Aggies on the bubble

13 days. That's all that's left between now and selection Monday, when all the speculation comes to an end and the Aggies learn their fate. Lanny Hayes takes a look at the selection committee's past, both in baseball and other sports to compare this year's A&M resume to years past to find out what A&M's chances of receiving a national seed look like.

The NCAA selection committee will announce the 2007 field in just thirteen days, and it's no secret that Texas A&M will be among the teams featured in this year's road to the College World Series.

One day earlier, the committee will announce the sixteen regional host sites, which are often (but not always) given to the sixteen number one seeds. The Aggies have a strong resume, but barring a huge run of victories through this weekend's series versus Texas and the Big 12 tournament, everyone will be holding their breath at 2:30 on May 27th.

Short of a collapse in the final seven games, A&M will bring an outstanding resume to the table. That resume will feature a Top 8 RPI, the #1 non-conference RPI in the country, and one of the best records against Top 25 competition (including two road wins over RPI #1 Rice). Unfortunately for A&M, their one blemish is a major one; conference record. A&M currently sits at 13-10 with three games to play, and literally every option is on the table for them this weekend.

How will the selection committee ultimately view the Aggies? It's truly tough to tell since the prerogatives and makeup of the group change from year to year and, obviously, sport to sport. Still, the foundation upon the decisions that the committee will make is etched in the past, and a glance across Olsen Boulevard may give you some insight into any new philosophies for 2007.

A glance at the NCAA's inner workings over the past three seasons sheds valuable insight into A&M's postseason possibilities.

The NCAA claims to look at the big picture when choosing and seeding the field, not focusing too highly on any one statistic. Conventional wisdom, as well as common sense, tells us that this is much easier said than done and past selections bear out this difficulty. Luckily for A&M's cause, there's past reason for cautious optimism.

Most A&M fans were too busy choosing their football tailgate party menu on last year's selection Monday, but there were some fireworks in the Big 12. Nebraska, who finished fourth in the conference at 17-10, was given the No. 6 national seed; due in no small part to their run through the Big 12 tournament and, more importantly, their No. 9 RPI. Oklahoma State and Oklahoma both finished ahead of the Huskers in conference play, but were just given "regular" number one seeds.

Georgia Tech was also the benefactor of a very high RPI (No. 6) and a nice postseason tournament run; the ACC's fourth place Yellow Jackets were given the No. 8 overall national seed. Arkansas and Ole Miss finished fourth and fifth in the SEC, respectively, but each had an RPI in the Top 16 and were rewarded with a host spot.

2005 saw a pair of fourth place conference teams host regionals. Ole Miss finished fourth in the SEC, but had the top RPI in the country, and was given the No. 5 national seed. Florida State had an RPI in the twenties and a fourth place finish in the ACC, but still was chosen to host the first round of postseason play.

A&M's last foray into the postseason was in 2004, when they upset No. 6 national seed Rice to advance to the Super Regionals. The No. 2 overall seed that year, South Carolina, finished fifth in the SEC with a 17-13 record, but their 45 overall wins and No. 6 RPI earned them a national seed. Just down the list was the No. 7 national seed Arizona State, who finished fourth in the Pac-10 at 13-11. ASU was rewarded not with a host spot, but with an easier draw, which they failed to use to their advantage.

Basketball can be an iffy sport to compare baseball to, given the hardwood season length means more conference games. The top three teams in the RPI were given No. 1 seeds by the selection committee while the last one, Kansas, came from the tenth spot in RPI.

What's very interesting to gander at, though perhaps irrelevant at the end of the day, is the selections made by the softball committee.

Aggie softball and baseball have had almost mirror seasons. Both played a difficult non-conference schedule and have multiple wins over elite RPI competition. Both teams struggled to a fourth place finish in conference play (assuming the baseball team finishes there, which is likely), and each squad owned a very high RPI; softball finished at No. 6, where the baseball team sits right now. Softball ended their season on a down note, surrendering the Big 12 title to Baylor before losing their semifinal match in the conference tourney to lowly ranked Texas Tech squad. Baseball's result is yet to be determined, but it would be difficult to stumble to the finish line worse than softball.

The softball selection committee announced in no small terms that a season was longer than one weekend and, in fact, longer than conference play. Despite the fourth place Big 12 finish, the Aggies were given the No. 4 overall national seed. Conference champion Baylor was given the No. 8 national seed, and unceremoniously shipped away for their first round of play.

It's impossible for anyone to say, definitively, what the 2007 baseball selection committee will do with the Aggies. Ultimately it's the 2007 committee, not those from years past, and it's for baseball and not softball. The results listed before do not support direct causality, and may be retired two weeks from now as little more than an interesting footnote to this saga.

However, the NCAA has a tendency to be true to itself and its' philosophy – right or wrong. The RPI is a highly unpopular formula in the statistical community, thanks mostly to its "attack-ability" through proper scheduling. It's the NCAA's baby though, and it's unlikely to throw that formula out with the bathwater when the Aggies need it the most.

The future is still unwritten though, and the seven remaining games give A&M plenty of time to make or break themselves in this debate. A 4-3 finish in those final seven games a result most fans would probably take as a deal right now, puts A&M squarely on the bubble for anything the NCAA wants to do with them atop the bracket. A successful end of the season will rack up more wins than that and end the discussion, while a collapse can end it as well. Either way it happens, thirteen days will feel like an eternity.

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