Call it May Madness.
On the eve of its first ACC tournament since 2004, Duke, for once, has a chance to tighten its bid for an NCAA tournament berth, which would be its first since 1961. The Blue Devils' series win over then-No. 8 Georgia Tech last weekend, which gave them the No. 7 seed in the tournament, placed them squarely on the NCAA regional bubble and gave them the inside track to the ACC's seventh bid.
Duke opens with No. 2 North Carolina tomorrow at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, followed by tilts with No. 3 Clemson and No. 6 Virginia. Junior lefty Christopher Manno heads to the hill Wednesday to attempt to avenge an earlier loss to the Tar Heels, and senior righty Andrew Wolcott, a 1st-team All-ACC selection, gets the ball Friday. Fortunately for Duke, Alex White, one of the best pitchers in the country, won't be pitching for the Tar Heels Wednesday.
What does Duke need to do to lock up a spot in the NCAA tournament?
Two Baseball America writers believe they need to have good weeks, winning at least one--and probably two--games. The Blue Devils have a better record than Boston College, their chief competitor for the last spot, but Duke's RPI is No. 72, 40 spots below Boston College, and no team has earned an at-large bid in the last five years with an RPI over No. 59.
In a chat yesterday, Aaron Fitt made the case for Duke:
I think Duke does have a real chance, but it probably needs to win at least two games this week to help offset its poor RPI. But how many bubble teams have two series wins more impressive than Georgia Tech and at North Carolina? And finishing 15-15 in the ACC with those two big weekends, plus a win in the head-to-head series against BC, ought to be enough. Again, this will be a test to see how much the committee uses the RPI as a crutch. And how much it punishes Duke for playing a soft nonconference slate. People out West really seem to resent East Coast teams that do that.
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