NC State put together an absolutely essential six-game winning streak over the last week and a half, but that hasn't improved the Pack's NCAA tournament odds as much as we'd like. Four of the wins came against the likes of Longwood (RPI 179) and Campbell (RPI 91), making them not particularly useful from a résumé standpoint.
But it's a step in the right direction for a team that left itself with a lot of work to do. In the latest tournament projection from Jim Shonerd of Baseball America, State is not in the field, nor is it among the first four at-large teams left out. I was curious how NC State stacks up with Shonerd's last four in and first four out, so let's have a look-see.
|Bubblin'||Overall W-L Record (Conf. Record)||Place In Conf.||RPI||SOS||W-L vs. RPI top 50||W-L vs. RPI top 100|
|Notre Dame||30-18 (12-12)||T-5th||48||52||4-10||12-17|
|NC State||27-18 (11-12)||7th||52||55||7-12||11-14|
Last 4 in: UVA, Memphis, Maryland, Notre Dame
First 4 out: Liberty, Tulane, UCF, Nebraska
(All stats from WarrenNolan.com)
Virginia's body of work is like the textbook example of the quagmire of contradictions you get at the tail end of the field, whether that's in basketball or baseball. The Wahoos have a strong RPI, and they've done well against quality opponents overall, with wins over Florida State and Miami to strengthen their case. They have a winning record on the road. But they're also in 11th danged place in the ACC at 10-14, and they've won only three series in league play--one of them was against Pittsburgh, the league's worst team.
Crucially, it seems, UVA swept Notre Dame in South Bend, and its series win at home over Miami seems to be carrying a lot of weight. The Cavs have also swept a series from ECU and beaten Liberty. I mean, what the heck do you do with this team? Probly put 'em right about where they are in Shonerd's projection, I reckon.
Elsewhere, there are some glaring shortcomings in the quality win category--Notre Dame is only 4-10 against the top 50, which is nearly a deal-breaker. Nebraska has only two top-50 wins but has performed well against college baseball's chewy center, putting it on the plus side of .500 against top-100 foes.
As for NC State, well, the good news is that there isn't a huge difference between these teams and the Pack when looking at the overall picture. There are a few things working against State at this point: for one, State's been a horror show away from the Doak. Just 5-12 on the road. Most of the teams in the above table have winning records away from home.
NC State also does not have a marquee series victory. Prior to taking two of three from UVA a couple weekends back, State had not won a series against an ACC team with a serious shot at the NCAAs. The Pack's other conference series wins were against Pitt and Clemson. Fortunately, NCSU closes out the regular season with a three-game set against Louisville in Raleigh, so the Pack can alter the accounting significantly in this area.
Lastly, State's non-conference schedule is of no particular use, one way or the other. This is not entirely State's fault--weather cost the team games against Wilmington (RPI 30), Iowa (RPI 25), and ECU (RPI 45). (The weather gods really didn't want State/Wilmington to happen; the originally scheduled game in mid-February was postponed and rescheduled for early April, and that game was promptly rained out.)
With those games washed, wins over Florida Atlantic (RPI 8) and ECU are all State has for support here. Worse, State has to face four OOC losses to teams outside the RPI top 100, including an ugly one to Albany (RPI 251).
Bottom line: NC State has a lot of work to do, but it can sharpen its selling points and push above .500 in the ACC over the next two weekends.There is a lot for the taking, which is great, but no doubt this team has for the second consecutive season put itself in a really tough spot.