The Washington State baseball team missed a golden opportunity last weekend to bolster its NCAA tournament resume when the Cougars dropped two out of three to No. 16 UCLA, including a game in which they held a two-run lead heading into the ninth inning.
That series loss seems to have put the Cougs on the wrong side of the bubble. Various sites that traffic in baseball “bracketology” have dropped WSU out of their projections of the 64-team field, including College Sports Madness, DRatings.com, and Baseball America. I have no idea how reliable any of these sites are, but — a week ago — two of them had the Cougs in; now they all have the Cougs out. For what it’s worth, DRatings.com has WSU in its “first four out,” while Baseball America does not have them among the first or second four out.
Which brings us to what kind of work the Cougs likely have to do over the season’s final three weeks to return to the postseason for the first time since 2010.
We say “likely” because, as we explored with the selection of the women’s basketball tournament, nobody really knows what it will take to get in — besides the fact it’s a moving target (one’s resume is relative to the resumes of teams competing for spots), it’s also a fact that the scrutiny of “bracketologists” for sports like baseball just isn’t on the same level as the cottage industry of men’s basketball. You’ll recall that the women’s basketball team was thought to be in an extremely precarious situation prior to tournament selection, and it turned out they were safely in the field.
But if WSU baseball wants to maximize its chance of making the tournament, they’re almost certainly going to need to pile up wins over these last nine games.
Over the final three weeks, WSU faces a pair of Pac-12 opponents: USC on the road (this weekend) and UW at home (on Memorial Day weekend). In between, WSU has “TBD” listed on its schedule, as the Cougs presumably are still working to fill that Pac-12 bye weekend.
USC presents a unique opportunity, in that the Trojans sit just below the Cougars in the Pac-12 standings. Their resume is a bit weaker than the Cougars’, but they’re also on the fringes of the bubble. A road sweep would go a long way toward distinguishing themselves from the Trojans, who sit at 99 in the RPI, while a series win also would obviously still help.
UW, meanwhile, sits in 11th place in the 11-team conference. (Colorado doesn’t play baseball, which is how every team ends up with a bye during Pac-12 play.) Anything less than a series win there is likely incredibly damaging, given the Huskies’ 177 RPI ranking.
And as for the series in between ... ? We can assume it probably won’t be a high-level opponent, so, again, series win is the target.
Ultimately, a 7-2 finish — especially if it includes 5-1 against USC/UW, which would give the Cougars a .500 record in the Pac-12 — probably will give WSU a strong case for inclusion in the tournament.
PAC-12 HIRES A NEW COMMISH
In case you missed that ...
George Kliavkoff named new Pac-12 commissioner - CougCenter
The MGM sports entertainment executive has no experience with college sports, but media rights and building media outlets is in his wheelhouse.
Pac-12 hires MGM executive George Kliavkoff as commissioner - ESPN.com
George Kliavkoff, the president of entertainment and sports for MGM Resorts International, has been hired as the next commissioner of the Pac-12, the conference announced.
George Kliavkoff, MGM Resorts president, named new Pac-12 commissioner - The Athletic
George Kliavkoff, the president of entertainment and sports at MGM Resorts, will become the new Pac-12 commissioner this summer when Larry Scott steps down, the conference announced Thursday.
Jim Moore: WSU great Mike Walker hellbent to walk at hall induction
MIKE WALKER IS going to walk onto the stage at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario, to be inducted into the Canadian Football League Hall of Fame.