While a plethora of teams are fighting just for the chance to play postseason baseball this spring, a select few are battling it out to see who has the opportunity to play postseason ball on their home field. This year more than most, it seems as if the hosting squads are pretty clear-cut, but a number of the spots are certainly still up for grabs.
And why is this a big deal? Well not only do you get to sleep in your own bed each night, set the game times for all Regional matchups, and play in front of the hometown fans, statistics show that playing postseason baseball in your home park is key to advancing to Super Regional play.
Over the past three years, more than 70% of teams that have hosted Regional play have moved on to the Supers, including last year when 14 of the 16 Regional hosts prevailed.
So who's in line to stay in town and take the field in front of the home crowd? I've broken it down into three separate categories, based on how confident I believe these teams should feel about their hosting chances: Locks, Near-Locks, and On the Bubble.
This week's conference tournaments could help separate some of the bubble boys before the announcement is made on Sunday afternoon. With that in mind, here's how things shape up heading into the final pre-NCAA week of the 2006 college baseball season.
The Owls, 2006 CUSA regular season champions, are 46-10 overall, 22-2 in league play, and carry the country's second-best RPI rating.
CU, who won the '06 ACC title by two full games, is 43-13 overall, 24-6 in conference action, and currently holds the #1-rated RPI in the land.
The Titans dominated the Big West with a 15-3 league mark and are 39-13 overall. CSF's RPI is also among the top eight in the nation.
ACC runner-up UNC is 45-11 overall and went 22-8 in league play. The Heels' RPI is #9 in America.
The Tide roared to the finish to share the regular season SEC crown at 20-10 and 39-17. Bama's RPI is number three in the land.
The Jackets came up just a single win shy of 20 in ACC play, going 19-11 and 42-14 in 2006. GT's RPI currently sits at number four.
Though the Longhorns were swept at Missouri to end the regular season, UT still finished 19-7, 38-18 and with an RPI among the top five.
The Cavaliers were one of just three teams to win 20+ ACC games, going 21-9 and 45-11 this spring. UVA's RPI is among the top twelve.
Though the Cats' RPI rating is disappointingly in the 20s, UK did share the SEC crown with a mark of 20-10 in league play and 42-13 overall.
The Dawgs came on strong late in the season and ended up 18-12 in SEC play and 38-17 overall. A top-six RPI rating makes UGA a lock.
The Huskers faltered down the stretch but still finished 17-10 in Big XII play and 39-14 overall. NU's RPI is among the top eight nation-wide.
Though their RPI rating is just 29, the regular season Pac-10 champs went 15-6 in league play and 38-13 overall this spring and had a positive hosting experience last year.
The Hogs, who claim an RPI among the top twelve, were one of only four SEC teams to win 18 or more games, going 18-12 in the SEC and 38-17 overall this spring.
ON THE BUBBLE
The Cowboys have roared to the finish in 2006, going 17-3 over their final 20 games and completing the season 18-9, 39-15. Included in that streak were series wins over Kansas State, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech. Throw in a top-fifteen RPI rating, and OK State looks like a good bet to earn a Regional at home this spring.
The Sun Devils were arguably the second-best team in the Pac-10 this season, going 11-10 and 33-19 in 2006. However, they've won just 6 of their last 14 games, and the squad's RPI is 31. The committee may put a Regional in Tempe, but it's likely that the Devils could be the second-seed at home.
The Sooners' hosting chances looked very good late in the season, but a 4-7 showing over the team's final eleven regular season games doesn't help things. A series win over Nebraska this past weekend does help, however, as does a top-ten ranked RPI. At 17-10 in league play and 39-17 overall, OU's chances look pretty good.
The Seminoles may be the Sunshine State's best chance to host postseason baseball this year, though even their chances look pretty shaky. An 8-12 mark over their last 20 games doesn't look good, and a 16-13 mark in ACC play lacks a win or two that is usually required to earn hosting rights. A top-15 RPI may be enough to pull them through though.
The Hurricanes won a game more than FSU in ACC play, going 17-13 and 35-19 overall, and UM also took two of three from the 'Noles back in mid-April. In addition, the 'Canes also won 8 of their last 11 games to end the season. Combine that with a #14 RPI rating (one spot better than FSU), and Coral Gables looks as likely of a host as Tallahassee.
The Cougars were clearly the second-best team in CUSA all season long, finishing 18-6 in league play and 36-19 overall. UH won six of its last ten, and an RPI rating among the top 20 in the country keeps them in the mix.
The Rebels, who have hosted each of the last two years, won 17 games in the SEC and went 36-20 overall. Dropping five of their final 10 games doesn't help, nor does having an RPI in the 20s.
The Wave is Louisiana's only chance to host postseason baseball, but even their chance doesn't look great. Tulane went just 15-9 in CUSA play, though they are 39-17 overall and 17-3 over their last 20 games. An RPI outside the top 25 likely dooms their chances though.
SO WHO GETS 'EM?
So if I was on the committee, who would I take, you ask? Give me the ten locks, the three near-locks, and I have three decisions left to make.
I'll take Oklahoma State - easily - with the first selection. The Cowboys had the third-best record in the Big XII and an extremely strong finish to the season, as well as a pretty good RPI rating.
My second choice would be Oklahoma. The Sooners have had a good overall season, boast a great RPI, and capped off the regular season with a series win over Nebraska.
And in a semi-upset pick, I'll go with Miami over Florida State for the final selection. Why? The 'Canes took two of three from FSU, won more ACC games than the 'Noles, and finished the season stronger than did the boys from Tallahassee.
AND HOW DO THEY MATCH UP?
The selecting of the top eight national seeds has always been tough for me, but I'll seed them and match the Regionals up as follows:
(1) Houston Regional vs Corvallis Regional
(2) Clemson Regional vs Norman Regional
(3) Fullerton Regional vs Coral Gables Regional
(4) Chapel Hill Regional vs Stillwater Regional
(5) Tuscaloosa Regional vs Charlottesville Regional
(6) Atlanta Regional vs Athens Regional
(7) Austin Regional vs Fayetteville Regional
(8) Lexington Regional vs Lincoln Regional