(Jake Mangum) Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

State is 8-3 Against Opponents in Top-20 RPI; But Low-Scoring Opponents Take a Toll

The Diamond Dogs won a game…and lost a spot in the RPI standings. Does that make sense, and does it matter?

The answers are yes, and yes. Because as college baseball fans know well, when the NCAA selects, seeds, and sites the national tournament field, who is in the field of 64 can depend on where they stand in the RPI’s list of 300 programs. It certainly will factor strongly into who hosts first- and super-round Regionals.

Which is increasingly of interest in Bulldog Country. After missing all post-season play a year ago, this Mississippi State squad is not only on the tournament track again. They want to and now are even projected to hold NCAA action at Dudy Noble Field.

To be clear all such projections are merely predictions, unofficial figuring and even outright guessing by close observers of the college game. Still, with these same folk of consensus—for now—that the Diamond Dogs are in line to host at least a first-round, four-team Regional, it makes sense to look at some of the RPI numbers. Or at least, it’s entertaining.

The RPI being used here is the same provided under the NCAA’s auspices and are updated regularly. The following figures are all as of April 14. Even better and to their credit, those posting the RPIs not only put out fresh figures but list the prior RPI…

…which offers insight into the process. As noted, Mississippi State won their midweek matchup, by beating Memphis 11-1. The result was falling from 16 in the RPI to 17 today.

This is no slur on the Diamond Dogs though. Rather, it reflects that the struggling Tigers were a 214 RPI coming into the game. Interestingly, that’s exactly where they are again today! Still the point is that playing low-RPI opponents, especially at home, don’t do a RPI much good. Though it beats the heck out of a loss because such setbacks can cost valuable points.

Other SEC squads had bigger swings this week. Overnight, #19 Louisiana State dropped to 24 simply by playing and beating Grambling. The 14-11 margin didn’t matter. Much farther down the RPI scale, West clubs Arkansas and Auburn also fell several points after midweek matchups.

This is definitely of Dog interest, too. First though State stakes its SEC West lead and second-overall place in the conference on a weekend with Texas A&M. Playing the #10-RPI Aggies will help the Dogs’ figure even with a split, either way. Winning the series or somehow sweeping? That would push Mississippi State solidly into first-round hosting position and potentially one of the eight national seeds…

…with half the SEC schedule left to play. And this too matters. Because after A&M and LSU, there is not much the Bulldogs can do to improve their RPI. And lots they can do to hurt it, as the numbers will show shortly.

For now, the digits of interest are 8 and 3. Mississippi State is that against teams with RPI of 20 or higher as of today. It’s an excellent record by any measure and will impress the seed-and-site committee. It is also to MSU’s advantage that the Florida team they just beat, in Gainesville no less, stays #1 in the RPI.

However, and you knew it was coming, the Bulldogs are not getting a lot of help from the rest of the teams they’ve played so far and, mostly beaten. State might have some sort of distinction in that they have played both the top team in the RPI, and the last team in #300 Mississippi Valley State.

When the Los Angeles weekend was contracted it looked like a great big RPI booster. Now? The UCLA team that beat the Bulldogs 2-1 is only #82. Southern Cal, who State beat, is #97; and the tie with Oklahoma doesn’t look so good now with the Sooners’ 108 RPI. For that matter an Oregon team which was ranked #10 in polls coming to Starkville, where they were swept, is just #85.

The committee probably won’t look at UCLA as a ‘bad’ loss, and playing it on the Bruins’ field offsets most damage anyway. Losing twice on opening weekend to #35 Florida Atlantic is not good but not terrible as long as the Owls get back to the top of CUSA. Which, by the way, is a spot held by the #12 Southern Miss team State defeated on a neutral field, a double-win for the Dogs.

The only truly bad loss, and it is truly bad, was to #204 Eastern Kentucky on well, one of those nights. If State comes up short in the final hosting competition, that’s the game that will be pin-pointed.

Fortunately the Bulldogs can still make up for that by winning the next two series against good-RPI conference opponents, then just dominating that four-weekend stretch against lower-number opponents to run out the regular season.

The current RPI of all Bulldog opponents this season follows, and will be updated each week.

1.Florida, 5.Ole Miss, 10.Texas A&M, 12.Southern Miss, 13.Vanderbilt, 14.South Alabama, 24.LSU;

35.Florida Atlantic, 47.Georgia, 59.Alabama, 78.Troy, 82.UCLA, 85.Orgeon, 88.Oral Roberts, 97.Southern Cal;

108.Oklahoma, 112.Missouri, 116.Arkansas, 141.Auburn, 160.UMass-Lowell;

204.Eastern Kentucky, 214.Memphis, 231.South Dakota State, 236.Nicholls State, 279.UT-Martin, 292.Alcorn State, 300.Mississippi Valley State.

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