In fact, they might be close to climbing on to the bubble for the 64-team NCAA Tournament.
The Bulldogs are 27-18 overall and 14-7 in the Southern Conference with 11 games left in the regular season. Their RPI has rocketed from No. 93 to No. 52 (at boydsworld.com) as of Monday.
For perspective, College of Charleston was 37-20, 21-9 in the SoCon and No. 51 in the RPI when the Cougars received an at-large bid a year ago.
The SoCon received three bids last year, when the league was ranked No. 7 in the RPI. This year, the SoCon is No. 13, so three bids seems out of the question, and even landing two seems doubtful.
Of course, the only sure way for the Bulldogs to get in the NCAA regionals is to win the SoCon Tournament, set for May 22-26 in Greenville.
But short of that, these final two weeks of the regular season are huge for the Bulldogs, who trail only Western Carolina (30-17, 18-6) in the SoCon standings. A tie for the regular-season title landed the Cougars their bid last year, and The Citadel might need at least that much this year.
Two of The Citadel’s final three SoCon series are against the bottom two teams in the standings, Davidson and UNC Greensboro. The third series is against rival College of Charleston — the teams’ final regular-season series as SoCon rivals — set for May 10-12 at Riley Park. Sweeps of UNCG and Davidson and taking 2 of 3 vs. the Cougars would serve the Bulldogs well. WCU (No. 69 in the RPI, by the way) finishes up at home against Wofford and at App State.
The Citadel’s two remaining non-conference games are against No. 1 North Carolina on Wednesday and against Charleston Southern on May 14. The game against the Tar Heels’ could shore up a weak spot in the Bulldogs’ resume — a 3-7 record against top 50 teams in the RPI. (PS — one thing Citadel would love to have is Furman’s 5-1 record vs. top 50. Somehow, the Paladins are 5-1 vs. the top 50 and 6-5 vs. 200 and below).
The Bulldogs have wins over No. 29 Kansas State, No. 42 North Florida and No. 48 Pitt. They also have walk-off losses to No. 8 South Carolina and No. 23 Georgia Tech, losses that now loom large in the rear-view mirror. Win those two, and The Citadel is 29-16 overall and 5-5 vs. the top 50, and things look a lot different.
North Carolina is a remarkable 41-4, but the Tar Heels dropped a mid-week game just last week, falling 9-8 to a very good UNC Wilmington team. UNC’s other losses are to ACC foes N.C. State, Clemson and Miami.
Regardless, The Citadel needs to finish strong — very strong — to have any shot at an at-large bid. I mean, like winning 9 out of 11 with a victory over No. 1 UNC. That would leave the Bulldogs at 36-20 with a 4-7 record against the top 50 and a win over the top-ranked team.
That’s not bad, but even that might not be good enough.