May 10, 2013 11:03:03 AM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- The national college baseball analysts seem to agree about Mississippi State University's situation.
The consensus is the Bulldogs need four more Southeastern Conference victories to earn the right to play host to a NCAA Regional for the first time in a decade.
"The hosting picture seems to become more jumbled each week," Baseball America senior writer Aaron Fitt said. "Mississippi State and South Carolina are much stronger than most in the RPI (at No. 10 and 11, respectively), and both are above .500 in the stout SEC (13-11 and 13-10)."
Fitt's regional predictions have No. 21 MSU (36-13, 13-11) and No. 15 South Carolina (33-14, 13-10) as regional hosts, but he acknowledges the season-finale series between the programs could be a winner-take-all three-game set for the final host spot before conference tournaments begin the following week
"If both teams finish 3-3 to get to 16 wins in the SEC, to go with their robust RPIs, we think both could host regionals, giving the SEC five hosts," Fitt said.
A potential problem for MSU is it is one of seven league teams with 10-14 losses. Its inability to earn one of the SEC's top four seeds and a bye in the double-elimination league tournament could work against it as it attempts to earn its first regional host spot since 2003.
"The Bulldogs aren't in terrific shape because they still have a conference record of 13-11, which is good, but not blow away great," Perfect Game national college baseball writer Kendall Rodgers said. "State has two very difficult series remaining against Ole Miss and South Carolina, so stay tuned. For now, looking good, though."
MSU can counter its 13-11 SEC record with the toughest league schedule of all the 14 teams. The average RPI rank of MSU's league opponents is 26.5. According to WarrenNolan.com, MSU has played the nation's seventh-toughest schedule.
Fitt and Rodgers have MSU as a host to a NCAA Regional. They cite the Bulldogs are 18-13 this season against schools with RPIs of 100 or above. The 18 victories is the 13th most in the country this season.
MSU will travel to the University of Mississippi (33-16, 12-12) this weekend. While the Rebels likely won't earn a host spot after losing two of three last week to Auburn University, they would like to spoil the Bulldogs' chances by winning their first series in the rivalry since 2008.
On the day before the NCAA selection show and while the SEC tournament championship game is being played, the selection committee will announce the national seeds and the 16 host sites for regional play. The NCAA committee has two men -- University of South Alabama Athletics Director Joel Erdmann and Texas A&M University Athletics Director Eric Hyman -- who have seen their schools go a combined 4-0 against MSU.
"We've got our work cut out for us," MSU coach John Cohen said. "But the benefit of playing really good teams is if you can get wins, you can get RPI out of it. That's something that can help us when we get to postseason, but again, we're not there yet."
In the last 10 years of NCAA Regional host selections, the selection committee hasn't picked a school to be a host site with a sub-.500 conference record. The only team that was 500 in its league and earned the right to play host to a NCAA Regional was Texas A&M in 2007 (13-13 in Big 12 Conference). The Aggies won their league tournament in the final weekend.