In a nice change from season's past, UCLA enters the last two weeks of the season with their spot in the postseason field secure. Even if the Bruins were to lose their final seven games, they would still play in the Regionals beginning on June 4th, which is remarkable considering that at this same point last season the speculation was that UCLA would need a 6-1 finish to qualify for the postseason. Even with their spot in a Regional secure, where in that postseason jumble the Bruins fall is still up in the air.
Before we take a look at what UCLA will be playing for in their final seven games and the possible postseason opponents, let's get the numbers that the selection committee will use in their determination of postseason placement.
- Record: 38-11 (13-8 in conference, 2nd place)
- RPI: 8th
- Road Record: 12-3
- Last 10 Record: 8-2
- Record vs. RPI Top 50: 9-9
- Bad Losses: None
One thing that is also pretty much in the bag is that the Bruins will be hosting a Regional as a number one seed. It would take one of two things for Jackie Robinson Stadium to not be the site of a Regional this June. One is the NCAA deeming the stadium not fit to host, something that should not be the case because UCLA has met all of the minimum requirements. The second is a collapse of epic proportions for the Bruins, something along the lines of a 0-7 finish. With neither of those things imminent, May 30th will likely mark the date that the NCAA announced UCLA as the host of the Los Angeles Regional with May 31st bringing the bracket announcement of which three teams join the Bruins.
The question becomes whether UCLA can bump up from a number one seed to a national seed, who joins them in their Regional and who they could match up with in the Super Regionals.
Who is also in the Los Angeles Regional with the Bruins is becoming clearer and clearer. In fact, it would take some kind of massive change or big surprise to change what most expect to be the two and three seeds in UCLA's Regional. The two seed appears as if it will be San Diego, the West Coast Conference champions with a strong pitching staff. Playing them in the Regional's first game will likely be UC Irvine, second-place finishers in a down Big West Conference who struggled to meet expectations all season. Who the fourth seed will be is unknown, as it could be a local team like Fresno St. (assuming they win the WAC Tournament) or it could be a team shipped out from the East Coast.
No matter how UCLA finishes the year, that Regional will likely stick, but it is a national seed that the Bruins are left to play for down the stretch. While there are 16 number one seeds in Regionals, only eight of those are national seeds and those national seeds cannot play another national seed until the College World Series, theoretically giving them an easier road to Omaha. Three national seeds are all but locked up with another nearly locked up, but that leaves four more in doubt, one of which can be UCLA's.
A RPI of eight is perfect for the Bruins if they are to earn a national seed and if Boyd's RPI Needs Report is correct, they will need to finish 5-2 to earn that RPI ranking. A second-place Pac-10 finish is also necessary for the Bruins to earn a national seed and their sweep last weekend over USC, they look destined for it with a two game lead over third place and only six games remaining. Coupled with no bad losses and a strong road record, it doesn't look like much will stop UCLA from getting a national seed. There is one thing holding them back though.
If the Bruins are to get the theoretically easier road to Omaha, they will need to improve their record versus the RPI top 50. A .500 record is not going to cut it. With all seven of their remaining games versus RPI top 50 teams UCLA will have the chance to improve that aspect of their resume. With Washington, a team UCLA swept, sitting at 56th in the RPI with a chance to move into the top 50, the Bruins can also get that record versus the RPI top 50 to go up by three wins without doing anything.
The question becomes whether or not UCLA really wants a national seed. The big advantage of a national seed is that you get your Super Regional at home, if you advance there. You also don't have to play a national seed in the Supers. The problem is that Super Regional match-ups are largely determined based on geography and it looks as if UCLA is bound for a Super Regional match-up with Cal St. Fullerton, a team that has had the Bruins' number and is playing as well as any team in the country down the stretch. With it highly unlikely that the selection committee awards the West Coast three national seeds (Arizona St. has one wrapped up), a UCLA national seed all but guarantee a visit from the Titans in the Supers. The Titans still find themselves on the national seed bubble, though, and very well could be left out of the national seed field so if the Bruins don't get a national seed, they can avoid the Titans and would instead be sent on the road to play a national seed in the Supers.
All of this is under the assumption that number one seeds advance from their Regionals, which we all know if no guarantee in any sport, let alone baseball. The questions remains, would UCLA rather be a national seed matched up with Fullerton at home in a Super Regional or not get one of those top eight seeds and go on the road to play in that round? There is no easy answer so maybe the best hope is that UCLA and Fullerton both win out and force the selection committee to do the unthinkable and give them both national seeds.
However the final week and a half of the season plays out, what we do know is that on Memorial Day, the selection committee will make the postseason field public and the Bruins will be looking at the most favorable road to Omaha that they have ever had in the Super Regional era. A home Regional with the chance at a home Super Regional is a nice play to sit.