Despite taking two of three from Arizona State this past weekend, Arizona baseball is not projected to make the postseason, according to D1Baseball.com.
Its predictions are compiled by Kendall Rodgers, Aaron Fitt, and Mark Etheridge. More specifically, Arizona is pegged as one of the first five teams out.
The Wildcats are currently 47th in RPI.
RPI, which stands for Rating Percentage Index, is a statistic measuring the strength of a team’s record, taking into account what their conference record is, what their out of conference record is, who their opponent is, what the RPI of that opponent is, the success of previous opponents, where the game is located (home or away), and the strength of the team when playing either home or on the road.
So if Arizona ranks 47th in that metric and 64 teams make the tournament, why aren’t they slated to make the postseason? Non-Power Five conferences have to be represented, too. The NCAA awards an automatic bid to the winner of every conference. So, like the basketball tournament, the top 64 teams aren’t necessarily the ones in the tournament.
For example, Army, which ranks 90th in RPI, won the Patriot League Championship, giving them an automatic bid for the postseason.
Arizona enters the final weekend with 32-21 record (12-15 Pac-12). Their overall record is strong enough to get them into the tournament, as it is similar to teams ranked in the top-16, but their conference record is the reason they will most likely miss the tournament.
The season is not over, though, and with three games at Oregon remaining, Arizona could hypothetically reach a .500 record in the Pac-12. Though, even at 15-15, Arizona’s conference record may not be good enough to get them in.
And if Arizona doesn’t sweep Oregon (25-27, 11-16) this weekend, the hit to their RPI and their inability to reach .500 in conference would likely eliminate them from postseason contention.
A deeper look into the Wildcats’ record and schedule shows some interesting observations.
The Wildcats lost all three games of the Pac-12/Big Ten challenge. They got swept by Washington in Seattle. They beat Oregon State in a series in Tucson when OSU was No. 2 in the nation, but two weeks later, Stanford swept Arizona, starting a five-game losing streak that led to Arizona losing two of three at Utah, which is the worst team in the Pac-12.
A week later, as part of a six-game winning streak, Arizona swept No. 7 UCLA at Hi Corbett, but essentially nullified that by being swept at Cal the very next week.
That type of inconsistency — and its struggles away from Hi Corbett — is why Arizona is currently on the outside looking in for the postseason.
Another factor that could hurt Arizona is the lack of a conference tournament. Aside from an automatic bid by winning the whole tournament, playing in a conference tournament would offer Arizona the chance to boost their RPI with wins over top teams in the conference and bump their conference record above .500.
The last five teams in, according to D1Baseball.com are: Illinois, Texas A&M, LSU, Kentucky, and Washington.
Illinois has a strong case to get in the tournament over Arizona. The two teams played each other earlier in the year in the Pac-12/Big Ten tournament and the Illini came out on top.
Illinois also beat UCLA and Washington, a fellow “last five in” team. Illinois has a 15-9 conference record with only their conference tournament remaining. Their overall record of 31-18 is almost identical to Arizona’s prior to the series against Oregon.
While Illinois’ RPI is three spots lower than UA’s, Illinois still might play some of the Big Ten’s top teams, giving them a chance to boost it. D1Baseball.com projects more Big Ten teams in the postseason than the Pac-12, signifying that the Big Ten is a stronger conference.
Washington also has a stronger case than Arizona. The Huskies have a much better conference record of 18-9. They do have a much lower RPI than Arizona at 71, but they finish their season against Stanford, which is No. 2 in RPI.
If Washington gets swept, and Arizona sweeps Oregon, the two teams’ resumes may look a little more even. But Washington would probably still have the advantage since they’d still finish with a better conference record and they swept Arizona earlier in the year.
Texas A&M, LSU, and Kentucky are the other “last five in” teams. They are all SEC teams and have similar conference records as Arizona. LSU has the best at 15-15 while Texas A&M and Kentucky are both 13-17. The reason SEC teams have an advantage over Arizona (and other non-SEC teams) comes from the strength of their conference.
Even without these three teams in the tournament, the SEC would still have more teams in the tournament any other conference (8),
Even still, Arizona’s conference record is worse than the three schools listed above. A&M and Kentucky may be able to make the postseason, despite a sub-.500 conference record because of their high RPIs. A&M and Kentucky rank 20th and 25th, respectively. While LSU ranks a bit worse at 44th, they are .500 in conference.
All three teams are passable if Arizona sweeps Oregon, and LSU seems to be the easiest to jump. LSU has the lowest RPI, and a poor showing in the SEC tournament could eliminate them since they’d have a sub-.500 conference record.
Joining Arizona in the “last five out” are Michigan, Troy, Louisiana Tech, and Louisiana-Lafayette.
Should Arizona fall at Oregon in even one game, all four teams other would probably have stronger cases in almost every important category.
Michigan probably has the best chance of the “last five out” to make the tournament ahead of Arizona. They rank worse in RPI at 55, but are better in conference (15-8) and still have a conference tournament remaining. Their overall record of 32-19 is similar to Arizona’s but as previously mentioned, the Big Ten is seen as the tougher conference. Maybe most helpful for Michigan is their head-to head win over Arizona in the Tony Gwynn Classic.
The team with the next best chance to jump Arizona is Louisiana Tech. D1Baseball.com had Louisiana Tech in the postseason in their most previous rankings, but the Bulldogs fell to 59th in RPI, even after sweeping Old Dominion last weekend.
LA Tech’s 38-18 overall record is impressive and their 21-9 conference record is even better, but their strength of their conference may be an issue.
As far as Troy and Louisiana-Lafayette go, both teams hail from the Sun Belt Conference. Their conference records are better than UA’s, with Troy at 19-11 and Louisiana at 18-12.
Troy, ranked at 43, has a better RPI than Arizona, but could be passed by the Wildcats if they sweep Oregon. UL’s RPI is 54.
Both Sun Belt teams probably need a conference tournament win, or at least a very strong showing, to propel themselves past Arizona.
And as impressive as their conference records are, Arizona’s .500 Pac-12 record (assuming they sweep Oregon) and RPI in the 30s-40s should be enough to hold both teams at bay.
In all, accurately locating where Arizona ranks in the selection committee’s eyes is difficult.
The Wildcats’ resume is very similar to the other teams on the bubble, so all they can do is sweep Oregon and hope for the best. Anything less, and their season likely ends in Eugene.