The Mississippi State baseball team headed into the Southeastern Conference tournament with a top-eight national seed all but assured after a road sweep of Alabama the prior weekend.
Two days later, the Bulldogs were headed back home from Hoover with a lot more hanging in the balance.
After run-rule losses to No. 6 seed Florida and No. 2 seed Tennessee, Mississippi State left the Hoover Metropolitan Complex hoping rather than knowing they’d have the inside track to hosting NCAA super regionals at Dudy Noble Field.
“I think it’s a concern,” coach Chris Lemonis said after Thursday’s 12-2 loss to the Volunteers. “Our résumé was really good coming in, and I think somebody would have to do something pretty amazing to go over us, but it’s always a concern. You’re trying to build your résumé every day, and we came in with a really good one, and we played just two tough games the last two days.”
Now, the Bulldogs have one more day to wait before they find out their NCAA tournament fate. The field will be released at 11 a.m. Monday on ESPN2, and if Mississippi State is among the top eight, the Bulldogs will host in super regionals — provided they come out on top in their own regional.
In 2019, the last time the NCAA tournament was held, 12 of 16 regional hosts advanced to super regionals, while Michigan, Florida State, Auburn and Duke pulled upsets. In supers, five of the eight higher seeds advanced to the College World Series, including Mississippi State with its sweep of Stanford at Dudy Noble.
Two years later, the Bulldogs might draw the Cardinal in the super regionals again — though whether that matchup would be in Palo Alto or Starkville is yet to be determined. D1Baseball.com’s Saturday morning tournament field projection had the Bulldogs as the No. 9 seed with Stanford just ahead at No. 8, meaning the Pac-12’s second-place team would host the Bulldogs if both teams advance. But Baseball America’s projection had Mississippi State as the No. 8 seed, setting up a potential matchup with No. 9 Texas Tech in Starkville.
It’s not just the Raiders and Cardinal who will be competing with the Bulldogs for the final national seed. TCU and Notre Dame are neck and neck with Mississippi State, while Arizona could fall or Ole Miss climb to muddy things up when the field is announced.
Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Texas and Tennessee appear to be virtual locks for top-eight seeds, but Monday’s selection show could shake out a number of different ways.
Here’s a look at how Mississippi State and six teams comparable to the Bulldogs stack up in several of the important NCAA metrics: overall record, RPI, strength of schedule and record over the last 15 games. (Note: all statistics are accurate through 8 p.m. Saturday.)
Mississippi State (40-15, 20-10 SEC)
Baseball America projection: No. 8 seed
D1Baseball projection: No. 9 seed
RPI: No. 7
SOS: No. 15
Last 15 games: 10-5
The Bulldogs are finishing off a May full of ups and downs. After sweeping Texas A&M and winning two out of three at South Carolina, Mississippi State lost two out of three to Missouri before sweeping the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. Then the Bulldogs laid a pair of eggs in Hoover against the Gators and Vols, hurting their national seed case.
Arizona (39-15, 21-9 Pac-12)
BA: No. 4
D1Baseball: No. 4
RPI: No. 8
SOS: No. 23
Last 15: 11-4
The Wildcats were closing the season hot, sweeping Washington and taking two out of three from Oregon State. But an unsightly home loss to Dixie State out of the Western Athletic Conference (RPI No. 223) on Friday could hurt the Pac-12 champs’ seeding, though it’s probably unlikely to cost them a top-eight berth outright.
TCU (39-17, 17-7 Big 12)
BA: No. 6
D1Baseball: No. 7
RPI: No. 6
SOS: No. 7
Last 15: 8-7
The Horned Frogs hurt their case with a 5-2 loss to Kansas State early Saturday at the Big 12 tournament, but TCU came back to run-rule the Wildcats 17-7 later in the day to eliminate K-State. The Horned Frogs were the only team to beat Mississippi State at the State Farm College Baseball Showdown in Arlington, Texas, to open the 2021 season. TCU beat the Bulldogs 3-2 on Feb. 21 at Globe Life Field.
Stanford (33-14, 17-10 Pac-12)
BA: No. 10
D1Baseball: No. 8
RPI: No. 14
SOS: No. 33
Last 15: 9-6
The Cardinal helped out the Bulldogs on Saturday with a 9-1 loss to Oregon State. Still, Stanford swept the series from the Beavers to end the regular season in third place in the Pac-12 behind Arizona and Oregon. Stanford took two of three from both the Wildcats and Ducks and has lost only one Pac-12 series all year.
Texas Tech (36-15, 14-10 Big 12)
BA: No. 9
D1Baseball: No. 10
RPI: No. 9
SOS: No. 14
Last 15: 9-6
The Raiders made an early exit from the Big 12 tournament, losing to TCU and Kansas State on Friday following a first-round win over Baylor on Wednesday. Texas Tech won its final three regular-season Big 12 series after dropping two of three to the Bears. But Mississippi State owns a head-to-head win over the Raiders with an 11-5 win Feb. 22 in Arlington.
Notre Dame (30-11, 25-10 ACC)
BA: No. 7
D1Baseball: No. 6
RPI: No. 11
SOS: No. 37
Last 15: 11-4
The Fighting Irish closed out the ACC season strong until they suffered a 14-1 loss to Virginia in the conference tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina. A week after a series loss to Florida State, Notre Dame rebounded by sweeping Virginia Tech and beating the Hokies again in Charlotte. The Irish won back-to-back series from then-ranked conference opponents Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech after splitting a pair with Louisville.
Ole Miss (41-19, 18-12 SEC)
BA: No. 11
D1Baseball: No. 12
RPI: No. 13
SOS: No. 6
Last 15: 9-6
The Rebels reached the semifinals of the SEC tournament, bowing out Saturday with a 3-2 loss to consensus No. 1 Arkansas in Hoover. Ole Miss picked up wins over Auburn, Georgia and Vanderbilt, losing its first meeting with the Commodores but eliminating them Friday. Mississippi State, of course, took two of three from the Rebels in mid-April in Starkville.
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.