Scenarios for USF baseball and Big East tournament
Big day for Big East baseball, with the final three spots in next week's conference tournament in Clearwater still up for grabs on the final day of the regular season. USF seems on the outside looking in, sitting in ninth, but they actually hold the tiebreaker advantages against Cincinnati and Seton Hall, so if the Bulls can beat Pittsburgh this afternoon, they have a good chance of making it to Clearwater.
The first part is easy: Lose today, and USF is out. There's a considerable logjam ahead of the Bulls, with West Virginia, Seton Hall and Cincinnati all at 13-13, with Notre Dame at 12-13 and USF at 12-14. West Virginia has tiebreakers on the whole group, so they managed to clinch a berth despite losing their last two games.
So there's five teams competing for three spots, all playing at noon or 1 today. Presuming USF wins, there are four games that matter, thus 16 different scenarios -- 14 of them lead to USF making the tournament.
-- If USF wins and any of Cincinnati, Seton Hall or Notre Dame lose, the Bulls are in the tournament with a 13-14 record.
-- If USF wins and two of those teams lose, the Bulls are in the tournament as the No. 7 seed, avoiding a first-round game with Connecticut, whcih has been the league's dominant team in the regular season. They would play St. John's, which they swept 3-0 last month.
-- If USF wins and all three of those teams lose, the Bulls are in the tournament as the No. 6 seed, which means they open the tournament against the same Pittsburgh team they just took two of three from.
Why USF trumps the other three teams: USF's 13-14 record beats Notre Dame at 12-14; the Bulls won the head-to-head series with Seton Hall, 2-1; and since USF and Cincinnati did not play, the tiebreaker is record against teams ahead in the standings, and USF is well ahead there, with a 7-8 record compared to 4-11 for the Bearcats.
One more consideration: USF fans need to pull for good weather today. To pull into a tie with the teams above them, USF needs those teams to lose, so a rainout is as deadly as those teams winning for the Bulls. Cincinnati and Seton Hall are both at home, and a rainout means they finish 13-13 in the league, and the best USF can finish is 13-14.
Notre Dame, which lost a game to rain earlier this year, has the most on the line today -- lose , and they're out, but if they win, they could be seeded as high as fifth, knowing their 13-13 with a win puts them ahead of a potential four-way tie at 13-14, which would have Seton Hall going home as the ninth team.