Most seasons, the baseball power rankings (RPI) hate Wichita State. The Shockers are used to being the team with a lot of wins and a weak RPI.
The situation is reversed this season. After years of getting hammered by the RPI, it is hard to blame WSU pitching coach Brent Kemnitz for arguing the Shockers are due for some help.
“We went out and did all the things we were told to do,” Kemnitz said. “We got key wins. The Valley’s the best it’s been. We have a good RPI. I think we should be in.”
The WSU profile is more like a middle-of-the-road team from a power conference than a top team in a lesser conference. WSU is 35-25 and it finished third in the Missouri Valley Conference. Its RPI ranking of No. 44, entering the weekend, and its strength of schedule ranking No. 40 puts the Shockers in a group that often earns NCAA at-large bids. The MVC is ranked No. 6 nationally.
In 2010, WSU went 41-19 and shared the Missouri Valley Conference title. Its RPI ranked No. 63 and it stayed home. Last season, WSU went 39-26, finished second in the MVC and second in the conference tournament. An RPI ranked No. 73 doomed post-season chances.
For two seasons, the RPI went against WSU. It appears to work for the Shockers this season, although it is impossible to know how significantly.
“We’re the team that we hated the last two years,” Kemnitz said. “We need to be that team that gets in and they’re looking at us and saying ‘I hate Wichita State.’ That was us in 2010 and 2011.”
The Shockers didn’t help their case with an uninspiring 0-2 performance last week in the MVC Tournament. On Wednesday, after a 7-0 loss to Missouri State, nobody wanted to talk about at-large chances. After a few days, the big picture began to emerge.
No. 47 College of Charleston went 0-2 in the Southern Conference. No. 48 Texas went 0-2 in the Big 12. No. 42 Louisville went 1-2 in the Big East.
Some conference tournament results will help WSU. Some will hurt, if teams with better resumes are upset and hand automatic bids to weaker teams. The MVC didn’t help itself last week with Creighton and Southern Illinois making it more difficult for WSU and Indiana State to grab one of the 34 at-large spots.
However, WSU’s resume is more than two losses at Hammons Field.
Kemnitz knows WSU missed a chance to make a stronger statement last week. He is also right to say WSU’s RPI is worthy of consideration. Last season, five teams with RPI ranked between Nos. 43-54 earned at-large bids. Three teams between 40-50 did not, all three with losing conference records in a power conference. Since 2007, 24 teams with RPI ranks between 40-54 made it. Five of those teams went winless in their conference tournaments.
The Shockers will practice today and get ready for Monday’s selection show (11 a.m., ESPNU).
“I know what we’re up against,” Kemnitz said. “I don’t know why everybody just rolls over and acts like it’s over.”
Athletic directors recommended that conference presidents discuss the matter during their meetings in June. Dallas Baptist, an independent, played seven MVC schools this season as part of a trial period set up to give both parties a chance to consider membership. Last fall, however, Dallas Baptist jumped at a chance to join the Western Athletic Conference, which offered immediate membership and better travel. This spring, Texas State, Texas-Arlington and Texas-San Antonio announced plans to leave the WAC after the 2012-13 school year, likely putting Dallas Baptist back on the market for a baseball home.
“We’re in favor of including Dallas Baptist,” Indiana State athletic director Ron Prettyman said. “They’ve proven their value with their high RPI.”
Dallas Baptist, which played in a super regional last season, is regarded as a lock for an at-large bid. Its RPI rank of No. 25 would be the highest in the MVC. The addition of a ninth team would also help scheduling by filling another weekend and giving every team four home and four road series.
“I think you try to add quality to the league,” Creighton athletic director Bruce Rasmussen said. “We’ve had this year 21 games against a top-25 RPI team, and that’s helped our league immensely. That’s been Dallas Baptist over the years.”