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American Press

Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Southwest Louisiana ,
McNeese State University's Joe Miller Ballpark. (Rick Hickman / American Press)

McNeese State University's Joe Miller Ballpark. (Rick Hickman / American Press)


Ignore polls and just play ball

Last Modified: Thursday, April 20, 2017 2:16 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

Not to rain on the Blue and Gold parade but …

No, no. This isn’t raining on anybody’s parade.

I will just tell you up front that national polls for college baseball tend to get even sillier than most other sports.

Certainly no other sport seems to have such a wide variety of polls to choose from.

There does seem to be something for everyone.

There are at least five of them — at least that I know of — which doesn’t account for a few others that are probably hatched in various garages by assorted baseball geeks.

If you don’t like the D1 Baseball take on the college baseball world, then scurry on over to Collegiate Baseball magazine. If Perfect Game shuns your school, then just pledge allegiance to Baseball America.

If all else fails, USA Today has a poll out there too.

There’s generally not a lot of bickering between them. The usual suspects pretty much show up in all five, and in fairly predictable order.

When covering LSU games I have just about given up trying to list the rankings of teams involved. There are just too many to choose from. To list them all would risk — to talk shop here for a moment — “burying the lede” under an avalanche of numbers.

Anyway, surely you heard that McNeese cracked the Collegiate Baseball magazine’s poll at No. 23.

It’s noteworthy because it’s a first in school history, which is something to be proud of. There weren’t always so many polls to choose from.

But if the polls really knew what they were talking about, it wouldn’t have taken until the middle of April and it wouldn’t have been just one of the myriad polls to choose from that is acknowledging what is becoming a historic season for the Cowboys.

But that’s not important now.

That’s not really important any time.

But least of all now.

McNeese coach Justin Hill downplayed this school-first by saying — ­wait for it — they don’t really mean anything.

He’s right.

But he also wasn’t really impressed with the Cowboys’ more impressive inclusion into rare air portion of the NCAA-sanctioned RPI — more formally, the Ratings Percentage Index.

There’s he wrong.

The RPI, a computer index that weighs heavily on wins and strength of schedule, means a lot more than any of the polls.

The polls can put you on the map.

The RPI can go a long way in putting you in the NCAA postseason.

And right this week McNeese stands at No. 14 in college baseball’s official RPI.

That’s three spots ahead of LSU (No. 17). That’s ahead of all of the SEC teams except Florida (No. 12) and Kentucky (No. 7).

That’s lapping the field of the Southland Conference, which otherwise has Southeastern Louisiana next at No. 56 and another free fall to Sam Houston at No. 90.

Computer logarithms got a bad rap during football’s BCS era.

But they don’t know or care who your daddy is, or what your conference is or what your history was before the current season.

Just the facts, ma’am. Cold, hard numbers.

For instance, in that Collegiate Baseball poll, there are seven SEC teams ranked ahead of McNeese.

There’s something to be said for both, you suppose.

But the RPI probably carries more weight where it will eventually matter — when the NCAA tournament selection committee convenes to set the 64-team field.

If they went strictly by the RPI — they don’t — right now McNeese would be one of the 16 hosts for an NCAA regional.

That’s probably a long shot. And you do need a human element to the selections.

But one thing the Cowboys can do if they keep stockpiling victories is take the guess work out of their postseason possibilities.

The Southland Conference long ago proved it can be (at least) a two-bid league.

Stay in this RPI neighborhood and the Cowboys can treat the SLC tournament (and it’s automatic NCAA bid) like the spring break they missed while playing ball.

The next two weeks are crucial.

The Cowboys were 26-9 heading into Tuesday night’s game at Louisiana Tech. It was the first of eight consecutive road games.

McNeese is 18-1 at home, 8-8 on the road.

Of course, four of the road losses were at Arizona, which is No. 2 in that national RPI and is one of only three schools in the country with a better home record (19-1) than the Cowboys. The others are No. 1 RPI Oregon State (13-0) and No. 4 Louisville (21-1).

But it’s really pretty simple.

Keep winning, and it will take care of itself.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com


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