The ACC tournament went about as badly as possible -- naturally -- for N.C. State. Not only did a blown call on Trea Turner's attempted steal of home keep the tying run off the board as the Pack tried to play their way from the play-in game to the round-robin portion of the tournament, but also the tournament's surprise winner makes it less likely that State will secure an at-large bid.
In the NCAA's latest RPI rankings, released today, the Pack is 58th. Georgia Tech, which came from the play-in game to win the whole thing, is 35th. Had State made round robin play (and taken on RPI boosting opponents Virginia, #1, Florida State, #3, and Maryland, #24), and had the Jackets struggled or even lost in the play-in round against Wake Forest, the Pack might have leaped the bees in the selection committee's pecking order since they won the season series.
The other team State might have "caught" in the selection committee's eyes was Clemson, but the Tigers went 2-1 in the tournament and have a nine-place advantage over the Pack in RPI despite dropping the season series with their textile bowl rivals. Of course State also lost a chance at extending its tournament stay in the play-in game by losing to rival North Carolina, which sits at 41st in RPI, a five-point jump from a week ago. A Pack win in the play-in game could very well have pushed the Pack past the Heels. Instead, for State to go, either an ACC team with a better résumé gets snubbed or the committee will have to take eight conference teams.
So, who's in and who's out?
Well, four are written in stone, as the NCAA announced the regional hosts on Sunday and the list included Florida State, Miami, and Virginia. No surprises there. (Louisville, a team that will join the league next year, is also a regional host.) Georgia Tech, the lowest seed to ever win the tournament, is also a lock as it gained the ACC's automatic bid with its win over Maryland in the ACC championship game.
With an RPI of 24, the Terps are a lock for one of 33 at-large bids and a likely #2 seed. UNC (41st) and Clemson (49th) probably have little to sweat about but can't totally relax until they see their program listed on ESPNU.
That leaves the Pack as the league's lone bubble team. Duke had a surprisingly solid conference season (16-14) but suffers from a weak out-of-conference slate and failure to make a statement in the tournament, going 1-2. Still, the Blue Devils RPI (82nd) makes you wonder if the NCAA's computer has a virus. The Devils took two of three from the Pack, beat conference champion Tech in the tournament, swept UNC, and has wins over Florida State and Virginia. How is that not a tournament team?
An RPI top 50 ranking has typically been a lock for an at-large program from a major conference for March Madness, so one would assume that roughly the same is true for baseball. Despite a season of disappointment, the Pack had a shot to climb to that magic threshold with a strong showing in the tournament. Instead, they appear to be on the outside looking in.
We'll know for sure tomorrow at noon, as the remainder of the field will be unveiled on ESPNU's selection show.