The Aggie baseball team is fighting for a national seed this week.
Wha…Wha…What? "Surely not," you exclaim.
It's really difficult to imagine a team sitting at 33-18 holding a legitimate path to a national seed, but that's the reality. In a year with more parity than a Mel Brooks movie (read it out loud, I promise the homonym is there), however, that's exactly what we have.
Texas A&M's resume, in fact, is pretty strong right now. The Aggies enter tonight's game with Texas State holding the #15 RPI, which really isn't national seed worthy at all, but one needs to look closer at the actual ratings than the ordinal ranks. A&M's .598 RPI is just .009 behind eighth ranked UC-Irvine, and just .011 behind sixth ranked Florida. How easy is that to make up in a weekend? More on that shortly…
RPI is not the end-all-be-all, but it's always going to start the discussion. There's a pretty substantial separation of RPI between #5 and #6, so it's pretty safe to say that the top five RPI teams at this point (CS-Fullerton, Georgia Tech, Texas, North Carolina, and Arizona State) have wrapped up a national seed barring an epic collapse. Given the committee's penchant for rewarding west coast schools, especially deserving ones, go ahead and throw #8 UC-Irvine in as one of those coveted seeds.
That leaves ten teams with RPI figures within .013 of each other, and gives you the final pool to select national seeds from. Per Boydsworld.com's RPI Needs Report (www.boydsworld.com), just seven of those teams have a mathematical shot at a top eight RPI (Florida, Clemson, Rice, Virginia, TCU, Texas A&M, and Arkansas). Of particular exception here is LSU, who many analysts are predicting as a national seed, though Boyd's math shows they need to win three of their final four just to hold onto a Top 16 RPI).
Of those seven teams listed, just Florida seems to have a mathematical path that includes losing a single contest. However, it's possible that each of these clubs could do exactly what the math asks them to do this week, and you can't fit seven teams into two RPI slots, so what then?
This is where A&M has their chance, oddly enough, to capitalize on the whole thing. Only A&M and Arkansas play teams whose winning percentage, when factored into the whole, will help their RPI. The "Opponent's Winning Percentage" calculation is one-half of the RPI equation, and all other squads will lose ground in that area this week. A&M has a higher winning percentage and tougher mathematical schedule than the Razorbacks, and should nudge them out if both teams can take care of business.
So, what's "taking care of business?" Quite simply, to have a shot, A&M needs to sweep this entire week. That is no easy task at all; Texas State is a very good ballclub, and Oklahoma will duel it out with the Aggies (in Norman) for seeding in the top half of the Big 12 tournament.
Would it be enough to improve A&M's RPI figure up to the top? The math says so. With all things being equal, four Aggie wins would raise A&M's RPI all the way to .609, currently good enough to tie for sixth. There's much variability on the exact spot, but the math does bear out in the Aggies' favor with four wins.
Now consider the entire A&M resume, if they can somehow get four wins this week. 38-17 overall season record, a Top 8 overall RPI, a Top 10 non-conference RPI, a second place finish (just one-half game behind league champion Texas) in the Big 12, and played one of the eight toughest schedules in the nation (per the way RPI calculates the figure). It's hard NOT to see the Aggies as a real contender in that way.
Sweeping this week will be extremely difficult. Even if you give A&M a 2/3 shot tonight, and a 50/50 shot at each game in Norman, simple math tells you there's an 8% chance that they'll win out this week. Those odds seem long, but the game is played on the field and not with an Excel spreadsheet.
The selection committee, however, does use that spreadsheet – and A&M can play its way into ensuring that the road to Omaha stays in College Station as long as possible.
Still Fighting for National Seeding
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