FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — For three weeks now Arkansas has been projected as being on the outside looking in as a possible host for regional competition in the NCAA Baseball Tournament.
That has changed.
We used the same formula for a few weeks now and are sticking to it. Under it, the Razorbacks would play host come early June. That is, if the season ended right now.
It doesn’t, either today or for NCAA Tournament purposes this weekend. Arkansas travels to College Station, Texas, for a regular-season finale against Texas A&M on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. From there, the Diamond Hogs head for Hoover, Ala. The SEC Tournament starts May 23.
How Arkansas does over the next week to 12 days will determine whether it will be a regional host.
Note: we did make a minor tweak to the formula this week. Instead of putting the top eight and top 16 seeds in based strictly off Baseball America’s rankings, we used a composite of Baseball America, the USA Today/Coaches Poll and D1Baseball.com. Those three are generally seen as the most thorough. Besides, at this point of the season it’s best to pull from multiple sources.
But here it is.
2017 NCAA baseball tournament national seeds
- Oregon State (1)
- Louisville (2)
- North Carolina (3)
- Texas Tech (4)
- Florida (8)
- Texas Christian (5)
- Kentucky (9)
- LSU (15)
Next eight 2017 NCAA baseball regional hosts
- Long Beach State
- Mississippi State
- Cal State Fullerton
Breaking it down
The Razorbacks check in at No. 16 in the Baseball America and Coaches’ polls. They are 17th in the D1Baseball.com poll. All three, even taken individually, would be good enough to qualify as a host. Averaging them, along with the rankings of teams around the razorbacks, Arkansas’ composite spot is 15th. That’s one higher than any individual ranking.
So Arkansas is in position to be a regional host by one spot. But will the NCAA let five SEC teams be regional hosts? It’s not unprecedented. In fact, the SEC had five host teams in 2014 — South Carolina, Ole Miss, Florida, Vanderbilt and LSU.
Let’s say the Razorbacks will be a host. What’s the regional competition look like?
This is the most interesting by far. And not only because it’s the next best team in the foursome.
There is a bevy of geographically relevant potentials for the No. 2-seed. If you stretch out the rankings for the three sources above, you see a handful of teams as likely 2-seeds within easy travel distance of Fayetteville. The most notable are Oklahoma and Missouri State.
Now, Missouri State and Arkansas would be a dynamite show. If you even casually follow Arkansas baseball you’ll remember the story of the 2015 Super Regional. The Bears were supposed to be host but couldn’t because of a Double-A baseball game taking place at their stadium. The Super Regional was moved to Baum Stadium in Fayetteville, and the Razorbacks won it in three games to clinch a berth in the College World Series.
Animosity seemed to carry over in the teams’ regular-season game this season. Same for last season when they played.
However, the NCAA selection committee usually doesn’t place recent teams in locations they appeared in recent regionals. That would mean we’re less likely to see a Missouri State-Arkansas rematch.
Oklahoma is logical. Fayetteville is less than four hours drive from Norman, Okla. The Sooners are a high-quality team. And have you ever met a Sooners fan who liked the Razorbacks? They often openly dislike them, and that goes both ways.
OU makes all the sense in the world and it’s very possible, but….
The 3- and 4-seed
The final two teams are a bit more difficult to project. Oral Roberts makes the most sense. The Tulsa-based school has an even shorter trip than from Norman. But, again, recency. Oral Roberts and Arkansas played in 2015 Stillwater Regional.
The only other nearby options aren’t all that nearby: New Mexico State (Las Cruces is 13 hours) and McNeese State (Lake Charles, La., is nine hours).
Other schools are closer than New Mexico State, but other regional sites are closer than Fayetteville. Plus, McNeese State will almost certainly play at LSU or Mississippi State if either is a regional host. Even TCU would be closer.
The 3-seed choice then is Texas. Sure, Louisiana Tech is closer. But that excites no one. The Longhorns would have a shorter trip to both Fort Worth for TCU and Lubbock for Texas Tech. But schools can’t be in a regional with teams from their conference. Get Texas at Baum Stadium and can count on a packed house.
Mark it down.
- Missouri State
- Oral Roberts