As USF baseball inches toward the conclusion of the regular season, the Bulls remain on the cusp of entering the national conversation.
A 20-1 start to the season put USF in a strong position to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, but its strength of schedule has hurt its chances of earning a high seeding.
Though the Bulls are 32-8, they’ve yet to stick in any of the nation’s top polls. Currently, they aren’t ranked in any major polls, but are receiving votes in the USA Today Baseball Coaches Poll and come in at No. 20 in D1Baseball.com's measurement of RPI.
The Bulls’ record is superior to any team within 10 spots, but the team’s strength of schedule is crippling its potential postseason seeding.
The problem for USF lies largely in its non-conference scheduling. Aside from Florida State and Florida Gulf Coast, none of the Bulls’ non-AAC competition is ranked in D1Baseball’s top 65 RPI teams.
Both Houston, which USF plays this weekend at home, and UCF also rank in the top 25 RPI teams along with the Bulls. With another series against the Knights as well, USF will have its chances to further prove itself against some top-ranked opponents.
But outside of AAC-play, USF’s strength of schedule is ranked 140th out of 299 D-I baseball teams. Though there are a handful of schools in D1Baseball’s top 30 with equally poor non-conference strength of schedule, USF doesn’t have the luxury those teams do.
Teams like Louisville (185), TCU (141) and Virginia (215) have both similar records and similarly weak strength of non-conference schedule, but these teams play some of the top talent in the country in their respective conferences.
USF appears to be poised for a period of sustained success with the young core of players coach Mark Kingston has assembled.
With the clear majority of the team playing as underclassmen, Kingston and USF should do whatever they can to improve their early-season opponents in future years so the Bulls will have a fighting chance at a top national ranking.
But for now, there’s only one thing USF can do: Keep winning.