RPI Rankings Big-12
Texas A&M (8)
Kansas State (34)
----NCAA line ----
Texas Tech (49)
---- Bubble line ----
Oklahoma State (67)
One measure of an team's success is if it makes the post-season NCAA tournament. Using this barometer after 38 games the Kansas' baseball season has clearly taken shape. The only way this year can end with a tournament bid is through four wins in Bricktown.
The Jayhawks realistically have no hope of making the NCAA tournament as an at-large selection. KU simply has lost too many games to quality opponents at this point to lower their RPI into the top 40. As in basketball, an RPI of 40 or lower normally will get a team invited to the NCAA tournament. Those teams currently above the first line on the above list are the ones who would probably make the tournament if it were selected today. Those teams with RPI's between 41 and 50 are on the bubble. OSU can still play their way into the tournament. Even if KU catches fire at this point and wins ten or eleven of their final Big-12 games I don't see them making the field.
Thus, KU only has one road left open for a bid into the big tournament; the Jayhawks must for the second year in a row win the Big-12 tournament and claim the automatic bid. If this is the path they plan on following then the first hurdle for them to clear is finishing as one of the top eight teams in the conference. Only the top eight teams are invited to the conference tournament. Tied for 9th place with Baylor, right now KU is on the outside looking in.
6-3 Oklahoma State
6-5 Texas A&M
5-6 Texas Tech
4-5 Kansas State
4-5 Oklahoma State
Here is a list of the records held by 8th place teams since the Big-12 shrunk to 10 teams:
2002 Texas A&M 13-14
2003 Kansas 9-18
2004 Nebraska 11-16
2005 Texas Tech 9-16
2006 Texas Tech 9-16
On average it takes 10.2 wins to make the tournament. Three of the five teams which finished with nine wins made the tournament. Nine wins is the bottom line, ten for security. KU has lost all three of its first four conference series two games to one. That trends to a final record of 9-18. Given the strength of the conference this year, I doubt a 9-18 record will make the grade. I think the Jayhawks need to set as their minimal goal 10 wins, and really not feel safe until they have achieved 11 victories.
This means they need to go at least 6-9 in their remaining Big-12 games, and hopefully 7-8. This is very doable.
Remaining Big-12 series.
April 13-15 - KU hosts Baylor (4-8)
April 20-22 - KU travels to Texas Tech (5-6)
April 27-29 - KU travels to Oklahoma (4-5)
May 4-6 - KU plays a home and home series with Kansas State (4-5)
May 18-20 - KU hosts Nebraska (5-7)
In 2007 KU has already played the best the conference has to offer. It is entirely possible that the Jayhawks can win the better part of these remaining fifteen games.
After maneuvering the team into one of the top eight spots in the conference, Coach Price faces a much tougher challenge. He must assemble a team that can win four games in four days against elite competition. The Jayhawks must end the month of May with four established starters capable of keeping the team in the game, and a middle relief corp at least two deep so Paul Smyth only need pitch the ninth inning of winning efforts. A good tournament run is almost certainly going to require at least three appearances from Smyth. He needs to be fresh on day four.
Over the next six weeks watch for Price to focus on developing this pitching core. Already the team is locked into three starters - Czyz, Ashwood and Marks. Baring injury these will be three of the four tournament starters. The #4 slot is open still. The middle relief jobs also remain open. So four of the seven core spots are settled, the next six weeks will determine who fills the other three.