There are less than four weeks left until the field of 64 teams is chosen for the NCAA baseball tournament -- where does your team stand as we head to May?
More this year than in the recent past, there is a major disconnect between the human polls and the Rating Percentage Index (RPI). Virginia and Florida State are the only teams in the top five in both RPI and the USA Today Coaches' Poll. If that list is expanded to the top 10, South Carolina and Vanderbilt show up as well.
The selection committee does not consider any of the polls when choosing the tournament field, but the disconnect between the lists could lead to quite the quandary when selecting the eight national seeds. Over four seasons from 2010 to 2013, no team with an RPI lower than No. 12 on selection day has earned a national seed.
That could change this season, as both Louisiana (12th in RPI) and Cal Poly (17) are having dominant seasons against relatively weak schedules. The lowest-ranked team to earn a national seed in the last five years was UC Irvine in 2009. The Anteaters were 18th in RPI but ran away with the Big West title. If the Ragin' Cajuns and Mustangs continue to dominate over the final month, they should earn national seeds even with RPIs in the low teens.
Five of the national seeds are already fairly secure with a month to play. Virginia and Florida State are safe bets from the ACC. Florida and South Carolina, if it can keep winning despite battling a number of injuries, are ahead of the field in the SEC. And Oregon State jumped into the safe category with a three-game sweep of Oregon this past weekend.
But there's a lot of competition for the final slot, which at this point goes to Indiana. The Hoosiers, who lead the Big Ten by three games, are second in RPI after overcoming a slow start to the season.
If the Hoosiers -- or another top-eight team -- struggle down the stretch, plenty of teams are waiting to move up. Ole Miss and Alabama are tied for first in the SEC West. The Big 12 is second in conference RPI, so the eventual Big 12 champion will have claim on a national seed. And Rice is in contention at the top of Conference USA and in the RPI top 10.
What does it take to earn an at-large selection to the tournament? The selection committee has a set of guidelines that are incorporated into these projections:
• The team must have a winning record.
That eliminates teams such as Stanford, Long Beach State and Georgia, which have solid résumés but are currently under .500.
• Once a school passes that hurdle, it will be placed into the selection pool if it meets one of three criteria: an RPI in the top 75, a top-two finish in its conference or recommendation by the regional advisory committee.
Unless saved by the regional advisory committee, that eliminates some big names from consideration this season. Defending champion UCLA and Oklahoma are both down in their respective conference standings and outside the top 75 in RPI. Seton Hall has a gaudy 31-9 record but is fourth in the Big East and outside the RPI top 100.
For this projection, more of an emphasis was placed on how teams did when playing good teams as opposed to the overall RPI numbers. As an example, consider the seeding of the top four teams in the Big 12 -- Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech and Texas.
Oklahoma State is around 40 in RPI, while the other three schools are clustered in the 10-15 range. But the Cowboys won the season series against each of the other three schools and also have the best record against RPI top-50 opponents. Their overall RPI is dragged down by 12 games against teams outside the RPI top 200 but is offset by doing well against the best teams on the schedule.
The last time a team outside the top 20 in RPI was a regional host was in 2011, when Oregon State (No. 31) and UCLA (No. 34) both hosted. Oklahoma State's situation mirrors that of the Bruins, who won the Pac-10 title that year to surprise the pundits and earn one of the top 16 seeds. As long as the Cowboys keep winning, there should be a regional in Stillwater this season.
Last five in: Tennessee, North Carolina, USC, West Virginia, Cal State Fullerton
First nine out: High Point, Old Dominion, Texas A&M, Kansas, Duke, VCU, Auburn, Maryland, Arkansas State, Southern Miss