For the first time since 2010, the Boston College Eagles are in the ACC Baseball Tournament. Starting tomorrow, 10 teams will whittle down to eight, then two pools will further trim to two by Sunday. On Monday afternoon at 12 PM, 64 teams will learn where and when they'll extend their season, while countless more will have to sit and wait.
Unlike previous seasons where the Eagles were on the outside looking in, they have a tremendous opportunity to make the NCAA Tournament in 2016. But in order to solidify their chances at the national tournament, we need to understand not only the ACC landscape but also the national landscape to determine how many at-large bids will be available.
Let's begin within what Boston College can control. Nearly every major publication now thinks the ACC is assured of 10 spots in the national tournament, which means every team that makes the conference tournament should make it. That would mean that just by making the conference tournament, the Eagles are locked into one of the 64 spots.
The team who is taking a beating this week will be North Carolina. Although the Tar Heels rank 16th in the national RPI rankings, they failed to make the conference tournament. It's entirely possible they still make the tournament because they fared so well in non-conference games, but the selection committee would have a hard time placing UNC into the field over any of the 10 teams that won games when they absolutely had to in the best conference in the country. Since the ACC is loaded this year and is the best RPI league, the Tar Heel wins helped boost the rest of the league - but wins within the league wind up counting more as a result.
Throughout the rest of the league, it would be very hard for the committee to leave out both BC and Duke if they lose in the first round. Wake Forest is a little bit different, and Georgia Tech fans and experts seem to think the Yellow Jackets need to win at least one game because of how poorly they finished the season. More than likely, the eighth place finish in the league gives BC some wielding power to get into the tournament.
BC should be a pretty enticing pick, especially against some of the other ACC teams. They won six of their 10 league series. Of the teams in the ACC Tournament, Boston College defeated more than half. They finished the season on a 13-5 tear, winning every weekend in league play after losing to Notre Dame.
In their losses, BC only took one real "bad" loss in the entire season - a blowout at the hands of Bryant which was a midweek game. Bryant is a 40-plus win team that is in the tournament, most likely as a #2 seed, regardless of what happens in their conference tournament. So even though the Eagles were blown out, it came at the hands of a statistically superior team.
It would be nice if the Eagles had another win or two, but we stand reason to believe that their resume is better right now than Georgia Tech or Wake Forest. But this is where the ACC Tournament comes into play; if Georgia Tech goes on a run that includes two or three wins, their resume will vault over the Eagles. That goes the same for Wake Forest. So that doesn't mean that the Eagles have a bad resume, but like we saw when Duke won two out of three from Florida State, it does mean that someone can pass them just by not playing.
The Other Guys
If there's a wild card to worry about, it comes in other conferences. There are a dozen or so mid-major leagues that should only get one team into the national tournament as long as that team wins the conference championship. These are leagues like the Northeast Conference, with Bryant, or the Atlantic-10 with VCU. This also extends to leagues like the Big South (Coastal Carolina) or the Missouri Valley Conference.
If these leagues don't have their favorite win their conference tournament, they might garner multiple bids. For example, Coastal Carolina is ranked #16 in the RPI with Bryant at #31. After a three-way tie for second place, High Point won the tiebreaker scenario to earn the favorable draw. If for some reason they're able to get on a run and win the league, Coastal will still bid to the tournament.
That goes the same for the NEC. Bryant ran away with the league championship and enters the postseason on a seven game winning streak. But since 2012, when Bryant joined the league and were ineligible for postseason play, the top seed in the tournament has only gone undefeated once (2014).
If there are teams that have to be concerned about those leagues, it's likely a team like North Carolina, who needs favorites to keep winning to thin the field of at-large bids, or Wake Forest, who is limping into the ACC Tournament as the last team in with five straight losses. But if enough of those teams win, BC could have to sleep with one eye open.
As of present, I can't think of a reason why the committee would deny the Eagles a chance at the tournament. If the committee is looking at conference wins among ACC teams, BC has six series victories, including wins over teams that will be hosting regionals. If they're looking at RPI, that could be a problem in comparison to a team like UNC, but it should be offset by the fact that the Eagles finished eighth in the conference.
That said, Tuesday goes a long way to either hurt or help their chances, and I think the Eagles are still on the bubble because of what will happen in other games. If Wake Forest and/or Georgia Tech win and go on a run that includes a win or two in pool play, other conference tournaments could be a disaster for the Eagles if the wrong team gets knocked out.
Ultimately, BC has a sterling resume, but this is far from over. As the sun dawns on Durham this week, this is a business trip with a lot riding on the line for everyone, including a team predicted at the beginning of the season to not have a shot at being here.