OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – West Virginia’s No. 38 RPI screams NCAA at-large bid, but its 28-26 record says tough luck.
As the selection committee begins finalizing the field of 64 tonight, the Mountaineers present an interesting test case. The bracket will be unveiled Monday, and projections from Baseball America and Perfect Game don’t hold good news for WVU.
“If we don’t get in I’m sure there are going to be a lot of teams behind us in the RPI that do get in,” said West Virginia coach Randy Mazey. “If we don’t get in, maybe the RPI isn’t the best indicator of who should get in.
“The whole idea of RPI is to show the strength of your club. And if we’re ahead of some other people according to that formula, then it should say we have a team that’s deserving.”
Three weeks ago, West Virginia was 27-17, sat third in the Big 12 standings and looked like a lock to end its 18-year NCAA drought. But those postseason aspirations were severely dented as the Mountaineers lost nine of their last 10 games.
“To watch it slip through your fingers is pretty tough,” said junior closer Sean Carley, who struggled in his last four appearances. “Obviously we can’t blame anyone but ourselves for the way we played in the back end of the season.
“It’s kind of a downer, the way we finished, but we’ll all be watching for that regional selection and hopefully our name is called.”
Playing in the nation’s second-rated RPI conference, and playing 41 of 54 games away from its campus, West Virginia faced the nation’s 21st-toughest schedule. There is recent precedent for teams receiving at-large bids with fewer than 30 wins, but WVU’s late-season collapse makes it a long shot to advance.
“I’m not counting this as our last outing,” senior first baseman Ryan McBroom said after Friday’s 9-4 elimination loss to Baylor at the Big 12 tournament. “Today wasn’t our last game, if you ask me. I’m going to stay positive.”
The Big 12 is expected to land at least five bids: tournament champion TCU (RPI No. 11), regular-season champ Oklahoma State (No. 18), Texas (No. 12), Texas Tech (No. 17) and Kansas (No. 47). While the Jayhawks’ RPI is nine spots lower than West Virginia, they won three of four meetings and owned a 15-9 conference record, compared to the Mountaineers’ 9-14 mark.
WVU’s 25 games against the RPI top-50 tied for the 16th-most in the nation, but Mazey’s team went just 6-19 in those games.
“We beat some really good teams and we lost to some really good teams as well,” McBroom said. “We just went through a rough patch (recently) and that’s part of the game.”
Late Sunday night, Baseball America writer Aaron Fitt projected WVU among his first teams out—a cluster that includes Clemson, Mercer, Illinois, Western Carolina and UC Santa Barbara.
Fitt’s last teams in the field were UC Irvine, Central Florida, North Carolina, Stanford and Old Dominion. Save for ODU, all those teams sport worse RPIs than West Virginia.
Kendall Rogers of PerfectGame.org also listed WVU among his first five out.