Does Tech deserve to be in NCAA baseball tournament?

 

Georgia Tech freshman Kel Johnson's four home runs lead the ACC. (GT Athletics/Danny Karnik)

Georgia Tech will learn Monday if its season will be extended into the NCAA tournament. (GT Athletics/Danny Karnik)

The Georgia Tech baseball team’s abysmal finish doesn’t lend much weight to the Yellow Jackets’ candidacy for an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament.

The Jackets (32-23) are on a five-game losing streak and, quite alarmingly, have lost the games by a combined 59-5. It wasn’t against a string of patsies – one to Georgia, three to Miami (a consensus top-10 team) and one to Virginia in the play-in game of the ACC tournament – but 59-5 has a way of catching your attention.

Boyd Nation, the author of the Boyd’s World blog which tracks baseball RPI, estimated Tech’s chances at 30 percent.

“Tech should be sweating bullets at this point,” he wrote in an e-mail following the Jackets’ 11-0 loss to Virginia on Tuesday.

However, some of the Jackets’ metrics make a compelling case for their inclusion in the field. It would be Tech’s 31st overall, 29th in the past 31 seasons and eighth in a row. In an article posted last week, Baseball America compiled averages for power conference bubble teams that received at-large bids over the past five seasons. (Its definition of bubble team is in the article.) In some ways, Tech compares favorably.

 

Category GT Average
RPI 34 36.7
SOS 12 36.7
Non-conf. SOS 60 118.4
Conf. wins 13 15.3
Road wins 9 9.7
Top-50 wins 6 11.2
Top-100 wins 18 18.2

Negatives
Tech falls short in conference wins – 13/15.3 – and particularly in top-50 wins – 6/11.2. The first can be explained by the unusual balance and depth of the ACC this season. Eight of the 14 teams were between 17-14 and 13-17. Further, Tech had the unfortunate lot to play the conference’s two best teams – Miami and Louisville – on the road, one of just two teams in that situation (FSU was the other). The Hurricanes and Cardinals were a combined 55-10 at home, including 6-0 against the Jackets.

Whatever the explanation, though, Tech’s league record tied for ninth and its winning percentage was .433 (13-17). Of the 35 bubble teams measured, only four got in with conference winning percentages below .455.

The top-50 wins is tougher to get around. Overall, the Jackets were 6-13 against top-50 teams, although 13 of the 19 games were against teams in the top 22.

Positives

Strength of schedule (12/36.7) and RPI (34/36.7) lean in the Jackets’ favor. Of the 11 bubble teams that were inside the top 20 in strength of schedule, eight received bids.

While getting handled by the top 20, Tech did beat take series from two strong teams at home (Notre Dame, Clemson and Virginia) and handled itself O.K. on the road, taking series from top-70 teams Duke and Virginia Tech.

The league record isn’t great, but the Jackets played a tough schedule and were competitive in arguably the strongest conference in the country. Another interesting stat: Tech had 10 winning weekends out of 14, tied for second most in the ACC behind Louisville.

What may also help Tech’s case is Kel Johnson, who missed 19 games (13 ACC games) with a sprained ankle in the middle of the season. Johnson was hitting .379 overall and .457 in ACC games at the time of the injury. When Johnson was out, Tech was 4-9 in ACC games. With him, the Jackets were 9-10. The committee could take that into consideration as a partial explanation for getting swept at Boston College (RPI: 80) and Louisville.

 

It’s going to be tight. Baseball America had Tech out in a bracket projection on Monday, prior to the play-in loss. If Tech is out, the Boston College sweep, having two games rained out (Georgia and Georgia State) and not making the tournament, where it would have had a chance to add to its resume, will have been costly.

The field will be announced Monday.


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