Following UCF Baseball's quick 0-2 exit from American Athletic Conference Championship in Clearwater, many Knight fans figure the season has come to an end.
It is a very normal reaction, especially after a disappointing showing at Clearwater, to feel that way. Even College Baseball media people are wondering aloud about UCF's NCAA chances:
So, @UCF_Baseball goes 0-2 in the American tournament. The RPI is sitting at 40 with a losing record vs. RPI Top 50 and 13-12 record vs. league opponents. https://t.co/vSABn7QSrY— Kendall Rogers (@KendallRogers) May 23, 2018
I remember being with UCF Softball in Birmingham for the 2012 C-USA Tournament when the Knights lost in the Quarterfinals to Houston who would end up making NCAA Tournament. UCF had lost four in a row to end the season, and the thought right after the game was, "Well, we blew it. We are out."
But as I studied the resume days later, after the emotions of a loss cleared, I found that UCF Softball had a strong resume highlighted by a win over Florida.UCF played a tough schedule, Played in a Conference USA that ended up being a 4 bid league into NCAA Tournament that year. UCF had an RPI of 43 . The Knights got some help from Tulsa, who beat Marshall in the C-USA Championship Game. Marshall could have stolen a bid from UCF had they won.
Instead, UCF ended up getting in as one of the final teams in the field on the final bracket announced on the selection show, heading to Gainesville as a 3-seed.
Six years later, we may see same result - This time with Baseball.
Let's take a look at UCF Baseball's resume
- Record: 35-21
- RPI: 41
- Conference RPI: 4
- Schedule Strength: 28
- Record vs. Top 50: 10-15
- Best Wins (Opponents and RPI ranking):
- Florida twice (1)
- Stetson (6),
- ECU (13)
- at UConn (16)
- at USF (22)
- FAU (29)
- Oklahoma (36)
- at Houston twice (50)
- Bad Losses:
- Samford (116)
- at Memphis (189)
These are the only losses to teams who have an RPI over 100. Every other loss UCF has was to teams in the Top 100. Lets also keep in mind that the two losses in Clearwater was to East Carolina who could end up hosting regional and Houston who won regular season title.
Let's compare this to some of the bubble teams UCF is going up against. I picked teams based on the projections of D1 Baseball, and Baseball America. Here is a list of teams that were either one of the last four teams in or first four teams out on both sites. I have not included Mississippi State or LSU, as I believe both would get in:
|Team||W/L||RPI||SOS||Conf. (RPI)||vs. RPI Top 50|
|South Alabama||31-24||48||41||Sun Belt (8)||4-14|
|Michigan||33-18||55||107||Big Ten (6)||2-10|
|Louisiana Tech||38-18||58||135||C-USA (11)||3-3|
|Georgia Tech||31-26||54||13||ACC (3)||7-15|
|UL-Lafayette||34-23||53||53||Sun Belt (8)||9-10|
|Troy||39-18||42||90||Sun Belt (8)||6-9|
|Illinois||31-18||46||62||Big Ten (6)||6-6|
UCF has the edge in Top 50 wins, strength of schedule, and plays in a better conference than most of these bubble teams.
But there is also one other area where UCF has an advantage over the rest of the bubble teams: Geography.
Most of the Olympic sports committees will try to limit flights across the country by putting teams in regionals within driving distance. Baseball still falls into this, as we Knights fans know by how many times UCF has been placed in Tallahassee regionals over the years. This season it looks like we will have three in-state teams hosting in Florida, Florida State and Stetson. USF could have snuck into hosting if they had won The American Championship.
UCF can bus to DeLand, Gainesville, and Tallahassee, all as 3-seeds.
The thing UCF has to hope for in the coming days is chalk in the conference tournaments. They do not need some of the bubble teams I mentioned above to win their leagues - or even teams not on the bubble for that matter that can only make NCAA Tournament if they win the automatic bid like a Rice, for example.
The Knights got some help on Thursday from USF, who eliminated Wichita State from The American Athletic Conference Championship in Clearwater. That should keep UCF ahead of Wichita State in the pecking order for an at-large bid.
Had the Shockers won the tournament, or even made a deep run to the final, that could have bumped UCF off the field, as it's unlikely the committee would have gone with six teams from the AAC. Now Knight fans just have to hope it goes with five.
Some of you will bring up 2014, when UCF was the first team out in a year where Florida, FSU, and Miami hosted. But here was UCF's resume from 2014:
Conference Ranking: 6th (UCF finished 2nd)
Vs. RPI Top 50: 5-11
Best Wins: at Miami (17), Louisville twice (18), at Houston (5), at FSU (10)
Bad Losses: Ohio State (131), Bethune Cookman (197), Michigan (110), Central Michigan twice (129), Central Connecticut (122), at USF (143), at Memphis (115), Presbyterian (242)
In 2014, UCF lost 10 games to teams outside the RPI Top 100, including Presbyterian and Bethune Cookman.
This year's team has twice as many wins against the RPI Top 50, plays in a much better league, and has a tougher SOS, as well as nowhere near as many bad losses as the 2014 team.
In 2014, The American got two teams into the NCAA Tournament. This year the American is looking at four or five teams. Plus the committee said last year the reason it kept UConn out despite an RPI in mid-30s was because of a lack of top 50 wins, as UConn went 5-9 vs. the top 50.
So UCF fans, coaches, and players will be scoreboard-watching in the coming days, rooting for bubble teams to get knocked out and no teams stealing bids.
I think UCF will sneak in as a 3-seed to Gainesville just like the Softball team did in 2012, thanks to the conference they play in, wins over Florida and top-50 teams, schedule strength, and geography.
Eric's Projected American Teams in:
- ECU (Hosting)