Crunching the numbers

NCAA is one of the most common and visible acronyms in all of college sports, and at this time of the year there is another one that college baseball fans are taking a glance at – RPI. Well, make that three because there is also quite a bit of excitement regarding the race in the SEC.

The NCAA’s latest official Ratings Percentage Index – commonly referred to as RPI – for college baseball was released early Tuesday evening and Paul Mainieri’s Tigers checked in at No. 14.


LSU fans are a little miffed at the Tigers’ rating considering that they are currently ranked No. 3 in two major polls – Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball Newspaper – and No. 4 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches’ Poll. Yet, the Tigers moved up only one spot in the RPI after taking two of three games at Arkansas.


The confusion really sets in given that Arkansas’ RPI dropped only two spots to No. 13 and is still ahead of LSU after losing two in a row to the Tigers over the weekend.


The only one who seems to have a firm grasp of crunching the numbers for the RPI is the founder and operator of Boyd’s World, Boyd Nation. Boyd’s World is fairly accurate with its own ratings in respect to the official number put out by the NCAA, and LSU was pegged at No. 14 when Nation put out his RPI a day ahead of the NCAA.


LSU’s record against schools ranked in the Top 50 of the NCAA’s RPI is 16-7, but against those that fall in the 51-100 range the Tigers are only 4-4 with setbacks against Kentucky and Tulane, and the two losses to Tennessee.


Several losses have factored into LSU’s lower RPI including a pair to both Illinois and Tennessee at Alex Box Stadium, along with home defeats to Nicholls State and UL-Lafayette. The 8-7 loss at Tulane doesn’t help either.


LSU’s RPI could climb after this weekend when Florida comes to town, and it needs to if the Tigers are going to have any breathing room when it comes time for the NCAA to award the Super Regional sites.


The Gators’ RPI is good for No. 8, which is one slot higher than their highest national ranking according to the ESPN/USA Today Coaches’ Poll. They are also one of the hottest teams in the country – winners in 13 of their last 15 games – and are riding an eight-game win streak.


After dropping three of four a few weeks back, the Tigers are playing some of their best ball of the year, winners in eight of their last nine contests. That makes this weekend’s matchup one of the best on the college baseball landscape.


Not only will this weekend have a bearing on LSU’s RPI, but it will also have significant implications in the race for the Southeastern Conference regular season championship.


LSU, Florida and Ole Miss are all tied for first with a 16-8 record heading into to the second to last weekend of conference play.


The likelihood of Ole Miss being 19-8 come Sunday is certainly plausible considering that the Rebels host the worst team in the conference in Mississippi State. Being that this is such a heated rivalry the Bulldogs may take one from the Rebels, but anything more than that is a wager that most are not willing to take.


The Rebels end the season on the road at Arkansas and out of the three teams tied at the top of the league standings the Rebels have the easier path on paper. Ole Miss’ two opponents sport a combined 20-26 record, compared to LSU and Florida’s final two of 22-25 and 25-23, respectively.


LSU must travel to Mississippi State (6-17) to end the regular season and Florida gets Kentucky (9-15) at home next weekend.


Despite being swept by Florida last weekend, Georgia (14-10) is also still in the mix, as well as Alabama and Arkansas, both at 14-9.


Georgia hosts Vanderbilt this weekend then travels to South Carolina, while Alabama and Arkansas will square off in Tuscaloosa this weekend. By the time Sunday comes, either the Crimson Tide or Hogs will be left standing, but not both.


LSU just needs to focus on this weekend and Florida, and not worry about their RPI because there are still potentially 12 more games that could have an impact on the national seeds.


There are also six more games that will have a bearing on the SEC regular season championship. Although the picture is murky at best right now, it will be a little more clear when the Gators leave the Bayou State and head back to Gainesville on Sunday.

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