Does USF softball get NCAA bid tonight?
First and foremost, Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there -- probably won't be posting again until late tonight, when USF softball finds out if it's headed to the NCAA regionals. Might get in a quick post for USF baseball when we get back from the beach ...
Will the Bulls' softball team get in? I've gone through the potential field in the last day or two, and USF is much in the same position the Bulls were in women's basketball, being within five teams of the logical cut line. Jose Fernandez's team seemed to be in by most counts but didn't get the nod, but we'll still lay things out.
There were no surprise winners in the biggest six conferences, and if you put in at-large teams from those leagues with a winning league record and an RPI under 35, that takes up 21 of the 33 at-large berths. That leaves 12 spots for a mix of big-league schools and second teams from smaller conferences.
In the smaller leagues, things went mostly USF's way -- Louisiana-Lafayette, Cal-Poly and Massachusetts won their leagues, so they're not taking up at-larges. Massachusetts, by the way, is arguably the only team sure to be in the NCAA field that USF beat this season. Two more teams with higher RPIs than USF -- Florida Gulf Coast and SIU-Edwardsville -- are in transition to Division I and ineligible for the NCAAs.
How deep will the NCAA go into the power conferences? Will it go past six teams in the SEC and reach out to Auburn (29-27, 9-19) or Arkansas (27-27, 10-16) because of their superior RPIs (33 and 41) despite unimpressive overall records? Will it see Texas A&M's 31-20 record, or an 8-9 league mark as the Big 12's fifth team? What about Nebraska (29-17, 9-9), which also has an RPI ahead of USF?
Let's say all four of those get in. Put in Jacksonville State (which USF beat) with an RPI of 31, and four other second-best teams who didn't win league titles: Cal State Fullerton (RPI 37), East Carolina (39), UNLV (42) and Nevada (43).
That leaves three spots available, and USF next in the RPI at 45. Where softball is ahead of basketball is that women's hoops was trying to be the Big East's eighth team, while softball would be the Big East's fourth. At this point in this model, every other major conference except the ACC has at least five teams in -- the ACC's fourth would likely be Maryland, down at RPI 64.
So for USF not to make the NCAAs, the selection committee would have to reach past the Bulls to at least three schools lower in the RPIs and largely from lesser conferences -- teams like Long Beach State (46), Oklahoma State (47), Southern Illinois (48) or Mercer (50). Certainly conceivable -- those schools have better overall records, but less competition against elite teams. Will the NCAA see that USF scheduled top-tier schools like Arizona and Florida, or just see that the Bulls lost those games?
As we pointed out Saturday, USF went 0-9 against top 20 teams, but 11-5 against the rest of the top 100. We'll see what the NCAA thinks tonight.