contemplated a 68-team future diamond bracket with one-game play-in tussles.


Regardless, NCAA baseball chair Matt Hogue, Director of Athletics at Coastal Carolina, appears to be bent on having the fairest choices of the 34 at-large teams to accompany the 30 schools receiving automatic bids as champions of their conference, usually the post season tournament winner. The committee chair even issued a memo earlier this week, saying teams might be impacted in final selections if they cancel non-conference contests against lower-ranked units to help gain an advantage in national RPI compilations.


And a quick examination of current (prior to weekend conference games) NCAA RPI numbers bears out the possibilities for the SEC, ACC and other loops.


Very similar to this week’s national Top 25 polls, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Georgia are 1-2-3-4 in the RPI, ahead of No. 8 Tennessee, No. 13 Alabama, No. 14 South Carolina, No. 19 Mississippi State (rising after a 3-1 week against Ole Miss and Alabama), No. 22 Vanderbilt (who took a tumble from the teens after a 1-5 record its last two series) No. 23 Florida (due to an excessively-tough schedule this spring), No. 27 Ole Miss (took two out of three at Auburn), No. 35 LSU (who took two out of three at home over A&M), and No. 45 Auburn (a 19-4 record in non-conference games this season).


If these high RPI numbers hold prior to the SEC tourney, could there be as many as 11-12 teams from this circuit headed for NCAA Regionals, with over half of them hosting? That is certainly a possibility.


The ACC is not far behind, with highly-rated Clemson, North Carolina, and Florida State in the 5-7 RPI slots and eight total schools, including preseason No. 1 nationally Wake Forest, among the Top 43 in this all-important rankings’ system.


The Big 12 and Pac-12 Conferences also are holding forth in extremely-heated bouts for conference tourney seeding with 10 and 5 schools, respectively, among the Top 70 in the RPI, with any number of teams looming potentially as postseason tourney winners to gain automatic bids.


As a matter of fact, Utah (30-16 overall and headed for the Big 12 in July) is having its best season in school history under former Kentucky and Mississippi State coach Gary Henderson and contending for a first-ever national ranking. At 15-9 in Pac-12 activity, UU received the 32nd-most votes in the USA Today Coaches Top 25 earlier this week and has been ranked by D1baseball.com as well.


This leaves possibly 30-40 teams still in contention for the 30 automatic and 34 at-large NCAA bids, and complicating the selections a bit is the always-scrappy, but underserved with talent, Summit League.


Usual Summit headliner Oral Roberts (a 2023 College World Series entry) enters the weekend at 17-26-1 overall and 7-12 in conference play, behind first-year NCAA Division 1 contender St. Thomas (Minn.) at 11-6 in league contests.


All six Summit League squads are below the .500 mark, but the automatic bid still remains for the conference tourney victor, and St. Thomas is in a NCAA “transition year” from Division iii to DI, so Omaha at 12-8 in loop play is the early favorite to gain the loop’s automatic role.


It adds up to some razor-sharp study by that all-important NCAA Selection Committee with 64 schools out of 305 competing in Division I bound for the NCAA Championships and awaiting that May 27 announcement. The final tally might just be a bit surprising (and disappointing to some circuits) when the invitations are completed.


*****


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 ncbwa.com and join today!

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