The NCAA selection committee begins meeting two weeks from today, where they'll begin narrowing the overall field to 64 teams and divvying out the cherished regional host sites and the eight national seeds. The Texas A&M baseball team has an outstanding resume for the committee to visualize, but it's not without some significant blemishes.
The committee brings a wealth of knowledge to the table and, most notably, a concise breakdown of each team's performance in several key categories. This report, affectionately known as the Nitty-Gritty Report, contains every vital stat and RPI breakdown that the NCAA considers. Those categories, in order of their listing are; Adjusted RPI, Original RPI, Overall Record, Non-Conference Record and RPI, Conference Record and RPI (Ordinal Conference Ranking), Road Record, Last 10 Games, and Record against RPI tiers (1-25, 26-50, 51-100, Top 100, Top 150.
It's impossible to know exactly which category this NCAA selection committee will fall in love with and value more than the others. The 2005 committee, for example, shunned a challenged Non-Conference RPI of 62 and an overall RPI of 17 to award Nebraska, the Big 12 Champion, the No. 3 national seed. That committee also took Texas, the No. 3 overall RPI and No. 1 Non-Conference RPI team, made them a standard one seed and shipped them to number five national seed Mississippi. Texas had little more than an 18-12 conference record and a 4-5 mark against Top 25 teams to blame for the trouble. The resumes of RPI No. 6 Clemson and No. 7 Miami had similar blemishes, and neither received a national seed (both received a one seed and hosted the first round).
Perhaps this year's committee will try to mimic the job performed by the 2004 squad, instead. Arizona State held the #4 overall RPI and #1 Non-Conference RPI on Selection Monday that year, but a paltry 13-11 record in the fourth ranked Pac-10. They dropped season series with Pac-10 Champion Stanford, second place Washington, last place Cal and a USC squad who finished just one game ahead of the Bears. The final result? The #7 national seed.
The Aggies have no control over which category the committee focuses on in the boardroom, but they still have some control over their final resume. Each aspect of that resume tells a slightly different story about the team, and hints towards their final destination.
Overall RPI - No. 7
The Skinny: A&M's RPI has been very resilient, thanks to their overall record remaining so high. They'll get a light bump out of Kansas State's .638 and Texas' .730 winning percentages (Opponent's winning percentage is the biggest factor in the RPI, counting for half the rating), but not enough for a substantial jump. Still, the higher the ordinal ranking, the better, and a difficult 5-2 finish would likely secure a Top 5 spot. The "Adjusted" RPI, versus the "Original" RPI, will give A&M .005 bonus points for their pair of road wins versus RPI Top 25 Rice.
The Verdict: National Seed Worthy
Overall Record – 38-11 (.7755 Winning Percentage)
The Skinny: Only three teams have amassed more wins than the Aggies this season, and none from this immediate geographical area (though the Longhorns are tied at 38 wins). Just four teams have a higher overall winning percentage. With seven games to play, anything less than six wins will lower this percentage
The Verdict: National Seed Worthy
Non-Conference RPI and Record – No. 1 (27-2)
The Skinny: A&M's ridiculous 27-2 non-conference record has helped provide them with the nation's top non-conference RPI, as has their top-30 strength of schedule. A&M's only losses outside of Big 12 play are to Pac-10 foes Oregon State (35-11) and Arizona State (34-12), and they've dismissed every other team on their schedule.
The Verdict: National Seed Worthy
Conference Record, League RPI (11-9, 2)
The Skinny: The Big 12 is currently rated as the second toughest conference in America, and A&M will be banking that the selection committee uses that fact to somewhat ignore a very pedestrian conference record. There's little wrong with being above .500 in one of the best conferences, but "little wrong" can take you from a national seed to the road for a Super-Regional. A&M desperately needs to win four of their final six conference games, finishing 15-11, to feel as if they have any legitimate national seed chance. Any worse finish would require the biggest committee mulligan ever, and that won't happen this year.
The Verdict: Low 2 or High 3 seed worthy.
Road Record – 9-5
The Skinny: A 9-5 road record doesn't seem overly inspiring in and of itself, but it's one of the top 25 winning percentages in the country. A&M will get a small pass and some RPI bonus points for their two road wins (one was a "neutral site" game but played in Houston) against Rice, but blowing the Oklahoma contest looms larger each day.
The Verdict: High 2 or Very Low 1 seed worthy.
Rec. vs RPI 1-25 (4-2), 26-50 (11-7), 51-100 (5-1), Top 100 (20-10), Top 150 (29-11)
The Skinny: While A&M's 4-2 record against Top 25 teams is tied with Florida State for the best winning percentage against Top 25 teams, it's a distinction that could bounce in any direction. Withering Nebraska currently sits at number 25 in the RPI, ready to take two A&M wins out of the rankings with them. Missouri is holding on at No. 21, and Florida at No. 29 is just .005 away from adding three wins to A&M's top 25 total. The 11-7 mark against 26-50 is impressive but doesn't otherwise standout.
The Verdict: Standard No. 1 seed Worthy
The Final Verdict
A&M has a truly outstanding resume for the committee and, with seven games to play, a chance to really answer the blemishes that surround it. The RPI, both overall and non-conference, plus breakdowns versus RPI levels suggests this team is national seed worthy. The conference record, however, tells a very different story. If the season ended today, A&M would literally be directly on the national seed bubble, likely falling outward due to the 4th place conference finish.
What does A&M need to lock-up that national seed? This is a pretty simple question. Win the final non-conference game, go 4-2 in the final six regular season Big 12 games, then tack on no worse than a 2-1 finish in the conference tournament. This result would put A&M at 45-14 overall and 17-12 for the Big 12 total—likely enough to secure one of the final national seeds.
Texas A&M: A National Seed?
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