braden zarbnisky ok state

April 15, 2018; Braden Zarbnisky pitches against Oklahoma State.

West Virginia’s RPI certainly looks good, but there is still a lot of work to be done if it wants to make a second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.

It does rank No. 30 in the RPI, which would assuredly put it in the NCAA Tournament based on sheer numbers. Sixty-four teams make it to the penultimate baseball tournament in college baseball, and being at No. 30 puts you in the upper-echelon of those 64 teams.

Yet there is still more the Mountaineers need to do. That is a number it works in their favor, but the overall resume still needs a few kinks.

First, WVU is only 16-76 this season, putting it just below .500 for the season. If you look at how sub-.500 teams have fared in terms of making the NCAA Tournament, the odds are not in their favor. And that would be the case for WVU if it would finish with a .500 record or below.

Only four of last year’s 64 NCAA Tournament teams had records below .500, and all four were No. 4 seeds in their regions. The No. 4 seed is the lowest seeding a program can get in any given region to begin the postseason (there are 16 regionals with four teams each).

All four of those teams — Holy Cross (24-29), Radford (27-32), Texas Southern

(27-32) and UMBC (23-25) — came from lower-tier conferences that pale in comparison to that of the Big 12 (WVU’s conference), SEC, Pac-12, ACC and Big Ten. All four needed to win their smaller conferences tournaments to earn their spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Another mark against WVU is its 2-7 mark in Big 12 play. That puts it in last place. It is difficult to make the NCAA Tournament if you can’t get anywhere near a .500 record in the conference or finish in the top half of the standings or, at least, close to the top half of the standings.

What could work as a plus for WVU is that seven of the Big 12’s nine teams qualified for the NCAA Tournament last year. The No. 7 and No. 9 teams did not. No. 8 Oklahoma State likely would not have if not for its incredible 4-0 stretch in the Big 12 Tournament to win the conference and make its way into the 64-team field.

The Big 12 is the No. 2 RPI conference in all of college baseball. No. 1 is the SEC, which has five teams in the top 10 of the RPI rankings. Being such a highly-rated conference like the Big 12 can certainly help WVU’s case as winning in the conference is a daunting task.

It is clear that playing in the Big 12 has made WVU’s schedule the toughest in the country. Entering the weekend it was the third-toughest, which jumped to No. 1 after playing a three-game weekend series against first place Oklahoma State.

There is not quite a schedule like WVU’s, and it is not only because it is a member of the Big 12. Its first 15 games were on the road due to playing in a colder climate and the weather not being right to host games in February, compiling a 7-8 record during that span. Most teams — besides the bluebloods of the sport — would accumulate a similar record or worse. WVU’s home opener was not until March 16 against Canisius.

RPI is a big thing, and WVU definitely has that. Being at No. 27 even though theoverall and Big 12 records are not significant is big.

And WVU is in the midst of a successful stretch, which should likely continue due to the fact that 12 of its final 20 games are at home.

But there are still tough series remaining, and WVU does not have a marquee series win besides the one against UNLV, whose offense is among the best nationally and has helped it to a 26-12 record and No. 49 RPI ranking. It did take one of three on the road at Texas Tech, who ranks sixth nationally in the regular D1Baseball.com rankings and No. 3 in the RPI, but it was unable to take the series.

If it can win a majority of its final games and win a few of its remaining conference series against Kansas State, Baylor, TCU and Baylor, then there is no reason this program will not find its way into the NCAA Tournament for a second straight season. The RPI ranking is already there.

There is still a lot more that can be done, and both the overall and Big 12 records will need to improve to help it solidify a spot in the coveted postseason.

Chris Jackson is from Livermore, CA, and is a junior majoring in Journalism. Chris previously interned at NBC Sports Bay Area. Chris has covered Baseball, Football, Men’s Basketball and Men’s Soccer during his time at The Daily Athenaeum.