Jockeying for Position in the Sun Belt
There are three weekends left in Sun Belt Conference play and the scoreboard watching has begun. Teams are fighting for position in the SBC Tournament, to be held in Statesboro, GA beginning Tuesday, May 23.
Ten teams will qualify for the tournament. The top six seeds will avoid play on Tuesday. Seeds 7-10 will play a single elimination first round game on Tuesday, with the two survivors joining the double elimination bracket.
The top teams continue to vie for the regular season title, with five teams having a realistic shot at earning the top seed. In a season where Rating Percentage Index (RPI) numbers aren't great, that regular season title could mean something to the NCAA Selection Committee come selection time. Of course, the tournament champion gets an automatic bid.
Here are the teams, their conference records, and remaining conference games
UTA 16-5, RPI 94 Arkansas State (A), Coastal Carolina (H), Texas State (A)--The Mavericks got an impressive sweep over the weekend, but there's plenty of work to be done. Winning in Jonesboro is never easy, Coastal Carolina has proven to be one of the league's best teams and, although Texas State is reeling right now, it's a rivalry series.
SOUTH ALABAMA 15-6, RPI 43 Little Rock (H), Appalachian State (A), Troy (H)--While none of these series are sure sweeps, the schedule certainly bodes well for the Jaguars. Little Rock and Appalachian State are not locks to make it to Statesboro and they get Troy at home. The men of Troy are playing well and could give the Jags' trouble, but South has the most favorable schedule among the contenders.
COASTAL CAROLINA 13-7-1, RPI 64 ULM (A), UTA (A), Appalachian State (H)--That road series in Arlington will have a lot to say about who gets the #1 seed. The Chanticleers will be heavily favored in the other two series. Coastal absolutely needs to sweep those two series in order to have any chance to catch South Alabama in the east.
LOUISIANA 13-7-1 RPI 55: Georgia Southern (H), Texas State (H), ULM (A)--The Cajuns would lose the tiebreaker to CCU, unless the Chants get swept in Arlington. This weekend is big for the Cajuns. Louisiana will certainly be favored at home against Texas State and they've beaten ULM 19 straight times. They'll need to win...a lot...and get some help to finish first.
GEORGIA SOUTHERN 13-8, RPI 83 Louisiana (A), Arkansas State (H),Georgia St. (A) --The Eagles are playing some of the best baseball in the league right now and they'll put their streak of eleven straight road series wins on the line at Russo Park this weekend. Arkansas State will give them a battle and then comes a series against one of the league's worst teams on the road. Even if they go 8-1 in their last nine, it'll be tough to catch South Alabama, who owns the tiebreaker over the Eagles.
TROY 10-11, RPI 99-- Appalachian State (H), ULM (H), South Alabama (A)--The Trojans are starting to make a bit of a move, although they did lose the series to Coastal Carolina last weekend. That South Alabama series will be tough, especially in Mobile. Winning the six seed is very important (see above), and if the Trojans take care of their business at home, that series at South won't seem quite so daunting.
ARKANSAS STATE 10-11, RPI 186--UTA (H), Georgia Southern (A), Little Rock (H)--Tommy Raffo's club has a tough schedule the rest of the way, taking on the west leaders, then heading to Statesboro. Even Little Rock at home won't be a pushover. In the race for the six seed, Troy certainly has the schedule advantage. It's going to be difficult to avoid Tuesday for the Red Wolves.
TEXAS STATE 9-12 RPI 177: Georgia State (H), Louisiana (A), UTA (H)--Injuries and pitching woes have taken its toll on the Bobcats who are now officially in free fall, having lost eight straight. With the remaining schedule, they aren't a mortal lock to make the tournament. It would behoove them to take care of their business against Georgia State this weekend, because those final six will be tough.
APPALACHIAN STATE 7-14 RPI 164): Troy (A), South Alabama (H), Coastal Carolina (A)--Ouch! Appalachian State currently holds the tie breaker over Little Rock, but look at that remaining schedule. The Mountaineers have just a one game lead over Georgia State and ULM for the final spot in the tournament. They'll have to battle like crazy to get to Statesboro as the schedule is brutal the rest of the way.
LITTLE ROCK 7-14 RPI 220: South Alabama (A), Georgia State (H), Arkansas State (A)--Little Rock has been good enough to get some unexpected wins (at Georgia Southern Friday is a good example), but here they sit, just one game ahead of the bottom two. If they take care of their business against Georgia State, they should be okay, but those other games will be tough.
GEORGIA STATE 6-15 RPI 222: Texas State (A), Little Rock (A), Georgia Southern (H)--The Panthers are hanging around still hoping for a spot in the tournament. To get there they'll probably need a 3-3 split on the road (at the very least) the next two weekends because they can't count on beating Georgia Southern at home. It's not looking good for Georgia State unless App's remaining schedule proves to be too much for the Mountaineers..
ULM 6-15, RPI 235 Coastal Carolina (H), Troy (A), Louisiana (H)--That's just brutal. Even with six at home, there's no guarantee the Warhawks will win another league game. But with a couple of wins and lots of losses above them, there's still a mathematical, if not a realistic, shot at getting to Statesboro.
Three games separating first from fifth.
Four games separating sixth from twelfth.
Nine games left.