Selection Monday is 12 days away and the first automatic NCAA Tournament bids will be handed out this weekend when the Ivy League and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournaments conclude (and likely in the Big West as well, where UC Santa Barbara is close to clinching its championship). Teams that are jockeying for position in the NCAA Tournament race have just a handful more opportunities to make their case.
While the postseason picture is coming into sharper focus, this exercise is still meant to be a projection and not what the field would look like if the season ended today. But with every passing day, there is less projection needed, as teams have little time to change their resumes in a dramatic way.
The hosting race continues to be in flux, particularly after last weekend’s Big 12 chaos. Texas Tech’s stunning sweep at Oklahoma State thrust the Red Raiders back into the hosting picture, despite an RPI (33) that remains higher than the typical range for regional hosts. A series win this weekend against Oklahoma would help Texas Tech boost its RPI and at least share the conference title with TCU. That might be enough for the Red Raiders to reach the host line. TCU, which swept Texas Tech, and is the leader in the clubhouse in the Big 12 standings, has a worse RPI (35) and won’t have an opportunity to boost it until the Big 12 Tournament, as its non-conference series against Santa Clara will do little to help the Horned Frogs. It would be strange for the Big 12 regular-season champion not to host, but TCU’s 8-13 mark against top-50 teams will be its undoing, unless it is able to make a push next week in Arlington.
The selection committee also looks like it will have a difficult time sorting out how to order the SEC West hosts. Arkansas, Auburn and Texas A&M are all tracking toward hosting, but determining the order is as hard as unraveling Christmas tree lights. Texas A&M is in first place in the division today thanks to its series win against Arkansas, but it lost a series to Auburn. The Tigers have the best RPI (4), but they're 1.5 games behind the Aggies and Razorbacks in the standings. Arkansas has the worst RPI (26, typically well shy of the range required to host as an SEC team), but is likely to have piled up 20 SEC wins by the end of the conference tournament. At least one, and probably two, of those teams will end up as top-eight seeds, but it’s anyone’s guess right now who it will be.
Those watching the NCAA Tournament bubble will this weekend be fixated on the ACC. Clemson, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Wake Forest are all on the bubble now and, with a bad weekend, Georgia Tech could find itself uncomfortably close as well. Clemson hosts Boston College and needs a sweep to keep its hopes alive. North Carolina hosts Florida State and Wake Forest visits North Carolina State and a series win for either the Tar Heels or the Demon Deacons might be enough to see them to safety. Pitt hosts Georgia Tech and needs a series win.
The ACC also has a pair of series with hosting implications, as Miami hosts Notre Dame and Virginia travels to Louisville. All four teams are projected hosts now, but with the standings as tight as they are, nothing can be taken for granted. Virginia Tech’s series against Duke has regional implications, though the Hokies are playing for the ACC title and the Blue Devils are fighting for the last spot in the ACC Tournament.
Baseball America will continue to update the projected field weekly throughout the spring.