Fresh off an undefeated week in which it dominated the defending champions, swept a conference opponent, and became a consensus top 20 team in the nation, the Wake Forest Demon Deacon baseball team boasts a 28-10 (12-6 ACC) and is positioned as a legitimate threat to make a run at the College World Series in Omaha.
After a thrilling one-run win by Florida State over Clemson Monday night to secure the series victory, the ACC schedule is officially 60% of the way complete. While readers may be familiar with how the Diamond Deacs have fared so far this season (long story short: dominant offense, solid starting pitching, and a shut down closer), it can be difficult even in 2017 to keep up to date with not only the rest of the nation in college baseball but even the rest of the conference.
One of the major benefits of the ACC media deal with ESPN is the increased coverage of college baseball, as nearly every conference game is available on WatchESPN, but minus the occasional Saturday SEC game on ESPN2 or ESPNU, there simply is not much visibility on a larger scale for college baseball. So if you are one of those fans who has been to some home games, caught some on the computer at home, or is simply curious where the Deacs stack up at this point of the season, we’ve taken some time to break down the college baseball landscape with a particular focus on the ACC.
First things first, let’s take a look at the current ACC standings before exploring further:
As you probably garner from the table above, the ACC is indeed a little bit top heavy this season. While the conference boasts five teams in the top 10 of the RPI, only two other teams even crack the top 50, and it is not entirely evident that the ACC will assuredly send more than six teams to NCAA regional play this year.
How does the ACC Tournament Work?
For the first time, the ACC Tournament will include 12 teams, meaning only two will be excluded from the trip to Louisville for an opportunity to lock up an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The winners of each division will secure the top two spots and the remaining twelve teams will be sorted by winning percentage (regardless of division), with the bottom two teams heading into the offseason. If the season ended today, these teams would be Georgia Tech, at 4-14 in the ACC, and Boston College, at 3-15.
For Wake fans, the current standings are pleasant. Wake sits at fourth overall in the ACC, two games behind Clemson for the third spot, and two games in front of UVA who sits in fifth. The formatting of the ACC Tournament this year is a little bizarre, so hang with us, as the conference transitions from the pool play format that it employed over the past few seasons.
This year, for the first time, there will be four pods of three teams with each pod producing one winner to send to the semifinals. The pods are put together by seed:
Pod A: 1, 8, 12
Pod D: 4, 5, 9
Pod B: 2, 7, 11
Pod C: 3, 6, 10
Each pod will feature a game between each of the three teams, and the team with the best record after playing the other two teams will advance straight to the semifinals.
The winner of Pod A plays the winner of Pod D, while the winner of Pod B plays the winner of Pod C. It is likely, based on previous tiebreakers for pool play, that the best seeded team will win a three-way tie (if all teams go 1-1), however I was unable to find official tiebreakers on the ACC website.
Based on the format above, if the season ended right now Wake would be the 4 seed, along with Virginia in the 5 spot, and one of Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Duke, or Pittsburgh in the 9 spot (they are currently in a four way tie at 7-11 for 9th through 12th place and for the purposes of this article, I didn’t feel it was necessary to break all ties with 40% of the season left).
This is a fantastic result for the Deacs in a season where the top five teams are all in the top ten of the RPI and projected by most recent publications to host a regional. Later this week we will have an article up looking at the remaining ACC schedules for teams in the top half of the conference and see which teams we can expect to rise and fall from their current position over the remaining four series.
How does the NCAA Baseball Tournament Work?
At this point you might be asking, “host a regional, doesn’t the NCAA baseball tournament operate like the NCAA basketball tournament: on a neutral floor?” The answer to this is no. As you might recall from the Deacs’ advancing to the NCAAs last year (when Wake was sent to a region hosted by Texas A&M), the Tournament is broken down into three parts:
- The Sub-Regionals
- The Super Regionals
- The College World Series
The sub-regionals consists of sixteen groups of four teams. Each of the groups plays a double elimination tournament, where three of the four teams are knocked out and the winner of each sub-regional advances to the next round. Additionally, the top overall sixteen teams in the country get to host these sub-regionals, eight “national seeds” who receive a seeded number (1 through 8) along with eight other teams. The Deacs are currently slated as one of the “eight other teams” who have a good enough resume to host a sub-regional in Winston-Salem, but not a good enough one at this point in time to be one of the top eight teams in the nation.
Once the field has been whittled down to the final 16, each team squares off against another in a three game series with the winner advancing to Omaha. The eight national seeds are guaranteed to host their own three game series if they advance from the subregionals (barring any scheduling or construction issues that might arise). However, if you are not a national seed and you host a sub-regional, you will likely host the Super Regional matchup if the national seed you are paired with is upset in their own sub-regional. In other words, if Wake hosts a regional and advances and, hypothetically, the region paired with the Deacs is 6th seeded Florida and the Gators get upset - the Deacs are two wins at home away from going to Omaha.
If this was too lengthy an explanation of the NCAA Tournament, I apologize, but wanted to give an overview of the selection process for those out there who don’t follow college baseball, or forget how the system works from year to year.
The bottom line is that at 28-10 overall, the Deacs are currently positioned very well to host an NCAA sub-regional for the first time in 15 years - in what would assuredly be a massive boost to the program under manager Tom Walter.
Wake is closer overall to potentially securing a coveted national seed than being excluded from this year’s NCAA’s. Last season the Deacs were selected as a three seed with 34 wins, meaning Wake likely only needs to win five to six more games to go dancing. This is extremely likely, especially as Wake has eight remaining games against teams outside the top 100 RPI. Wake is currently 14-2 against teams ranked 101st or higher in the RPI this year.
For those interested in following the college baseball scene a little more closely, I highly recommend D1 Baseball and Baseball America as great resources for both the avid fan and the casual follower. Similarly, each of these sites will have weekly updated NCAA projections as we inch closer to the end of the season.
Check back later this week for coverage of the Wake-Charlotte tilt Tuesday night, as well as an overview of the ACC regular season title chase, and a preview of a big series on the road against Clemson this weekend. And as always, go Deacs.