I never thought I would write what I am writing today. When the baseball season began, there was talk of SEC Championships, a return to Omaha, and a possible National Championship. After last night’s disappointing loss to Jacksonville State, the Bulldogs now have to make sure they even receive a bid to play in the NCAA tournament. Obviously the season is not lost, but things need to start changing quickly.
Where we stand
I don’t want to spend a lot of time discussing what is wrong with the baseball team because Croom Diaries did that earlier today. Our record is 28-18 overall and 11-10 in the SEC, and our RPI is 42 according to warrennolan.com. Where we hurt is our record against teams in the Top 50 of the RPI. We currently have a 5-10 record against those teams which averages out to a series loss against the best teams in the country. That’s not good. The other big negative is we have four losses to teams outside the top 100. Tournament selection committees have a real hard time swallowing bad losses. The good news is I haven’t seen any publication or writer that doesn’t have us making the the tournament lower than 2 seed, so as long as we take care of business, we will be in the tournament. I don’t know how last night’s loss would affect those projections, but it shouldn’t impact them so much that we fall out of the tournament completely.
What we have left
No more mid week nonconference games, unless they try to find an opponent to play since we were supposed to play Hofstra four games at the beginning of the year, and we only played Western Carolina three games in its place. This late in the season, I don’t see that happening. That means we go to Auburn, an RPI of 44, Tennessee comes to Dudy Noble, an RPI of 27, and go to Alabama, an RPI of 17. There is plenty of time to still make some noise, and we really need make sure that we do so.
How the rest of the season plays out
This is the tricky part. We could very easily end the year 6-3 and solidify our spot as a 2 seed in the tournament. If you look at our remaining schedule, there is every reason to believe we should do no worse than 5-4. The problem is we continue to struggle to do what we are supposed to. Losing the series to LSU wasn’t a surprise, but getting swept was. Losing the weekend series to Ole Miss at home wasn’t supposed to happen, and a miraculous 10th inning was all that stood in the way of a sweep in that series. Just when it looked like things were turning around after sweeping Missouri, we come back and lose the series to Texas A&M at home, a team that is going to need to win just about every game from this point forward if they even want to sniff the tournament.
Trying to predict how many games we win and how many we lose over the next 9 is a tough call. Confidence in this team continues to shrink. If you look at Warren Nolan’s projected RPI, he has us finishing the year with an RPI of 57 and a 32-23 record, meaning we would go 4-5 down the stretch. That would put us squarely on the bubble. A poor showing at the SEC tournament would probably knock us out of the NCAA Tournament. Over at Boyd’s World, according to him, we would have to win 7 games if want to reach the top 32 of the RPI, and I don’t see any way that happens.
I think we will make the tournament simply because at some point this team has to start playing the way they are capable, or at the very least, somewhere close to it. We are talented enough to sweep Auburn, win 2 of 3 against Tennessee, and get at least one against Alabama, but talent isn’t translating into results right now. If it doesn’t start to soon, don’t be surprised if Bulldog fans stop paying attention to college baseball before Memorial Day gets here.