With eight weeks in the review mirror, the college baseball regular season is on the downhill as there are only seven weekends left until Selection Monday. Viewing national polls and conference standings, the regular season has unfolded as expected for the most part to date. North Carolina and LSU are cruising through the SEC and ACC, respectively. Oregon, Oregon State and UCLA are the cream of the crop in the Pac-12, while Indiana and Louisville are monsters in the Midwest.
With an eye towards the NCAA Tournament, there are a few surprises throughout the country, however. In the first season of the revised RPI formula, a few expected Omaha contenders and national powers currently sit on the wrong side of the bubble.
Kicking off the second half of the college baseball season, here are six weekend series throughout the country that provide a chance to turn the corner or enhance a club's postseason resume.RPI figures courtesy Boyd's World, rankings from Perfect Game
No. 8 Arkansas (24-10, 8-4) No. 49 RPI vs. No. 2 LSU (32-2, 11-1) No. 3 RPI
Picked as the nation's top team in the preseason by Collegiate Baseball, the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and the coaches, Arkansas has not quite lived up to the billing as an elite club.
But they have a big opportunity to show they are this weekend.
The Razorbacks would be in the NCAA Tournament as of today, but according by their RPI, the Hogs are closer to the bubble than hosting a regional. A weekend sweep against South Carolina highlights the resume and a weekend victory against Mississippi State is a strong plus. But a weekend win over arguably the nation's best team would serve notice that not only should Fayetteville be viewed as a host site, but Arkansas is indeed a team that is worthy of a national seed.
Arizona (21-11, 6-6) No. 86 RPI at Washington State (17-13, 4-5) No. 94 RPI
The reigning national champions have some work to do if they are to defend their title in the postseason. The Wildcats haven't played poorly, but when they have been challenged, they have come up short. Back-to-back series against Oregon State and Oregon saw Arizona go 0-6, losing three of the contests by a run. But after losing six consecutive, the Wildcats have won six straight headed into this weekend's series against the Cougars. Even with a poor RPI, the Wildcats' adjusted win-loss is 15.3-11.9 thanks to a non-challenging, home-heavy non-conference schedule. If they can continue their roll, UA's attractiveness to the selection committee should gradually pick up.
Arizona does have series remaining against UCLA and in-state rival Arizona State that will provide opportunities to collecting a weekend wins against quality clubs, as so far to date, that is a glaring omission on the Wildcats resume.
Florida (17-18, 6-7) No. 15 RPI vs. No. 9 South Carolina (23-7, 8-5) No. 14 RPI
It is weird envisioning an Omaha field of eight without the Gators, let alone an NCAA Tournament, but that is the reality staring at Florida. With a sub-.500 record, unless the team wins the SEC Tournament, an at-large berth will not be sent to the Gators, participants in the last three College World Series.
As their RPI reflects, with 10 wins and 24 games played against top-50 clubs, Florida has played more than its share of quality clubs, and is owners of one of the nation's top strength of schedules. If Florida can go on a winning streak that puts them a handful of games north of .500, the Gators will be all but a lock to make the field of 64. After taking a midweek game against No. 7 Florida State and opening the home series with a win against the Gamecocks, the young Gators appear to be growing up and hitting their stride in the season's second month.
Michigan State (18-11, 2-4) No. 54 RPI vs. No. 13 Indiana (26-4, 8-1) No. 8 RPI
In four years under Jake Boss, Michigan State has moved from Big Ten bottom-dwellers to one of the Midwest's top programs. Through seven weeks it appeared Michigan State would be headed towards its second-consecutive regional, a program first since 1978-79. But then came the Wolverines. Michigan State's in-state rival swept the Spartans last weekend sending their RPI tumbling 25 spots, dropping them to eighth in the Big Ten.
Michigan State has a chance to wash away that bitter taste as they welcome the hot starting Hoosiers. Home to the nation's largest winning streak this season –18 games – Indiana is proving for the second year in a row that a Big Ten team from Indiana can compete on a national scale. The Hoosiers represent the type of big-time opponent Michigan State needs to get back into at-large discussion.
Pittsburgh (21-9, 3-3) No. 95 RPI vs. No. 20 Notre Dame (19-11, 4-5) No. 19 RPI
Pitt has a gaudy win-loss record, winning 70% of their 30 games. But as their RPI reflects, the quality of wins does not match the quantity. In hosting the Irish, the Panthers have an opportunity to collect their first win over an RPI top-50 club. Pitt has yet to play any such team, as a series against No. 73 Towson represents the lone three games against a top-100 club.
With a season-ending series at Louisville, Pittsburgh will have another chance to enhance its resume with a key series win but the number of games against quality clubs will pale in comparison to those from the power conferences, making each game critical.
The 2012 season marked the first time since 1998 that Texas was not participating in a regional. Six-time national champion, 34-time College World Series participants, Texas is used to playing into June. To do so this year, they need to pick up the pace here in April.
The Longhorns currently have an RPI that would bring them into at-large discussion, but Texas has dropped each of its first three Big XII series in a year in which the Big XII only has one RPI top-50 club. The best chance for Texas to boast its resume came last weekend when Red River rival Oklahoma took two of three in Austin. Texas did pick up a win versus the No. 21 RPI Sooners, but that is their lone win versus an RPI top-50 club with possibly only one more chance. As Texas will need volume of wins to mask the lack of quality, this weekend at Kansas is the time to start collecting them.
Don't overlook the Jayhawks here. Two games behind Big XII-leading Oklahoma, Kansas is seeking its first conference championship since 1949 when they were members of the Big Six. A weekend win over Texas will also help their cause in making the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1994.