Welcome back to the College Baseball RPI Watch List, where we take a look at some interesting RPI cases from around the country, both good and not so good.
Let’s get started.
*NOTE: RPI figures were current as of Thursday morning, 4/20/2017.
Indiana- RPI: 40
It kind of looks like we’re going to be talking about a Big Ten team in this space just about every week, but that’s life in a league where only Michigan looks like a lock to get into the postseason and everyone else in the top half of the league floats around just inside or just outside of at-large range.
Indiana has been all over the map so far. They were in the 60s in the fifth week of the season, were down around 30 the very next week, and were back up in the 50s as recently as two weeks ago. Most recently, after a series win over Minnesota, the Hoosiers now find themselves in at-large range at 40, even as they dropped eight spots since Sunday after a midweek loss to Butler.
A good RPI is one thing, but putting together a postseason-worthy resume is quite another, and in terms of the latter, Indiana probably still has work to do. To date, their best result is winning two games against Gonzaga (RPI 62) over opening weekend and then going 1-1-1 against FAU (RPI 77) in week two.
Don’t look now, but they’ve got opportunities to better that on the horizon, with series against Michigan (RPI 23) and Maryland (RPI 33), the perceived two best teams in the Big Ten, over the next two weekends. Not only will those series provide ample RPI-boosting chances, but they would likely also do wonders for the perception of IU in the eyes of the selection committee come Memorial Day. Upcoming midweek games against Kentucky (RPI 7) and Louisville (RPI 5) also loom large.
UCLA- RPI: 67
A season that looked like nothing more than a rebuilding season after a few weeks has been turned around in a big way for the Bruins of late.
Just a little over a month ago, UCLA’s RPI was 120, but since then, it has climbed steadily and now reaches its peak at 67. It also stands to get better, as soon as this weekend. On deck is a three-game series with Oregon State, currently the top-ranked team in the RPI. Even if the Bruins get swept in that series, it’s likely to help their RPI, or at the very least, hold it more or less in place.
After that, they don’t have any big-time RPI-boosting series (a three-game set with RPI 38 Oregon to end the season is as good as it gets), but they also don’t have any big RPI anchors left, and that’s just as important. Their non-conference series at the end of this month against Cal Poly (RPI 143) is the worst thing on their slate, and that’s not so bad. Upcoming series against USC (RPI 76) and Utah (RPI 61) also are series that fit right in the sweet spot of winnable series, but not against teams so weak that they’ll hurt the RPI figure.
One other thing to watch is their overall record. Teams are only eligible for an at-large slot if they finish with an above .500 record. With a 17-16 record as it stands today, the Bruins are really toeing that line, but if they win enough games to get their RPI back into clear at-large range (they still have 20 or so spots left to go before they likely start to feel confident), you get the feeling that their record will be just fine.
Binghamton- RPI: 45
This has been one of the strangest RPI cases of the season. The Bearcats were one of those northern teams that jumped toward the top of the RPI early on, when things had yet to settle and they had yet to play very many games. The assumption was that they’d soon fall considerably once they got into the meat of their schedule. That’s something that’s still probably to come, but for now, somehow, they’ve held their ground right around at-large range. In fact, after falling to 53 last week, they’ve actually moved back up a little bit.
The first thing that jumps out is their 11-5 record in away games. You get a bonus in the RPI for winning road games, and when you’re a program based in New York, you’re going to get a ton of chances to play road games early in the season. Even though they were swept in the series, three opening weekend road games against a quality New Mexico team (RPI 47) is helping them, but what’s helping them even more is a four-game road sweep of Virginia Tech (RPI 103) in early-March. The Hokies have been respectable in ACC play, which has buoyed the Bearcats’ RPI, and if VT can sneak inside the top 100 by the end of the season, Binghamton will have an even bigger feather in their cap.
There’s also no way around it. The Bearcats were helped quite a bit by the fact that they had seven consecutive games in mid-March canceled against Delaware (RPI 183), Wagner (RPI 279), and Hartford (RPI 173). Any losses there, particularly to Wagner, would have been damaging.
Finally, when you consider that they play in the America East, their remaining schedule isn’t as filled with RPI anchors as you might think. It would behoove them to avoid any losses in the upcoming series against Maine (RPI 200) and Central Connecticut (RPI 174), as those RPIs aren’t great, but they only have one game against a team with an RPI currently well above 200, and that’s a single midweek game in May against Siena (RPI 237).
It’s still a real long shot that Binghamton hangs around at-large range until Selection Monday, but then again, most wouldn’t have predicted they’d be here at this juncture, either.
Oklahoma State- RPI: 60
Oklahoma State is in some trouble.
If the season ended today, they would be out of the field of 64, and it’s really not particularly close. The RPI is probably about 15 places higher than it needs to be, and a .333 winning percentage in league play isn’t going to cut it, no matter how good the Big 12 is this season. Their resume is also largely devoid of results you’d expect from a regional team. Right now, the only real thing they can hang their hat on is a 2-1 weekend in the Frisco tournament, with wins over Nebraska (RPI 50) and Arkansas (RPI 13).
To take things from bad to worse, they’ve missed a ton of opportunities to collect big-time wins. They’re a combined 1-5 against TCU (RPI 10) and West Virginia (RPI 8), two teams with RPIs currently in the top ten, and it would have been nice for them to grab a win over Arizona (RPI 2) in Frisco. The good news is that the Big 12 is giving its teams a lot of RPI support this season, and they have still have ample opportunities ahead with series against Texas Tech (RPI 4), Texas (RPI 37), Baylor (RPI 15), and Oklahoma (RPI 24).
The key for the Cowboys, though, is probably going to be overall resume. They very well may get back to .500 in league play when it’s all said and done, but it could matter how they arrive there. If, at the end of the season, their RPI is inside the top 50, they finish about .500 in Big 12 play, but their best result remains the Frisco weekend, it’s going to be a tough sell to get them in.
Tulane- RPI: 87
Like Oklahoma State, Tulane is in some trouble. With an RPI of 87, they’re well out of at-large range at this point in time, but with a hot start to American Athletic Conference play and nice midweek wins over the likes of McNeese State (RPI 17), LSU (RPI 14), and Southern Miss (RPI 32) , they’re feverishly working their way up the rankings. Just two weeks ago, they were 245 in the RPI. For that matter, just one week ago, they were at 132, but a series sweep over a solid UConn team (RPI 53) has them headed in the right direction.
Given that there are only five regular season weeks left and that the American is filled top to bottom with teams that like to beat up on each other, it still seems somewhat unlikely that the Green Wave will get all the way back into at-large range, but given what they have in front of them, it’s not completely out of the question.
Still ahead of them are two series against Houston (RPI 19) and a three-game set with UCF (RPI 21), to go along with quality midweek games against Southeastern Louisiana (RPI 56) and LSU. Their other weekend series against East Carolina (RPI 80) and Memphis (RPI 106) aren’t bad either, particularly when you consider that both are on the road, meaning that any wins in those series will count for a little extra when it comes to the RPI.
It was a really rough start to the season, but Tulane might just end up where we thought they might be after all.
Missouri- RPI: 55
Now that the Tigers have cooled off after a torrid start, the 2017 season is starting to feel a little bit like the 2015 season for this program.
You may remember the 2015 team. Led by Reggie McClain and then-freshman phenom Tanner Houck, the Tigers got off to a pretty quick start in SEC play, and sustained it most of the way, finishing an even 15-15 in the SEC. But they had a problem with midweek games, losing contests to the likes of Air Force, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Little Rock, and Southeast Missouri State. Also, getting swept at home by Milwaukee didn’t really help. In any event, despite what, by most measures, would be considered a successful season by a program still getting acclimated to SEC baseball, the Tigers ended up 56 in the RPI, keeping them out of the field of 64.
This season has been a little bit different, as the Tigers have beaten just about everyone they should have, with just a couple of exceptions, but the issue this time around is resume-building results. A series sweep of Alabama (RPI 178) and a series win over Georgia (RPI 99) aren’t really helping, and neither is the fact that their best result is a single win over Houston at the tournament down in Corpus Christi over the second weekend of the season. Obviously, they currently also have an RPI problem, but if that remains the meat of their resume, they’re simply not getting in.
Then again, if that remains the meat of their resume, they’re also not going to have nearly enough wins to get into the tournament anyway, because, in typical SEC fashion, their remaining schedule provides a number of opportunities for quality RPI wins, and a series win in any of these series would likely automatically become the best line item on their resume. Still ahead of them are series against Mississippi (RPI 42), Texas A&M (RPI 36), Vanderbilt (RPI 22), South Carolina (RPI 27), and Tennessee (RPI 46).
Simply put, if the Tigers manage to go .500 or better in those remaining SEC games, they have pretty good shot to get in. If they don’t, it might end up being 2015 all over again.