The University of Miami baseball team isn’t used to straddling the fence when it comes to being invited to the NCAA tournament.
Most years, it’s simply a formality.
Obviously, this year is much different.
A few weeks ago, it looked like Miami’s NCAA record of postseason play would definitely end at 44 consecutive years.
But thanks to a strong finish to their season, the Hurricanes’ chances have improved. Yet when the selection committee announces who is in this year’s field of 64 on Monday at noon (ESPN2), Miami could still find itself on the outside of the tournament.
UM (31-27, 16-13 Atlantic Coast Conference) saw its conference tournament run end late Saturday night with a 12-4 loss to North Carolina in an ACC semifinal in Louisville, Kentucky.
Florida State (39-20) earned its way into the tournament Sunday by scoring five runs in the eighth and beating the Tar Heels 7-3 to grab the ACC’s automatic bid.
Miami is vying for one of 33 at-large spots in the tournament — and there’s plenty of competition.
Within the Sunshine State, FSU, Florida Gulf Coast (Atlantic Sun) and Bethune-Cookman (MEAC) are in by virtue of winning their conference championship.
Florida was announced as host of the Gainesville Regional on Sunday night, so the Gators are in; UCF and South Florida are expected to be invited as well.
Florida State was named host of the Tallahassee Regional.
Aside from the Seminoles, four other ACC teams are in by hosting a regional: North Carolina, Wake Forest, Clemson and Louisville.
The Hurricanes were watching the tournament scoreboard closely this weekend, hoping ranked teams didn’t give up their automatic bids to lesser teams — which could take away a possible at-large bid from Miami.
Take the Big East tournament, for instance.
St. John’s came into the tournament ranked 21st by Baseball America and was likely in the tournament regardless of what happened this weekend.
Xavier needed to win to get in, and the Musketeers (32-25) did exactly that, beating the Red Storm 7-6 on Sunday.
So, if St. John’s does get in, it will take an at-large bid with it.
Rice (31-29) beating Southern Miss (ranked 15th by Baseball America) in the Conference USA title game and taking that automatic bid didn’t help Miami, either.
Miami ended its season by winning six of seven, including its first two games at the ACC tournament against Georgia Tech and Wake Forest before losing to UNC.
The Hurricanes’ RPI (Ratings Percentage Index, judges strengths of wins and losses against strength of schedule) was 39th nationally going into Sunday; for comparison, Florida’s RPI is third in the nation, FSU is 11th and FIU — which ended its season at 31-27 — is 88th.
If Miami fails to make the tournament, Florida State’s run of 40 consecutive trips becomes the NCAA’s longest active streak.
NCAA BASEBALL REGIONALS
When, where: 16 sites nationally (including Gainesville and Tallahassee); games begin Friday.
Selection announcement: Monday, noon (ESPN2).
Format: 31 teams earn automatic bids (FSU, Florida Gulf Coast, Bethune Cookman among them); 33 at-large (Florida was selected on Sunday night).