Thursday Thoughts - The much-loved, much-hated RPI version

Stitch-heads, I come to you with a troubled heart.

This past week the NCAA released its RPI rankings to the general public for the first time this season. And of course, the RPI always boils the blood for yours truly, just in its basic unfairness. But it does give us a crystal ball into what the NCAA tournament field might look like come this June.

FSUhatFlip.jpg
(If the Big Dance started today, Florida State would flip their hats as a No. 2 national seed)

So with that as a backdrop to our weekend preview, let's take a quick look at some of the quirks and curves in the current RPI rankings before we get to the other stuff.

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QUICK HITS ON THE RPI---
- Some years the NCAA selection committee seems to go straight off the RPI and sometimes they really do use it only "as a tool" without as much emphasis. Well, if this was going to be one of those by-the-book years, this would apparently be your national seeds:
* Miami
* Florida State
* North Carolina
* Arizona State
* South Carolina
* Oklahoma State
* Rice
* Arizona

- How about this for big jumps?
* Rice jumped from No. 24 all the way up to No. 7 after sweeping East Carolina
* Arizona went from No. 19 to No. 8 for going unbeaten against New Mexico and Washington State.
* Oregon State jumps from 23 to 16 for winning two of three at ASU. Seems like it should be more.
* Despite having a schedule rated at No. 135 by Boyd Nation and No. 75 by Warren Nolan, Coastal Carolina is up to No. 10 in the RPI (jumped seven spots last week).

- It's still the ACC's world, we're merely living in it.
The ACC has the top three positions of course, with Miami, Florida State and North Carolina. Also note that N.C. State is No. 13 and Georgia Tech is No. 15. All five were in the top 10 last week.

- Notice something missing?
The Big West isn't given much love. In the top 25 there are only two Big West teams: No. 18 UC Irvine and No. 22 Cal State Fullerton. And both of those teams took significant dives this week. The Anteaters did a swan dive from No. 5 to 18 after losing two of three to UC Riverside. Fullerton fell eight spots from No. 16 after sweeping Pacific.

- I don't get this one.
Wichita State jumped up to No. 20 from No. 28 after losing to Nebraska, beating somebody called Tabor and then going 2-1 vs. Southern Illinois. Huh?

- This is a good trivia question.
When was the last time someone named something other than Miami prior to their migration to the ACC made the NCAA tournament from the independent ranks? Well make way for Dallas Baptist. The 27-11 Patriots currently have an RPI of No. 27.

- Texas is at No. 34.
Man, that just doesn't look right.

- Look out for a huge jump up here people.
Who's the last team listed in the RPI? My beloved Coppin State Eagles at No. 296. But they won't be there for long. Not after Tuesday's win over No. 153 VMI.

- Underrated and overrated?
Here are a few teams that get a lot of respect from the RPI:
* Arizona. No. 20 in the human poll. No. 8 in the RPI.
* N.C. State. No. 28 in the human poll. No. 13 in the RPI.
* Oklahoma State. No. 14 in the human poll. No. 6 in the RPI.
* Southern Miss. Unranked in the human poll. No. 19 in the RPI.
* East Carolina. Unranked in the human poll. No. 9 in the RPI
Here are a few teams that don't get much respect from the RPI:
* Texas A&M. No. 6 in the human poll. No. 23 in the RPI.
* Missouri. No. 9 in the human poll. No. 41 in the RPI.
* Wichita State. No. 8 in the human poll. No. 20 in the RPI.
* Kentucky. No. 17 in the human poll. No. 35 in the RPI.

- From three bids to one?
Two conferences that got three bids to the NCAA tournament last year could very well be destined for one-bid territory in 2008. The Big Ten and the Big East don't have the overwhelming numbers as of right now.
Big Ten:
* Michigan, No. 38. They're in. But if they hog the riches by winning the conference tournament...
* Next closest team is No. 114 Illinois. 2nd place Purdue is No. 132.

Big East:
* St. John's, No. 62. The Johnnies do have better Big East teams to face down the stretch. But probably not enough to get into at-large land.
* Notre Dame and Louisville are tied at No. 78.
* West Virginia is way down at No. 103 despite a 28-11 record.


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REQUIRED READING FOR THE COLLEGE BASEBALL FAN---
Take a quick gander at a few of my favorite things this time of year out there in webland:
- College Baseball Insider's Field of Dreamers:
http://www.collegebaseballinsider.com/FOD080422.html

Always good, useful information, especially when it comes to some of the low-major conferences. Good job again boys.

- Jeremy Mills, one of the great minds in college baseball:
http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/blog/index?entryID=3363058&name=ncaa_baseball

I've known Jeremy for a couple of years now and we all - and I mean ALL - use the website he developed for score updates. But now the ESPN employee has been given the green light to start writing some baseball columns, including a weekly weekend preview.

Two quick notes about Jeremy's columns:
1- I'm glad to see that ESPN is finally starting to "get it" when it comes to college baseball. Jeremy brings great knowledge of the game and of its history to the fore.
2- You still have to do a lot of digging to find the baseball stuff. Something like going to "ESPNU" pulldown and then go to "college sports" and fish around from there.


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10 PLACES I'D WANNA BE THIS WEEKEND---
Well, considering the places I've been the past few weeks, I guess I shouldn't complain about a weekend where I can just kick back at home. But if I could go to ten places, this is the ones I'd go to:

1- No. 2 Florida State at No. 3 North Carolina.
Here we go again having the main focus of the country on the ACC as the Seminoles take their show on the road to face the arm-heavy Heels in Cary. If FSU thought Miami pitching was tough, wait 'til it faces the blue and white. It is interesting to note, the Tarheel team ERA is nearly twice as better as the Canes at 2.15, having given up just 89 earned runs in 373 innings. The key to the weekend will certainly be how FSU's bullpen does. In Saturday's 9-5 win over The U, they were brilliant, giving up just a single hit in five innings. It was mostly the starters that gave up the big inning last weekend. And let me say this though, Buster Posey was awesome to watch and Nole leadoff man Tyler Holt has been one of the most impressive freshmen I've seen this year.

2- No. 9 Missouri at No. 6 Texas A&M.
Now is certainly the time for the Tigers to make their move in the Big 12. At 9-6, they stand a healthy 4.5 games behind the scorching hot Ags (15-3). The schedule could help tip the scales as well, since Mizzou has the Big 12 North remaining while the Maroons have Texas and Nebraska left. Aaron Crow needs to out-duel the combo of Brooks Raley and Kyle Thebeau on Friday for them to have any chance to take the series. As you've probably heard a million times already, A&M is on a school record 12-game conference win streak.

3- No. 20 Arizona at No. 29 Oregon State.
Both are 6-6 in Pac 10 play, so this could have post-season hosting ramifications. My first thought is, "Are the Beavers doing it to us all again?" Just like last year, it seems like they're starting to hit their stride later on in the season - sort of typical for a Northern team. Last week's series win at ASU was freakishly impressive, especially the kick that the offense delivered. The UofA is an intertesting story, winners of 12 straight and sitting at No. 8 in the RPI. So if the season ended today, the Cats would be considered a national seed.

4- St. John's at Notre Dame.
Two hot teams. The Irish have been the (mild) surprise of the Big East, racing out to a 1st place standing in the standings at 12-3. Overall, they are a more Irish-like 27-10 than what they were last year (a 28-28 record). But an RPI in the mid-80s isn't going to curry favor with the selection committee. St. John's has gone 19-5 since i saw them win at Northridge early in the season. The Storm needs a better start than lately, having lost its last two Friday games and garnered only 10 hits combined in them.

5- No. 15 Coastal Carolina at VMI
This is another 1vs.2 showdown in the Big South. After this tough roadie, the Chants have only league also-rans High Point and Radford remaining. So this will probably be the KeyDets only chance to make a run for the regular season crown. But VMI has the indignity of becoming just the second team to lose to Coppin State, by an 8-5 count on Tuesday.

6- No. 21 Virginia at No. 1 Miami.
Okay UVa, you haven't held up your end of the bargain lately (going just 9-7 in April, 23-5 before that). So this being your last road games of the season, consider it your next chance to step up and play big. You ready this time? I know this may sound outlandish for me to even suggest this, but this COULD actually be a tougher test for the Canes offense than last week in Tallahassee. UVa has a better pitching staff and plays much better defense than the Noles do. We'll see.

7- No. 19 California at No. 5 Arizona State.
There are big red flags for both teams here. First, for the Bears, two weeks ago I saw Friday ace Tyson Ross get absolutely rocked at USC and last week, though better, still had some trouble with Washington (gave up seven hits, five runs in 7.0 innings but got the win to improve to 6-1). For ASU, I just wonder if the arms are running out of gas. Seven of the last ten games, the Devs have allowed the opponents to score in double digits.

CalTysonRoss.jpg
(The easy motion of Tyson Ross will need to be effective to do in the Sun Devils)

8- Nachitoches, La., San Marcos, Tx. and San Antonio.
There are six teams with winning records in the Southland Conference and they all face off against each other, making this Separation Weekend in the SLC:
Texas-Arlington (10-8) at Northwestern State (12-5)
Lamar (12-6) at Texas State (13-5)
Sam Houston (12-6) at Texas-San Antonio (14-4)

9- Monmouth at Central Connecticut State.
For all intents and purposes, this series will probably decide the Northeast Conference, especially if the Hawks (11-1 in NEC play) win out or takes three of four from the 2nd place Devils (9-3). Monmouth has far and away the best RPI at No. 106. The next closest in the NEC is Wagner at 242.

10- TCU at San Diego State
It's 1 vs. 3 in the Mountain West at Tony Gwynn Stadium. The two teams are separated by just one game in the standings (TCU is 11-4, SDSU is 10-5). Too bad traffic is such a pain that I'm not able to get down for the Friday matchup and see if Stephen Strausberg can earn his third straight Pitcher of the Week award. Could this actually be the year that Tony Gwynn's charges break through and make the Big Dance? This will be a huge weekend to decide that.

And two to grow on...
- Ohio at Kent State
- Eastern Michigan at Northern Illinois.
The top two teams in the East and West divisions of the MAC square off this weekend in Kent and DeKalb respectively. Keep in mind that the winner of the MAC will host the post-season tournament, so this is a big weekend for all.


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BEST PITCHING MATCHUP TO WATCH---
TCU's Tyler Lockwood vs. SDSU's Stephen Strausburg.
You can bet the mortgage that this will be a sub-3 hour game (well, with the mortgage crisis in America, nevermind, but you get the spirit of the comment.). In fact, I'm betting on something like two and a half hours or so. Tops. Lockwood (4-0, 1.87) has a pair of complete games and just eight walks in 60 innings. So he obviously doesn't pussyfoot around on the hill. The Air Force game I saw him throw at Lupton Stadium was a brisk two hour masterpiece. No muss. No fuss. But Strausburg is even better, throwing 86 strikeouts to just eight walks in just 57 innings.

TCUtyLockwood.jpg
(Tyler Lockwood's quick approach guarantees a quick game)


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FIVE CHANGES I'D MAKE TO COLLEGE BASEBALL---
"Not tomorrow. Not after breakfast. Now!"
(Five bucks to who can place that quote. Friends, family members and administrators of CSTV and CBS College Sports are ineligible)

1- No reclassification period.
When teams jump up to Division I, they are required to go through a four-year (or is it five-year?... no matter) period where they are not allowed to play in the post-season. My question... Why? And give me a GOOD reason. Not any of this, "Well it takes four years for the paper work to go through." Just to show you how crappy this rule is, four of the top five teams in the Atlantic Sun are not eligible to play for a championship:

*Florida Gulf Coast, 19-5
Lipscomb, 15-9
*Kennesaw State, 12-9
*North Florida, 13-11
*USC Upstate, 13-11
(* indicates reclassifying team)

2- The Curfew Rule
As I found out this past weekend while at the Miami-Florida State series, this is a horrible, horrible fact of college baseball. I'm not against a Curfew rule. No prob. It's a must. But somebody in the administration of FSU/Miami/the ACC should've looked at it logically and moved the start time to 11:30am. Same goes with teams in the SEC. Simply MOVE THE START TIME. And don't give me any of this "it will conflict with church services" either. All those high-paid top brass administrators in all of these cases are mostly occupied by soulless people anyway.

3- Time Outs.
If a catcher calls time out and goes out to the mound, another time out immediately following should not be allowed to be called. In fact, i think you shouldn't be allowed to call another time out until the next batter is up. In other words, you can't do like Miami did when it appeared as though the Canes were trying to slow the game down for the curfew to take affect. But every team does it every game, especially to give their relievers a chance for more warm up pitches. I realize that.

4- Coaches handshakes.
Again, spurred by the near-brawl by Miami and FSU this past weekend. I don't care how much the coaches on opposing teams despise each other, they should be required to meet at home plate in post-game and set a good example for their impressionable young men and shake hands. (What are we, 10 year olds guys?)

5- If your stadium has three or four names in it, you don't deserve to host in the post-season.
Here's a couple of examples:
- Mississippi State: Dudy-Noble Field, Polk-Dement Stadium
(Just cut the crap and call it Polk Stadium. He's the hero in my book anyway.)
- Tennessee: Robert M. Lindsay Field at Lindsey Nelson Stadium
(Did they REALLY have to include two "Lind-zee" names in there?)
- Nebraska: Hawks Field at Haymarket Park
(I know Hawks is a contributor's name, but it sounds too much like a team's nickname and the Nebraska Hawks just doesn't have a ring to it)
- East Carolina: Lewis Field inside Clark-LeClair Stadium
("Inside"? C'mon. A stadium that nice should have a single name. Make it LeClair.)
- Oregon State: Goss Stadium at Coleman Field.
(As the above examples show, it's usually a field AT a stadium. OSU's is the opposite.)
And the worst of all...
Arizona State: Winkles Field at Packard Stadium at Brock Ballpark.

Just stop it people.


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THE UPSET KINGS---
These are the lovable losers that are also the biggest upset pullers of the 2008 season so far. (Is "upset pullers" a correct term?)

- Northern Colorado
Record: 14-25
Notable wins: At Texas A&M (2), at Arizona State, Florida International.
How do victories like this even happen? It could be argued that the Bears have pulled off the biggest upsets in many years. At least they've pulled off the most notable Ws, including handing the Sun Devils their only loss 29 games into the season. At first, the two wins in College Station kept me from giving any props to the Aggies, but they've rebounded and look very impressive now at 33-7.

- UC Riverside
Record: 11-24, 5-4 in Big West
Notable wins: At Cal State Fullerton, at Long Beach State (2), at UC Irvine (2)
Do you think the people in the Big West are tired of getting beat by UCR, last year's regular season champion? Somehow, the Highlanders can pull off these beauties, but lose to just about anybody else on a given day as well. Must be the youth in them.

- Loyola Marymount
Record: 20-20, 5-7 in WCC play
Notable wins: Oregon State, San Diego State, San Diego, Cal, USC (2), Long Beach State, Pepperdine.
Look at those "name" teams. Playing the 4th toughest schedule in the country and with an RPI in the 50s, you almost can say that if the Lions would just get their record above the Mendoza Line, they'll be in the conversation for an at-large berth in the NCAAs. A WCC weekend against No. 12 San Diego is up next.

Washington State
Record: 20-18, 3-9 in Pac 10
Notable wins: at Oklahoma (3), Cal, Stanford, Arizona State
The Cougs are the bottom-feeders of the Pac 10, but have some good Ws here. But they just don't have the pitching depth to win many three-game weekends in conference play.


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GREATEST DUNKERS EVER---
Let's take a short side trip here.
CBS College Sports ran a feature the other night entitled "College Basketball's 10 Greatest Dunkers". Since I'm a huge hoops junkie too, I TiVo'd it and here is their list:
1- Darrell Griffith, Louisville, 1976-80
2- Clyde Drexler, Houston, 1979-83
3- Vince Carter, North Carolina, 1995-98
4- Dominique Wilkins, Georgia, 1979-81
5- Steve Francis, Maryland, 1998-99
6- Shaquille O'Neal, LSU, 1989-92
7- Michael Jordan, North Carolina, 1980-83
8- Darvin Ham, Texas Tech, 1992-96
9- Harold Minor, USC, 1988-91
10- Jerome Lane, Pittsburgh, 1985-88

I'll give the people who chose this list some credit, they got the No. 1 dunker right. Darrell "Dr. Dunkenstein" Griffith was pure artistry and athletic ability in the air. Just 6'4", but with an incredible 48" vertical leap. He was unGodly. Just imagine what he would've been like in today's up-and-down the court game? Yowza!

But three big problems:
1- During the show, unfortunately they didn't show Griffith's from-the-foul-line two-hand, rock-the-cradle, windmill dunk in the 1980 Regional final vs. LSU at the Houston Summit that even had LSU fans cheering.
2- They had a lot of "one shot Charlies" (as Clyde Drexler put it during the show)like Ham and Lane, who both happened to break backboards on their dunks. They weren't great dunkers, game-in, game-out.
3- Speaking of Ham's plexiglass-breaking dunk vs. UNC, they didn't show a clip of the dunk during the show, only the Sports Illustrated cover picture. What? A show on CBS College Sports couldn't show a clip from the NCAA tournament televised by CBS?

If you twist my arm, here's what my Top 5 would be (I would do 10, but I don't have the time to think about it that hard):
1- Darrell Griffith.
2- Vince Carter.
3- Dominique.
4- Bennie Anders, Houston, 1982-86
(Had waaaay more creativity than teammate Clyde Drexler, just not as publicized.)
5- Gary Springer, Iona, 1981-84
(Yeah, I know you don't know who he is, but his 42" vertical was astounding. The only reason I know him is because he nearly signed with LSU.)


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MORE ABOUT BAD UNIFORMS---
Remember these awful togs from the Houston Astros?

AstrosUnis.jpg

Well, looking through the Tulane media guide the other day, I forgot about these forgettable pieces of junk. Note the angled "Tulane" at the top of the uniform. Also note, despite this being a black and white picture, that the stripes on these unis would have been dark green, light green, light blue and white. Talk about your pieces of snot...

Tulane1983.jpg
(These rival those banana unis from Florida State as the worst in college baseball history)

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Okay people. That may be about all I've got for tonight. Hope you guys have a good college baseball weekend. Some decent matchups here and there, so check out a game near you. Tell 'em the big stitch-head sent you and you'll get in for half price.

More tomorrow.

G'night.

Comments

the quote is from the movie that won the academy award for "the best movie ever made", my favorite, The Shawshank Redemption, but the better line is "get busy livin, or get busy dying" words to live by (toungue planted firmly in cheek)

I GUESS YOU FORGOT ABOUT "TX AM" GETTING BOUNCED LAST TUESDAY BY RICE hOW CAN THEY HAVE A 12 GAME WIN STREAK?

"Not tomorrow. Not after breakfast. Now"

Norton in the Shawshank redemption. I am assigning my prize to my son. You may mail it to Andrew Doyle-RHP OU C/o Baseball Operations, L. Dale Mitchell Park, 401 W Imhoff, Norman, OK 73019

T.J. and Peter,

You guys are right. That quote was from the brilliant Shawshank Redemption. I'll be sending your five bucks. I'll ask the lady "Can you add this to your outgoing mail?" just like Andy Dufresne.

And David,

A&M has won 12 straight conference games. Rice is in Conference USA. AND QUIT YELLING AT ME IN ALL CAPS. (Although I have always loved Los Lobos' song "Rosalie". It's a beauty.)

cheers stitch-heads.

E.

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Eric Sorenson Eric Sorenson
Eric Sorenson is CSTV.com's National Baseball Columnist, and also appears on CSTV as a baseball expert