The SoCon baseball race goes to the final weekend

Just a quick breakdown of the different combinations, possibilities, and some observations…

There are four teams in the SoCon that still have NCAA regional at-large aspirations (in other words, schools that could potentially receive a bid even without winning the league tournament).  The Citadel, College of Charleston, Georgia Southern, and Elon are the squads in the mix (5th-place Samford, 29-21 overall with an RPI of 68, is not a serious candidate for an at-large bid at this point).  RPI numbers per Boyd Nation (as of 5/18):

The Citadel — 34-20 overall, 21-6 SoCon, RPI of 42
College of Charleston — 39-14 overall, 22-8 SoCon, RPI of 29
Georgia Southern — 33-19 overall, 19-8 SoCon, RPI of 53
Elon — 34-19 overall, 17-10 SoCon, RPI of 48

Realistically, two of these teams are likely to make it.  It’s possible that three get in the field of 64, although I tend to doubt that will happen.

The Citadel’s profile has slipped a bit, thanks in part to its own struggles (particularly in midweek games) and partly because of results elsewhere.  For example, the Bulldogs are currently only 1-8 against top 50 teams; thanks to Appalachian State and Western Carolina falling out of the top 50, The Citadel “lost” six top 50 wins.  Conversely, CofC is 5-5 against Top 50 opposition while Elon is 6-7.  GSU is 0-9.

With an excellent overall record, the College of Charleston would be a lock for the tourney by now if it had not dropped more than its fair share of league games, including losing a series at Furman.  Georgia Southern has won 11 straight games to get back on the at-large radar, but has been swept at CofC and lost a home series to Western Carolina.  Elon has some nice wins (including two at Clemson, one at NC State, and a home victory over UNC) but has been swept at home by The Citadel and also lost a home series to Georgia Southern.

Those league series losses at home hurt.  The Citadel is the only team in the SoCon that has avoided losing a home series this season.  The Bulldogs also have a better overall strength of schedule than the other three contenders.

Then there is this little nugget:  with the meeting this weekend at Georgia Southern, The Citadel will have played the 2nd-, 3rd-, 4th-, and 5th-place teams in the SoCon all on the road.  The Bulldogs have drawn what is easily the toughest slate of road league games, and held their own in them so far.

That’s why I believe that if The Citadel were to win the series in Statesboro and claim the regular season title in a top 10 league (the SoCon is currently rated 9th in RPI), it will be completely deserving of an NCAA bid, regardless of what happens in the Southern Conference tournament (and despite the Bulldogs’ foibles in midweek play).  If The Citadel does not win at least two games at GSU, however, then the at-large prospects for the Bulldogs become a lot dicier.

The College of Charleston is in fairly good shape for a second bid for the league.  I believe the other contenders likely have to win the league tournament, although Elon could make a case for an at-large with a strong tourney run.  What Elon would not want in that situation is for a team other than the CofC or The Citadel to win the tournament. 

(Note:  the seeding possibilities outlined below assume there are no rainouts this weekend.)

As far as SoCon tournament seeding goes, the CofC is going to be either the 1 or 2 seed.  The Cougars have completed their league schedule.

The Citadel can be the 1 seed (with two wins in Statesboro), the 2 seed (with one win), or the 3 seed (if it is swept). 

GSU is the 2 seed with a sweep and the 3 seed with 1 or 2 victories this weekend; if the Eagles are swept they could wind up as the 4 seed, but only if either Elon or Samford sweep their series against each other.

Elon and Samford will be the 4 and 5 seeds (and play each other for a fourth consecutive time in the first round of the tournament) unless the dual-sweep scenario outlined above occurs.

Western Carolina would be the 6 seed if the tournament started today, and will stay in that spot with a combination of two WCU wins/Appalachian State losses.  The Mountaineers will be the 7 seed unless they can make up ground on the Catamounts. 

There are three teams still alive for the 8th and final spot in the tournament (Davidson has been eliminated).  Wofford holds a one-game lead over Furman, but the Paladins hold the tiebreaker.  UNC-Greensboro is two games back of the Terriers, but does host Furman this weekend (Wofford has a series against Appy in Spartanburg).  UNCG would need to sweep the Paladins and hope Appalachian State sweeps Wofford; otherwise, it’s out of the running.

One more thing with regards to the SoCon tourney to keep in mind:  the teams are basically divided into two four-team pods, with the winner of each pod meeting in the title game.  One pod will have the 1, 4, 5, and 8 seeds, while the other will feature the 2, 3, 6, and 7 seeds.  That second group, in particular, will be a bloodbath (not that the first will be a walk in the park).

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