College Baseball RPI Watch List: Nebraska, New Mexico, South Alabama

Photo Nebraska Athletics

Welcome to this week’s edition of the RPI Watch List, where we take a look at a few interesting RPI cases from around the country, both on the good and bad side of the ledger.

Let’s get right to it.

*NOTE: All RPI figures were current as of Wednesday, 4/12/17.

Nebraska- RPI: 35

Already, it has been one of those years in the Big Ten when everyone beats up on each other. Just a couple of weeks ago, in the same weekend, Minnesota swept a Michigan State team that had already seemed to establish itself as a postseason contender and Nebraska went 2-0-1 on the road against an Indiana team that looked much the same.

The Huskers continued those winning ways this past weekend when they won a series against Maryland, a team that was flying high coming into the series in Lincoln. And all that winning has done wonders for their RPI. Just two weeks ago, they were at 88. Now, after the series wins over the Hoosiers and Terrapins, they are at 35, right where they will want to be for an at-large bid come Selection Monday.

They’ve also got a pretty manageable schedule the rest of the way. While they don’t have any games remaining against teams in the current RPI top 25, they do have a boatload of games left against teams in the top 100. Coming up this weekend, they take on Iowa (RPI 96), and then follow that up with a series against Minnesota (RPI 44). Later in the season, they have three-game sets against Rutgers (RPI 99) and Michigan State (RPI 56). If they win their fair share of the games in those four series, their metrics will be just fine.

Crucially, they also don’t have a ton of RPI anchors left. Two midweek games against Creighton (RPI 241) are the only games they have left against a team with an RPI worse than 200. Simply put, if the Huskers keep winning, they’ll be in the tournament, and if they really tear through the rest of their Big Ten schedule, perhaps they could set themselves up for an outside shot at hosting.

Missouri State- RPI: 24

The Bears have done themselves some favors over the last couple of weekends by going 6-0 to start MVC play against two teams in the top 100 of the RPI in Bradley (RPI 71) and Dallas Baptist (RPI 76). They’ve also got more opportunities for plus-RPI results coming up, what with a road series against New Mexico (RPI 43) on deck, and a couple of midweek games against Missouri (RPI 54) in the near future.

The negative is that, even though they are a team that would sail into the field of 64 if the season ended today, their margin for error is pretty thin given the rest of their schedule. They have three series left against teams with RPIs worse than 200- Evansville (RPI 255), Southern Illinois (RPI 205), and Illinois State (RPI 254). Indiana State (RPI 183), the series sandwiched between SIU and ISU, isn’t much better in that regard.

With the show they put on this past weekend against DBU, MSU looks the part of a team that could run away with the MVC title, and they might have to do so in order to feel really secure about their at-large chances, should they not win the league tournament.

New Mexico- RPI: 43

The Lobos are a great example of how a team can benefit from simply scheduling aggressively and being willing to play anyone, anywhere, at any time.

With an 18-13-1 overall record, the Lobos aren’t rattling off tons of wins, but with their schedule, the metrics of the teams they are playing is doing work for them. UNM has played two midweek games against Oklahoma State (RPI 58), a weekend series against Cal State Fullerton (RPI 21), and they’ve played two midweek games against Texas Tech (RPI 5). They’ve gone a combined 0-7 in these games, but the simple fact that they played them rather than padding their schedule with cupcakes is helping them.

With that said, having good metrics like the RPI will only get you so far. Just ask North Carolina, which missed out on the tournament last season despite an RPI well inside of at-large range. The Lobos have an upcoming series against Missouri State and two more midweek games against Texas Tech. It would behoove them to win some of those games or else they run the risk of having a postseason resume that ends up being woefully thin, even if they dominate the Mountain West Conference.

Nevada in 2015 is a good test case for this. They went 41-15 overall and 22-7 in the MWC to win the league by three games, but an RPI of 59 and a thin resume kept them out. While the Lobos’ RPI is currently in much better shape than that, upcoming series against UNLV (RPI 229), Air Force (RPI 259), and Nevada (RPI 208) could do some damage.

Morehead State- RPI: 81

What a difference a week can make in the RPI. A week ago at this time, Morehead State was inside the top 45 in the RPI, coming off of having won nine in a row prior to a midweek loss to West Virginia (RPI 14), and they were sitting at 8-1 in league play, including a sweep of conference title contender Southeast Missouri State.

Now, after a sweep at the hands of RPI 212 Tennessee-Martin, the Eagles are all the way down at 81. There are, at least, some moderate reasons for optimism when it comes to MSU’s RPI, however, as they do still have weekend series against current top-100 teams in Jacksonville State (RPI 83) and Tennessee Tech (RPI 70). They also have a late-season midweek game against Tennessee (RPI 47) that it would benefit them to win.

Games against Mississippi State (RPI 26), Louisville (RPI 6), and West Virginia are going to continue to help them out as the season wears on, and if they can put together a run to win the league, they could easily finish with an RPI higher than you would typically get with the champ of the OVC, but after some toying with possibility over the last couple of weeks, it looks like a tall task for the Eagles to get into serious at-large consideration.

Charlotte- RPI: 66

After hanging tight for the first half of the season, Charlotte showed the first signs of slipping a little bit in the RPI this week. They’ve been in and around the top 45 since RPI figures started to be released, but after losing two of three to Florida Atlantic (RPI 75) this past weekend, they find themselves at 66.

Even though the RPI isn’t quite as smitten with Conference USA as it has been in years past, there are reasons to be bullish about the 49ers chances to get back into at-large range.

First off, they have some serious feathers in their cap already. They opened the season with a series win over West Virginia, and with the rate at which the Mountaineers are winning games and how well the Big 12 is performing this season, that’s a series win that not only will help in the RPI department all season long, but will look really good to the committee when it’s all said and done. A split against NC State (RPI 50) should also help, particularly if the Wolfpack can continue to play better baseball in ACC play.

Additionally, they have chances for quality wins still to come. A midweek game with Wake Forest (RPI 11) looms large, and they have two series left against teams with RPIs inside the top 100- vs. Middle Tennessee State (RPI 97) and vs. Rice (RPI 78). Marshall (RPI 102) and FIU (RPI 104) are also just outside the top 100, so if they can find a way to sneak back in, that would help as well.

It also seems like a good bet that the RPIs of East Carolina (RPI 67) and FAU are about as poor as they will get this season, and while the 49ers lost both of those series, every bit of improvement in opponent RPI helps.

South Alabama- RPI: 69

As hard as it is to believe, it’s looking more and more like the Sun Belt might just be a one-bid league this year. In fact, the Jaguars have the best RPI in the entire league as it stands now, and when that is the case, it doesn’t bode well for a team’s chances to go much higher.

That’s not to say that USA won’t have some chances to collect quality wins, as they do have midweek games upcoming against Mississippi State, Southern Miss (RPI 28), and LSU (RPI 17), but their upcoming series against Coastal Carolina (RPI 78) is the only series they have left with a team currently inside the top 100 of the RPI.

Series against Arkansas State (RPI 181), Texas State (RPI 137), Little Rock (RPI 240), Appalachian State (RPI 161), and Troy (RPI 134) just aren’t going to move the needle from an RPI perspective or in the eyes of the selection committee.

The bad news is that means that for teams that had possession aspirations prior to the season, such as USA, Louisiana-Lafayette, and Coastal Carolina, there’s going to be a lot riding on the Sun Belt Conference tournament at the end of the season. The good news is that means that the tournament down in Statesboro, Georgia, is going to be one heck of an event.

About the Author

Joseph Healy
Growing up in Houston, Joe Healy was introduced to college baseball at a young age, and it was love at first sight. Like most good love stories, that love has only grown throughout the years. When he's not at the ballpark, he enjoys tacos, college football during the fall, and the spectacle that is American politics. He holds a B.A. in political science from Sam Houston State University and a Master's in Public Administration from Southern Illinois University- Edwardsville.