Aggies still hoping for national seed

The Aggies' hopes of a national seed took a hit after dropping the series to OSU on Sunday, but those hopes aren't dead yet. Lanny Hayes, Aggie Websider's Senior Baseball Writer explains what the Aggies need to do to make their case for a national seed.

Though the Texas A&M baseball team saw their goal of a Top 8 NCAA seed somewhat dimmed by their performance last weekend, the flame hasn't been completely extinguished just yet.

A Top 8 seed guarantees that your trip to "that city in Nebraska," so long as you win, only goes through your home stadium. Though the Aggies dropped their first home series of the year this weekend, they maintain a 24-5 home record compared to 8-5 away from the friendly confines of Olsen Field.

In addition to staying at home, a national seed also earns the right to play one of the "weak" No. 4 seeds for your first game. Strong No. 4 seeds typically have one pitcher that can do some damage, which can be a major issue for a No. 1 seed if that pitcher is on his game. The weaker No. 4 seeds usually don't have this, and give the No. 1 seed an option to throw their No. 3 or No. 4 starter against them, saving their ace for the winner's bracket.

That would be a huge advantage for A&M, who's very top heavy in the pitching staff. Kyle Nicholson has shut down every team he's faced, but from that point it's a crapshoot. David Newmann has Friday night Big 12 stuff, but you never know if he will actually bring it to the field. Scott Migl has done a great job as a freshman, but has never thrown in such a huge pressure situation. Jason Meyer and Matt Ueckert have the experience and talent, but can you trust their arm on that day? Kyle Thebeau has enormous talent but no consistency right now, and Clayton Ehlert doesn't have the practical experience to trust as a starter in a regional game two or three situation.

As evidenced by reading the names above, the A&M pitching staff is a blessing and a curse. There's sufficient talent to take this team all the way to the College World Series. There's also enough inconsistency to fall flat on their face, especially against talent-laden squads or at tough road venues.

Which is why finding their way to a national seed is critical for the Aggies. In order for that to happen, A&M will have to rely on the NCAA selection committee, which functions similarly to the committee used for the NCAA basketball selections.

The baseball selection committee uses what is known as the "Nitty-Gritty Report," a statistical breakdown of all tournament eligible teams (conference champions plus at-large possibilities) to determine both participation and seeding. The report shows the team's RPI, overall record, conference record, and record vs Top 25, Top 50, and Top 100 RPI teams.

Past NCAA selections have shown the RPI to be the most significant factor, with conference record following closely behind.

A&M's resume for the committee is mostly filled with the marks of a national seed. The RPI, currently projected at #5, is certainly sufficient. The Aggies are 5-4 vs RPI Top 25 teams (including 2-0 vs #1 Rice), 11-6 vs Top 50 teams, and 20-9 vs Top 100 teams. Bonus points to the RPI are awarded for road victories over Top 25 teams, and the Aggies are 3-2 in those games.

Clinging to an RPI in the Top 8 (effectively saying that the NCAA's internal formula predicts A&M to advance to the CWS) is essential to have a shot with the selection committee. Boyd Nation has compiled a matrix indicating what record that each team needs to achieve to cement their spot in certain RPI tiers. According to his calculations, the Aggies will secure this standing with eight wins in their final thirteen scheduled games.

The Aggies' resume does have one fairly substantial blemish—their 9-8 conference record and an 8-5 finish probably won't be enough for the selection committee, but there's reason for hope.

A&M's next two opponents, Baylor and Kansas State, combine for a 13-20 conference record and have recent struggles on their record (5-5, 3-7 in their last ten games, respectively). A&M winning each of these series 2-1 would send their conference record to 13-10 with the Lone Star Showdown to come.

That result, combined with a 4-1 record in the remaining non-conference games, would send A&M to 40-12 overall and secure a regional host spot at Olsen Field. However, even a 2-1 result against the Longhorns (in this scenario) won't lock up a national seed.

A&M is going to need 16 conference wins to feel comfortable in this regard, which is a very tall order with the Longhorns looming. With their high RPI, 15 conference wins may get the job done, but fans will be sweating it out through selection Monday.

Unlike many teams who also covet the same goal, A&M controls its own destiny in the race. To earn a seat at the big table, they'll need to take care of business in the final non-conference games and get greedy in the next two conference series.

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