In previewing the Bedlam baseball weekend, we’ve produced a series of topical stories – features on Oklahoma’s dominant ace Jonathan Gray and OSU’s McCurry brothers, along with a trend story on both program’s focus on recruiting in-state players.
One topic not addressed: the importance of this year’s series to the Cowboys and Sooners.
And make no mistake, it’s of vital importance, on both sides, in securing NCAA Tournament traction.
As of now, neither team can count itself in the postseason.
Not even the Sooners, despite the presence of Gray and their place atop the Big 12 Standings from the start of conference play. Recent struggles that reveal a tie at the top with Kansas State and West Virginia and a slipping RPI have put OU in a need to do some résumé work.
The Cowboys, on the other hand, are on the rise, yet still have work to do, still needing to bolster their RPI, which would come with a necessary rise in the Big 12 standings.
From Baseball America college writer Aaron Fitt:
“Oklahoma (No. 44) and OklahomaState (No. 45) could both use RPI boosts heading into their annual Bedlam series…”
So Bedlam is big.
That’s the way we like it, of course. And that’s when the series is at its best.
It’s been a startling tumble for the Sooners, who once carried hopes of not only hosting a regional, but earning one of the eight national seeds, which is the golden ticket for hosting a Super Regional and optimum positioning for a College World Series berth.
Originally perceived as the class of the Big 12, since sweeping TCU to start the league schedule the Sooners have been barely better than a .500 club in conference, standing 11-7 overall, a record now matched by the Wildcats and Mountaineers.
OU has dropped three of its last four conference games, along with a non-conference game at Dallas Baptist.
The Sooners do expect to have No. 2 starter Dillon Overton back for Sunday’s game, yet pitching has hardly been at the root of the team’s ills.
OSU has improved its position, but desperately needed to, after sitting beyond 100 in the RPI just a few weeks ago. The Cowboys have done that and have games that can propel their climb, against the Sooners and then West Virginia next weekend.
Still, at boydsworld.com, where the RPI masters are at work, analyzing factors such as strength of schedule and quality wins and home and road results, projections reveal that the best OU and OSU can do is creep into the Top 32.
At the best.
So Bedlam is big.
One popular question making the rounds is how many teams the Big 12 will produce for the postseason in what is perceived as a down year for the league?
The Big 12 Tournament champ grabs the conference’s automatic bid. But beyond that, how many? And who?
Fitt is watching another rivalry series – the Sunflower State Showdown, K-State vs. Kansas – for the league’s best positioned teams for the postseason.
“In the Big 12,” Fitt wrote, “only Kansas State has a strong enough RPI (No. 25) to feel secure about its at-large chances. Kansas, which hosts the Wildcats this weekend, ranks 42nd in the RPI and is riding a six-game winning streak, including two wins against Wichita State and a sweep of Baylor.”
So there are the top contenders: the Wildcats, Jayhawks, Sooners and Cowboys.
And West Virginia remains in the mix, even with an RPI of 66, with opportunity to move up.
Here’s how these final two weekends shake out:
The series, Friday through Sunday: Bedlam; Kansas State at KU, TCU at West Virginia.
Next weekend: West Virginia at OSU; OU at Kansas State.
It’s clearly a critical six-game stretch in the conference for the Sooners and Cowboys.
And first, it’s Bedlam.
And it’s big.