With strong finish, USF baseball could host NCAA regional
They will spend the final stretch of the season on the road, and on the bubble.
No, not that bubble. The No. 23 Bulls baseball team (38-10) appears a lock for its second NCAA Tournament berth in three seasons. Only an epic collapse the rest of May would prevent that.
The bubble of which we speak involves earning one of the tournament's 16 regional host sites.
An iffy prospect, but a prospect nonetheless. USF, which enters today's doubleheader at Connecticut atop the American Athletic Conference standings with a 12-6 mark, has a chance.
"At the end of the day, if USF wins either the regular season or conference tournament championship for the American (Athletic Conference), then unless some of the other teams they're competing against just kind of go crazy, I think they would be a host," ESPN college baseball analyst Mike Rooney said.
"I think if they don't win either of those two championships, I think they will not host."
In the latest round of national tourney projections, none -- not even the one Rooney compiles for Perfect Game -- tabs USF as a regional host. Baseball America projects the Bulls to play in a regional in Winston-Salem, N.C. d1baseball.com has USF playing as the No. 2 seed in the Gainesville Regional.
That would be the same Gainesville where USF held on for a 15-10 victory Tuesday at No. 5 Florida -- a win Rooney think resonates. There's also that February win at FSU, and a pair of sweeps in conference play.
"My gut (feeling) is that the win over Florida is really loud because of how Florida's been playing lately," Rooney said.
But some metrics indicate the Bulls are only on the fringe of host consideration. While their RPI currently stands at a solid 18; their schedule strength is ranked 131st according to boydsworld.com.
That ranking could be fortified with series wins this weekend at Connecticut (24-20, 10-8) and next weekend at UCF (34-15, 11-7).
Win four of those six, and there's a solid chance the AAC Tournament in Clearwater won't be the Bulls' last bay area appearance of 2017.
"Right now, the RPI and metrics are good," Kendall Rogers of d1baseball.com said. "And if USF finishes the regular season on a strong note and wins that (AAC) regular season title, it would have a very, very good case for a host spot."