There are now two weeks left in the regular season, and after Purdue lost a close series, but at least took one game, at UCLA, the Boilers are now in an excellent position to host an NCAA regional. In that regard, if Purdue is selected as a host we will know early if it has made its first tournament in 25 years. The hosting sites are announced a day or two before selection Monday (Memorial Day), so it is a way to find out the top 16 teams in the field early since each host makes the tournament.
As of right now, most projections have Purdue as a lock to host, so with seven games left, the Boilers would have to really fall apart to lose it. As long as Purdue goes likely at least 4-3 in these final seven it probably doesn't even need to win the Big Ten Tournament to lock down a hosting spot.
There is even a small chance Purdue can get a national seed depending on what the teams in front of us do. Here are the national seeds according to the three major projections:
Florida State, Baylor, Florida, Oregon, LSU, North Carolina, South Carolina, UCLA
Florida State, LSU, Baylor, Oregon, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, UCLA
Florida State, Baylor, LSU, Florida, Oregon, South Carolina, North Carolina, UCLA
As you can see, the UCLA series likely was a deal-breaker in terms of Purdue getting a national seed. It gave the committee something to differentiate between Purdue and UCLA. The good news is that all three services still have Purdue as a lock to host a regional. There is still a lot of baseball left to play that can shift a few things. Florida finishes next week at Auburn, which Purdue will want to keep an eye on. Florida is No. 1 in the RPI, and Purdue beat Auburn on its home field. Auburn is fighting to get in the field, too. If the Tigers can do us a favor and beat Florida two out of three it could really help out RPI.
LSU and South Carolina play against each other to finish the year too, so one team could slip out of the top eight there. North Carolina had a game at East Carolina cancelled last night, and East Carolina is one of Purdue's best wins at No. 22 in the RPI. That was a missed chance for our profile to improve. Oregon has a relatively light schedule down the stretch, so they could slip out of the top 8 if they struggle. They lead the Pac-12 at the moment, however, and the Pac-12 winner is definitely going to be a National seed. In fact, you can bet that the SEC and ACC will get at least two National seeds, as well as Baylor and the Pac-12 winner. That only leaves two spots, which the SEC, ACC, a second Pac-12 team, and Purdue are fighting for.
The biggest negative against Purdue the rest of the way is our incredibly weak finishing schedule before the Big Ten. The two wins this week actually dropped us from 10 to 13 in the RPI because Illinois-Chicago and IPFW are both well below 200 in the RPI. Michigan comes in at 218, Butler at 265, and Iowa at 219. If we win all seven we'll avoid a "bad loss', but it also will be 16 victories against 200 teams and we'll be 23-1 against sub-100 teams.
The good thing Purdue has right now is a total of 20 true road victories. Most of the good teams in the south don't even play 20 true road games. Purdue is now 20-6 in true road games, and if it sweeps Iowa it will finish with an astounding 23 true roads wins. In that regard, it is too bad that the 1.3 multiplier for true road wins in the RPI does not kick in until next year.
Many of our best wins have come away from home, too. Purdue won at East Carolina, at Missouri State, at Wichita State (twice), at Auburn, at Illinois State, and at UCLA as teams that could reach the NCAA Tournament. They also have home wins over Louisville and Michigan State (twice) as possible NCAA tournament teams.
As the season winds down, there are a few things we should cheer for:
- Michigan State - The Spartans are on the bubble as an at large team according to both baseball America and Perfect Game. ESPN has them in the field. Their RPI is decent at 44 and they have a very nice true road win over Baylor (who is 38-8 and undefeated in the Big 12). It helps Purdue if the Big Ten is a multiple bid league, and Michigan State is the only other team that can get an at large bid. They finish at home against Iowa and Penn State. We have a four game lead on them plus the tiebreaker, so as long as we take care of our business it does not matter what MSU does. We want them to keep winning and get into the field as an at large, as it improves out conference profiles and might push us just a little higher.
- East Carolina - The Pirates are 32-16 and have a very favorable finishing schedule. If they can win Conference USA, it is the No. 5 RPI conference, so that might push them into the hosting realm.
- Auburn - The Tigers are a bubble team, but with that finish against Florida they can help themselves as well as us with a good showing over the No. 1 RPI team.
- Illinois and Nebraska - The Big Ten is a little strange right now. If the season ended today, Purdue, Indiana, Michgian State, Minnesota, Penn State, and Ohio State would make the Big Ten Tournament. That leaves out Nebraska and Illinois as the No. 4 and 5 teams, respectively in the RPI. For our National seed possibilities we want the highest RPI teams possible in the Big Ten Tourney. Right now Indiana is No. 101 in the RPI, but they are in second place all alone in the Big Ten at 11-7. Ohio State is the off team this week at 11-10, so Nebraska (hosting Minnesota) and Illinois (at Penn State) can pass them since both are 9-9. They can also push Minnesota and Penn State down since they both have a +100 RPI. We also want last place Northwestern, who has been eliminated from the Big Ten Tournament, to do well against Indiana since our magic number to win the conference is three.
Finally, it looks more and more like Gary will be the site of any regional hosted by Purdue. The Steel Yard is available that weekend and officials there are excited to offer it. Coach Schreiber mentioned that Purdue wants to contact the Cubs to host a regional at Wrigley Field, which would be awesome beyond words. Chances of that happening seem small, but if the Big Ten could get behind that and give it some momentum, who knows what could happen.
In terms of a Super Regional, Wrigley would once again be available, but the Steel Yard would not be. I would say South Bend's Kovaleski Stadium (home of the Silverhawks) would be the most likely place to host. It is open that weekend and Purdue has toured it. A plan should be in place because, as a regional host, Purdue would host a Super Regional as long as they do not play a National seed in that round.