There is still a lot of baseball to be played this season, but it looks like this season could potentially be a banner season for the Southland Conference.
In many years, the league is just a one-bid league and when there is one team in at-large range and that team loses in the conference tournament, they can sometimes get two teams in.
This year is different, though, as it looks like the SLC has a real shot to get more than two teams into the field of 64. Among the teams in that discussion are the Lamar Cardinals.
Let’s take a look at their postseason profile as it stands today.
W-L: 26-10 (11-4)
W-L vs. RPI Top 25: 1-0
W-L vs. RPI Top 50: 2-2
W-L vs. RPI Top 100: 10-5
Best Results: Win vs. LSU, win vs. Arizona
Worst Losses: Three losses to North Dakota State
Summary: Although a series loss this past weekend to McNeese State bumped them from inside the top 40 in the RPI all the way to 51, the Cardinals are still very much in the at-large discussion. The top of the Southland Conference has proved to be very competitive in 2016, but that can really only stand to help Lamar in their quest to reach a regional in Jim Gilligan’s last season at the helm.
What They Have Going For Them: As discussed, the Southland Conference is very competitive at the top of the standings this season, with no fewer than four other teams with RPIs at least in shouting distance of what’s considered the RPI of an at-large team- Northwestern State (34), New Orleans (57), McNeese State (59), and Southeastern Louisiana (62). They’ve also got wins that will very likely look better as the season rolls on. LSU has gotten scorching hot of late, and Arizona is working their way up the RPI as they work through their Pac-12 schedule. Other than the series loss to North Dakota State, Lamar has also done a good job of avoiding losses that will serve as RPI anchors. They only have two other losses this season to teams with RPIs of 100 or worse.
What They Have Working Against Them: Their margins are likely pretty thin, and Gilligan admitted as much after the Saturday game against McNeese this past weekend. In hindsight, those three losses to North Dakota State have to be really tough to take, and considering how well Lamar has played overall since then, it’s somewhat bizarre that the Bison took three of four in that series over the second weekend of the season. You also have to wonder how long the quintet of Southland teams in the top 62 in the RPI will hold onto their places in that range, what with the presence of several teams in the league that have RPIs of 175 or worse.
What is on the Horizon? On a positive note, they have the potential for a great RPI win with a midweek game on the road against Rice in early-May, and that series against Southeastern Louisiana will not only provide them with a chance to improve their metrics, but also a chance to work their way up the SLC standings. The downside, though, is that they have still have series against Houston Baptist (RPI 174) and Incarnate Word (RPI 263) and a midweek game this week against Texas Southern (RPI 286). A loss to any of these teams could really hurt, particularly in the case of the games against the latter two teams.
It feels like Lamar is going to be right on the bubble as we head down the stretch. The number of RPI-positive games ahead of them are limited and there are a number of potential potholes still on the road they have to travel. Ultimately, it may come down to how many at-large spots are “stolen” by teams in multiple-bid leagues who would not otherwise have been in the field.
*NOTE- All metrics pulled from D1Baseball.com.