Did winning the last 10 games of the regular season, albeit against very poor competition, and 13 of the final 14, give the Arizona Wildcats enough of a late boost to sneak into the NCAA baseball tournament? Or, like last year, will they have another somber Memorial Day?
Arizona (32-24) will learn its fate at 9 a.m. PT Monday when the 64-team field is revealed on ESPNU. The NCAA got the ball rolling Sunday evening by unveiling the 16 regional hosts, three of which are in the Pac-12:
It’s anyone’s guess whether the Wildcats are in, quite literally, since two major outlets that cover college baseball have conflicting views on their postseason chances.
Baseball America had the Wildcats as one of the final four teams into the tournament, slotting them as the No. 3 seed in Nashville (along with top overall seed Vanderbilt). It noted the 15-14 finish in the Pac-12, which is rated as the fourth-best conference in the country, “is a big item in Arizona’s favor that few other bubble teams will be able to match.”
A 14-16 Pac-12 record last season was considered a big reason Arizona didn’t get an invite.
But D1Baseball was far less optimistic, and it didn’t mince words as to why: Arizona’s 3-16 record against top-50 opponents.
“There’s just no hiding from that for the Wildcats, even though they went 13-1 in the month of May,” the site noted. “The hot finish was impressive, but unfortunately for the Wildcats, they did not have the opportunity to rack up some desperately needed high-end wins in the conference tournament.”
The only team Arizona faced in May that is expected to make the NCAA tourney is Arizona State, to whom it lost 10-7 at home on May 7. None of the 10 wins during the season-ending streak came to a team with an RPI better than 70 (USC).
Both of those assessments were made prior to Sunday’s final slate of conference tournament championships. And among those results were at least two that hurt Arizona’s chances since the games were won by teams who otherwise wouldn’t have gotten in.
Cincinnati, which was 26-29 in the regular season, won all four games in the American Athletic Conference tourney for its first NCAA appearance since 1974, while Ohio State and its No. 126 RPI won the Big Ten title.
And Southern Miss, another bubble team, took away any doubt by winning Conference USA.
Arizona’s RPI after all action was completed was 49, one spot worse than last year. Twenty-one of the 31 automatic NCAA bids went to teams ranked lower than the Wildcats, the other nine to higher-ranked teams. The Wildcats are 39th-best among non-automatic qualifiers, with only 33 at-large slots to go around.