Experts assess Tech’s NCAA tournament chances

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Will Matt Gonzalez’ career extend into the NCAA tournament? (GT Athletics/Danny Karnik)

Georgia Tech’s week at the ACC tournament in Durham, N.C., appears to have placed the Yellow Jackets on the NCAA tournament bubble. After beating Boston College in the play-in game, Tech lost to Miami 4-0, Florida State 6-1 and N.C. State 7-5 in 12 innings.

There isn’t much disgrace in losing to the teams ranked (by RPI) 3 (Miami), 12 (Florida State) and 10 (N.C. State), but losing all three and bumping the loss total to 23 has done harm to the résumé. (It doesn’t seem fair that losing in pool play should penalize a team, but you could argue the flipside – should a team be able to help itself in conference tournament play? Most would say yes. Conference tournament play gives a team more opportunities to define itself, for better or worse.)

Tech has more losses than all but one team in the top 46 of the RPI (as of Sunday). Three experts, Aaron Fitt of D1Baseball.com, (Twitter)and Jim Shonerd of Baseball America (Twitter) and Boyd Nation of Boyds World, offered their analyses of Tech’s chances to make the NCAA tournament for the 20th time in coach Danny Hall’s 23 seasons.

Fitt:

“A lot depends on what happens today (Sunday) — as of this morning, we had Georgia Tech as our 65th team, but that was projecting Utah and Iowa to win this afternoon. If Washington beats Utah and/or Ohio State can win the Big Ten today, that would open up a spot or two, which would slide Georgia Tech back in, as we see it.

“Of course, there are a few other bids that could still get ‘stolen’ if things break the wrong way today — for instance, if Georgia Southern beats Louisiana-Lafayette in the Sun Belt, making that a three-bid league, or if West Virginia beats TCU in the Big 12, which would go from 3 bids to 4. So it’s just a waiting game right now. We should have a better feel after the games are over today.”

UPDATE, Monday morning: D1Baseball.com has Tech in its last four in, sending the Jackets to Mississippi State as a No. 3 seed.

UPDATE: Ohio State (43-18-1, RPI 35) defeated Iowa (27-26, RPI 71) for the Big Ten title to prevent the Hawkeyes from taking a spot. In the Pac-12 championship, Utah (25-27, RPI 93) beat Washington (32-21, RPI 55) to take a spot away from the bubble teams. Utah, by the way, 21-7. The Utes batted around four different times. Louisiana-Lafayette (41-19, RPI 15) beat Georgia Southern (36-24, RPI 80) for the Sun Belt title, a win for bubble teams.

Nation:

“I’d call it about 30 percent chance right now. The first point in the case for Tech is the strong RPI.  The second is the fact that the ACC is a pretty clear second as the strongest conference this year, and it’s hard to pick out more than six ACC teams who have made a clear case for inclusion.  If the committee decides that it wants a 7th ACC team, there’s a reasonable chance that Tech gets the nod over UNC, Wake, or Duke.

“The case against is that their RPI is largely based on strength of schedule from the ACC schedule, and they went three games under .500 in conference, then went 1-3 in the tournament.  A further complication is that it looks like there will be more cases than usual this year where conference tournament winners wouldn’t have gotten in otherwise, but the conference favorite gets an at large, so the committee won’t be looking down the list as far.

Tech will learn its NCAA fate at noon on Monday, when the tournament selection show will air on ESPNU.”

Shonerd:

“My gut feel is they’ll get in, but it could go either way. Their poor finishing stretch and 14-19 ACC record (the committee counts tournament games as part of a team’s conference record) are issues that very much could keep them out. But, the Clemson and Coastal Carolina series wins look really good, and their 11 RPI top 25 wins are more than some teams that are going to host. The 11-9 road record will be another point in their favor.”

Shonerd wrote an excellent data-driven analysis last year about bubble teams last year worth a read.

Bonus non-expert observation

The 16 teams selected as regional host sites on Sunday evening – the top 16 seeds – would appear to give Tech hope. All 16 were in the top 17 of RPI rankings. Only Coastal Carolina, No. 12, was left out.

That would suggest strong reliance on RPI, which would bode well for Tech, whose strongest case to make the field is its RPI, No. 20. Further, six of the teams – Virginia, Clemson, Miami, Louisville, N.C. State and Florida State – are from the ACC. Only the SEC had more at seven, which set a record for most host teams from one conference. All 16 teams are in the Southeast or Texas.

Such a strong valuation of the ACC would, again, seem to play to Tech’s advantage. Tech was 5-12 against those six teams (the Jackets didn’t play Louisville), but perhaps the selection committee will weigh the fact that 12 of the Jackets’ 23 losses were against the teams it rates among the 16 strongest in the country.

Fitt pumped the brakes a bit on the RPI reliance with a tweet sent out Sunday night.

https://twitter.com/aaronfitt/status/737082209845301248

We’ll find out Monday.

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