Monday, May 13, 2013

Clemson's Biggest Obstacle to Hosting a Regional

Last Friday, we broke down where Clemson stood in the Regional line using a decade’s worth of data (story here). The gist – Clemson looked to be in good standing in terms of hosting a regional. Following a solid weekend of baseball against GSU, and their positioning only appears to be stronger.

But in discussing Clemson’s chances, another issue arose that was not fully investigated in the original breakdown: Conference Ranking

While Clemson sits 12th in the latest RPI ratings (boydsworld.com), they are just fifth in the ACC (four of the top 7 are ACC schools), meaning Clemson may be forced to watch four other ACC schools get picked before having their name called. And more pressing, would the NCAA be willing to hand out five passes to the ACC, when they only have 16 available?

To better understand the comings of goings of the NCAA (which feels a bit like riding a dart without feathers), we used the same 10 year period to see how the NCAA handed out regional bids. To our surprise, the results were better than expected, especially for the ACC.

Over the last 10 years, the ACC leads all conferences in total regional bids, and trails the SEC by 2 in the number of national seeds (tied over the last seven years). More importantly, a conference has received five or more bids four times, including the ACC accomplishing the feat in each of the last two years (the other two instances occurred in 2007 when the Big 12 had five teams selected and 2004 when the SEC had 6 teams selected). The total of the ACC’s two years shows the bids being split evenly between National Seeds and Regional Hosts. On the flip side, the ACC has never received fewer than 3 bids, and have four or more bids in each of the last five years.

Assuming the ACC is guaranteed four total regional slots, it looks like UNC and UVA would appear to be locks for two of them (and for national seeds). This leaves Clemson, Florida State, and NC State to battle over the guaranteed third and fourth regional bids, with all three schools hoping to garner a fifth.*

*Virginia Tech has been eliminated from discussion based upon their below 0.500 conference record

Currently, Clemson, Florida State, and NC State are separated by a single conference game, with an important game between NC State and Florida State tonight. This weekend, Clemson and Florida State will do battle in Tallahassee while NC State travels along I-40 to Duke. Seeing as Duke is a bottom feeder, the advantage goes to NC State. Further to NC State’s advantage is the fact that they have played one less game than Clemson or Florida State, which most likely would have been a loss against UNC (you’d think two schools less than 10 minutes apart would find an opportunity to play a make-up game – something about weather and road games in the Triangle area just doesn’t add up).

Odds are, Clemson won’t move past any of the other ACC schools in RPI or Total Wins, but does have a chance to pass NC State and Florida State in the conference standings. As such, Clemson needs to win the series against FSU and pull for Duke against NC State. Individually, one of the two needs may occur. Collectively, not likely.

The good news though, is Clemson can try to force the NCAA to issue a fifth regional to an ACC school by finishing the year strong. The bad news is even with a solid season, Clemson may be a victim of the conference’s success, and may serve their penance as the #1 seed in someone else's regional.

Check back later this week as we update Clemson’s numbers against the National Seed and Regional Hosts trends following the weekend sweep of Georgia Southern.

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