CHARLESTON, W.Va. — For all the feel-good vibes surrounding the West Virginia baseball team, the Mountaineers’ No. 68 RPI doesn’t historically translate to an NCAA at-large bid.

But one of the men who crunches the numbers for college baseball projects WVU making the tournament for the first time since 1996 anyway.

“The most important thing to remember about the RPI is this: it’s just a tool, it’s not the tool,” said SEBaseball.com’s Mark Etheridge. His latest regionals forecast lists West Virginia among the final five teams making the NCAA field despite fortunate bubble teams of years past typically ranking within the RPI top 50.

Three weeks ago, West Virginia wasn’t even in the RPI top 100, but winning three straight Big 12 series has proved to be a rapid propeller. The biggest boost came from going a combined 5-1 against Kansas (RPI No. 48) and Oklahoma (No. 45).

TCU (23-24, 8-10) at WEST VIRGINIA (29-20, 11-7)
Game 1: Friday at 6:30 p.m.
Game 2: Saturday at 4 p.m.
Game 3: Sunday at 1 p.m.
Series played at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston

Now, the Mountaineers find themselves tied for the conference lead with Oklahoma and Kansas State, a surge that is compensating for WVU’s inferior nonconference showing. Tonight provides a chance for WVU to improve its late-season resume as it hosts TCU in the opener of a three-game series at Appalachian Power Park.

“Conference record is pretty much all they’ve got in their favor, but that’s a pretty big red flashing light for the committee,” Etheridge said. “If (WVU) can somehow win or tie for the Big 12 title, that would be a pretty compelling argument — regardless of their RPI.”

The Big 12′s automatic bid goes not to the regular-season champ but instead to the winner of the conference tournament, which is scheduled for May 22-26 in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Boyd Nation, an information security analyst now in his 16th year applying metrics to college baseball at BoydsWorld.com, lauded WVU for “putting together a nice in-season run.” Still, he estimated the Mountaineers need to win the Big 12 regular-season crown outright to sew up an at-large berth heading into the league tournament.

“A three-way tie is a little iffy, a two-way tie a little less so,” Nation said.

Despite the lack of a national powerhouse team, and the struggles of Texas, Baylor and TCU to stay above .500, Nation doesn’t think the Big 12 will suffer from an image crisis when the committee selects the field of 64.

“The Big 12 is sitting somewhere around fifth or sixth in the conference RPI,” he said. “So even though it’s an off year for the conference, it’s still the Big 12 and I think the perception is that it’s still a strong league.”

Etheridge projects five Big 12 teams earning NCAA bids, though only Oklahoma and Kansas State appear to be locks. He has Oklahoma State and Kansas joining WVU on the good side of the bubble.

“Up until about three weeks ago, it was looking like only Oklahoma and maybe one more team from the Big 12 would make it,” Etheridge said. “But now it looks like there’s that next group of two or three teams who can get in.”

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Comments

  • john

    As a WVU Alum I would agree I have a lack of knowledge when it comes to college baseball. We all know WVU is a football school first and a basketball second. The reality is we haven't been good in baseball for a long time. So I like many don't follow the program until they became somewhat relavent. So now I find myself wanting to find out the score. I think the baseball stadium in Morgantown will be successful.

  • Mike

    Being an ACC Baseball Fan I applaud the WVU Mountaineers on doing great things in the Big 12 this year for baseball. My father and I are huge baseball fans and he an even bigger WVU. I'm an FSU fan myself and I really hope that WVU gets into the NCAA Tournament as I live in WV and would love to have a reason to head to Morgantown to watch high level NCAA baseball! In this case I'm rooting for the Mountaineers to do well and succeed in their new stadium!

    • JS

      From a very enthusiastic and optimistic WVU Baseball fan...thank you Mike.

  • Harpers Ferry

    By the way, the question posed by JS just exemplifies most WVU fans lack of knowledge of college baseball and another reason why this new stadium and TIF bill will be an EPIC FAIL.

    • Tom

      Doubt it Harper's Ferry. I know very little about college baseball, or even MLB at that. But WVU has my interest growing and I plan on attending games at the new stadium. 10 years ago I knew little about WVU basketball. Over the last few years I've attended at least 35 games. Know I'm a diehard basketball fan.

    • rekterx

      And to continue ... we thus have EPIC FAIL on the part of Harpers Ferry.

      • Harpers Ferry

        No way Rekterx. I wake up and urinate excellence every single day!

        Point is taken though that hopefully this is a growing awareness to college baseball. Having PLAYED baseball at WVU, I'm proud of the team and root hard for them. It would have just been nice to have seen more games in Morgantown. Even the Dodgers played at the LA Coliseum for a year until Dodger Stadium was built. At least Ollie Luck gave Van Zant his walking papers thought.

    • rekterx

      Actually, JS' question exemplifies the growing awareness of college baseball amongst WVU fans and is an indicator of how much the baseball program is going to be embraced as we move into the future. But thanks for playing Harpers Ferry.

    • Jay

      Ahh...predicting and rooting for failure. Way to get West Virginia out of the "bottom five states" lists it so often graces.

  • Harpers Ferry

    Hopefully, WVU doesn't do the quick Van Zant bow out in the Big 12 tourney. This new coach will hopefully change that. If they do get eliminated quickly then they probably won't get a bid and I'll be rooting for the Cocks again.

  • JS

    So, the regular season champ does not get an automatic bid?

    • Allan Taylor

      JS, only the conference tournament champion receives the Big 12's automatic berth.