Who is the Bradley of 2016? That might not have seemed like an interesting question prior to the 2015 season, given that Bradley is generally a middle-of-the-pack team in the MVC and Missouri State and Dallas Baptist clearly appeared to be the class of the league, but after a 2015 season that saw the Braves sport a higher-than-expected RPI and nab a two-seed in the Louisville regional, it was certainly an interesting question heading into this season.
Of course, that question has a negative and a positive connotation. On the positive side of the ledger, the 2016 version of Bradley would be a team that surprises many, gets comfortably into the field of 64, and perhaps is seeded higher than anticipated. The negative side of the designation is that the team does all of this even though they have a postseason resume that appears to be a little lighter than you would expect for someone in their position.
With just a handful of weekends left in the season, the Creighton Blue Jays just might be our 2016 Bradley.
Creighton Blue Jays
W-L: 30-9 (8-1)
W-L vs. RPI Top 25: 0-0
W-L vs. RPI Top 50: 4-2
W-L vs. RPI Top 100: 5-7
Best Results: Series win vs. BYU, series win vs. Jacksonville
Worst Losses: Sweep against Fresno State, loss vs. Kansas State
Summary: Creighton was expected to challenge to win the Big East title right alongside St. John’s, and they’ve certainly done that, but they’ve surprised many with their position as a top 25 RPI team. The Blue Jays got off to a slow start thanks to a sweep at the hands of Fresno State, but they haven’t really slipped up at all since then, and against seemingly long odds, their RPI has held steady.
What They Have Going For Them: The best thing Creighton has going for them is that they just haven’t lost very many games, and just as importantly, they haven’t dropped any games to teams with an RPI that’s going to act as an anchor. From an RPI standpoint, their worst losses are a road midweek loss to RPI 131 Kansas State and the single game they lost in winning two out of three in their series to RPI 110 Seton Hall. Outside of that, their losses have come to teams with RPIs of 73 (Fresno State), 70 (Nebraska), 46 (Jacksonville), 79 (Arkansas), and 36 (BYU). Look no further for evidence that sometimes it’s just as important to avoid bad losses as it is to collect big wins.
What They Have Working Against Them: Their resume is very thin at the top end, as evidenced by the fact that they haven’t even played a game against a team ranked inside the top 25 in the RPI. The 1-5 record against teams ranked 51-100 in the RPI also isn’t pretty. That’s where the sweep against Fresno State hurts. It obviously wasn’t that big of a deal from a metrics standpoint, but it was a missed opportunity for road wins against an RPI top 100 team. Their 4-2 record against the top 50 is a little precarious as well. They have two wins against Jacksonville, currently 46 in the RPI, but if a couple of things break in the wrong direction, the Dolphins could easily drop out of the top 50, taking away half of their wins against that group of teams.
What is on the Horizon? Plain and simple, the Blue Jays don’t have any games ahead of them that are going to be game-changers from an RPI standpoint. Only their midweek game against Nebraska is a game against a top 100 foe. Other than that, they don’t have any games against anyone better than 148 in the RPI. For that reason, it seems like their margins are relatively thin. Any series losses to the remaining teams could really hurt in the RPI, and that’s what makes the series against St. John’s on the last weekend of the season so important. The Johnnies have the talent to beat Creighton a couple of times over that weekend to play the spoiler role.
With all that being said, one of the most impressive things about Bradley’s run into a regional last season is that, in spite of some losses down the stretch, their RPI hung tight in place and they got into the field comfortably. It sure looks like Creighton is on that same path, and the great thing about regional appearances is that there are no asterisks next to them in the record books and no one expects you to apologize for them after the fact, even when the resume appears a little light.
NOTE: All metrics were pulled from D1Baseball.com and were current prior to Tuesday’s midweek games being completed.