Doug Kroll is an editor for CSTV.com, focusing on baseball. E-mail here!
The bubble is a term that most relates to the men's or women's NCAA basketball tournament each March, but it is in the minds of many across the nation, as college baseball's regular season comes down the final stretch.
Each week, CSTV.com puts out our latest NCAA Tournament projections, and with it come the teams we consider on the bubble.It has commonly become known as the Last Five In and the Last Five Out.It's time to break down what each of those ten teams have left in front of them, and who just might have the easiest time getting in, and which team might be done when the calendar turns to June.
*RPI rankings taken from Boydsworld.com
Last Five In:
Rutgers (31-16 Overall, 16-5 Big East)...RPI No. 48
The Scarlet Knights have won 11 of 13 games since mid-April, and have climbed into a first place tie with St. John's in the Big East.Right now the Big East looks like it may get three teams into the tournament, but both at-large bids are on the bubble.If they don't get in, Rutgers can look at a weak strength of schedule (No. 182), but it looks as if they control their own destiny.Only one game remains at Bainton Field, and it's against a team in which the Scarlet Knights lost earlier this season.All three teams left have winning records which will help the cause.But it won't be easy traveling to play Pitt, a team that sits in fourth in the Big East.
Talk about your classic Jekyll and Hyde team.After being snubbed last season by the tournament committee, Wake Forest has certainly picked up a few quality wins this season (even scoring an early season victory at San Diego).But then there's the ugly side.Two home losses to BallState and a sweep at the hands of ACC bottom dweller BostonCollege doesn't help their cause.Luckily, they get a shot to cement that they belong.The ACC is so strong, that even with a sub-.500 conference record, The Demon Deacons are right in the mix.Hosting Miami this weekend turns out to be a battle for not only positioning in the conference tournament in Jacksonville, but a chance for Wake to make sure they don't get snubbed this time around.It would also get eight ACC teams into the tournament.Not too shabby.
As is usually the case with bubble teams, up and down it's been so far for Memphis.The Tigers rebounded after an awful weekend against Marshall to top UCF in league play last week, and in what could be a staple weekend for the Tigers, they host a spiraling Houston team which was just swept at home by East Carolina.If Memphis would like to continue playing after the CUSA Tournament, they better pick up a couple wins, because they end the regular season in not only the conference's toughest team's home, but what just might be the nation's best team's building.But then again, the opportunity is there for Memphis to have.We'll see if they follow through.
Western Carolina (34-15 Overall, 15-6 Southern Conference)...RPI No. 45
Best Wins: vs. Georgia Tech (No. 33), vs. N.C.State (No. 29)
It was really hard to find terrible losses for the Catamounts.Their worst losses of the year came as part of a three game series, making them not as bad as they seem.Throw in single game losses to a couple of real good teams during the Keith LeClair Classic, Pepperdine and East Carolina, and it's easy to understand that despite being second in the SoCon, WCU has a shot at an at-large bid.The schedule the rest of the way isn't on their side.The Catamounts next four games are against two teams under .500, which is never good when trying to improve your stock.But it looks as if Western Carolina has a decent enough strength of schedule (No. 89, compared that to SoCon leader College of Charleston which sits at No. 135 for SoS) that they could be OK when the bracket is announced on Memorial Day.
Louisville (33-16 Overall, 14-7 Big East)...RPI No. 44
Best Wins: at Stetson (No. 23), vs. Kentucky (No. 53)
Worst Losses: vs. KentState (No. 158), 1-2 vs. Pittsburgh (No. 119)
The Cardinals don't have strength of schedule to their advantage, and are most likely going to have to hope the NCAA committee decides to invite three teams.The rest of the way for Louisville is in their favor though.All three teams they play in the regular season have winning records, and four of the seven games are at home.A win against Evansville could be a nice boost, but sitting only two games back of first place in the Big East should really be what is on their minds.Playing the fifth place Irish and eighth place Bearcats should help the Cardinals, as long as they don't have another weekend like Pittsburgh.
Best Wins: at Ole Miss (No. 13), at WichitaState (No. 18)
Worst Losses: vs. MissouriState (No. 118), vs. Eastern Illinois (No. 202)
At Bradley (Three Games)...No. 128
At Louisville...No. 44
MissouriValley Tournament (Currently 3rd Seed)
If the Purple Aces aren't fortunate enough to make it into the Tournament, they can look back at a couple of moments this season where things could have really turned in their favor.Scoring six runs in a three game series at OregonState would be one of them.Losing two-of-three at home to second place Creighton is another, plus scoring two runs in their two losses at WichitaState didn't help the cause.But life goes on, and for Evansville, which put a scare into everyone last year at the Columbia, S.C. Regional, by knocking out Virginia and taking South Carolina to the championship game.If they want a shot at repeating that this season, they need to hope the committee will take three teams from the Mo.Valley.That game against Louisville will be key.Two bubble teams playing at the end of the season from two conferences that aren't both going to get three teams into the tournament.That's excitement.
Southern California (23-22 Overall, 6-9 Pac-10)...RPI No. 47
Best Wins: 2-1 vs. San Diego (No. 12), vs. Arizona State (No. 15)
Being in seventh place in the Pac-10, three games under .500 in conference play, only a game above .500 overall, and only 3.5 games from being in the conference cellar doesn't usually get too many teams onto this list, but thanks to some great out-of-conference scheduling and doing just enough against the teams they had to beat has landed USC in this position.The Trojans find themselves with the second strongest schedule in the nation, only behind Long BeachState (a team USC lost to two-of-three to).In what was supposed to be a coming out party of sorts for the Trojans, hasn't exactly gone as planned, but they have a shot at still getting to the tournament, a place where they are more than used to being come June.Having two series left on the road doesn't help things, but they can really make a statement this weekend against the Wildcats, while they can try to move up the ladder with two of the weaker teams in the conference in the season's final two weekends.
Troy (30-20 Overall, 13-11 Sun Belt)...RPI No. 46
Best Wins: 2-1 vs. Coastal Carolina (No. 5), vs. Arkansas (No. 14) Worst Losses: 0-3 at Arkansas-Little Rock, vs. UAB (No. 154)
Home New Orleans (Three Games)...No. 103
At South Alabama (Three Games)...No. 85
Sun Belt Tournament (Currently 3rd Seed)
A giant killer Troy was early on in the season, with a couple of real nice wins against Arkansas and Alabama.The Trojans have taken care of nearly everyone they should have up until this past weekend when they were swept by Arkansas-Little Rock.Troy did bounce back with a midweek win against UAB this week, but that sweep will be relatively fresh in the tournament committee's mind in a couple of weeks, with no big time games left to erase it.The Trojans may need a real good showing at the Sun Belt Tournament, especially if they can top conference leading Louisiana-Lafayette.
Oklahoma (28-20 Overall, 8-13 Big 12)...RPI No. 31
Best Wins: vs. San Diego (No. 12), vs. WichitaState (No. 18), 2-0 vs. Creighton (No. 43) Worst Losses: 1-2 vs. Kansas (No. 114), vs. UT-Pan American (No. 209)
A good stretch of baseball sandwiched between some ugly baseball would be a good way to describe the Sooners' season up until this point. Only winning two Big 12 series (Kansas State and Texas A&M) is not what Oklahoma had in mind coming into this season.But there have been some bright moments to go along with a pretty dismal conference record.One gets the feeling that if Oklahoma were ready to make a move, they would have this past weekend against last-place Kansas, but instead, they lost two-out-of-three.A good strength-of-schedule may be a saving grace for the Sooners, but without a couple of wins in Columbia against Missouri and a nice showing against Texas Tech, along with a deep run in the Big 12 tournament, Oklahoma could be watching this spring's festivities from Norman.
Kentucky (31-16 Overall, 10-13 SEC)...RPI No. 53
Best Wins: vs. South Carolina (No. 7), vs. Arkansas (No. 14), 2-0-1 vs. LSU (No. 38)
Who would have thought Kentucky would be on the outside looking in when they were 19-0 and off to the best start in school history?I guess that's what happens though when during that stretch, the average opponent's RPI is 220, with no team better than Xavier's 155.Thirteen losses in conference play have the Wildcats in danger of not making the postseason, a year after hosting a Regional in Lexington.Two huge SEC series loom ahead fortunately for them, but it won't be easy.Playing in Oxford in front of rabid fans who will still be looking for a SEC West title, doesn't qualify as easy.And playing at home the final weekend of the regular season against an Auburn team looking to play spoiler is never fun either.The Wildcats can only hope that Hoover, Ala. means something to their postseason fate.