Southern Miss

What happens if the Conference USA baseball tournament is washed out in Biloxi?

Southern Miss center fielder Matt Wallner watches his solo home run against Rice during the 2017 C-USA tournament championship game at MGM Park in Biloxi.
Southern Miss center fielder Matt Wallner watches his solo home run against Rice during the 2017 C-USA tournament championship game at MGM Park in Biloxi. File

There's no way around it. Wet weather will have a major impact on the Conference USA baseball tournament taking place this week at MGM Park in Biloxi.

It took less than three innings for Wednesday morning's tournament opener between FAU and FIU to enter a weather delay after lightning was detected within 10 miles of the stadium. FAU won 7-4.

The chance of rain is only supposed to increase as the week moves along, with a tropical system potentially developing in the Gulf of Mexico and bringing heavy rain to the Southeast this weekend. The chance of that system developing has increased to 60 percent, the National Hurricane Center said on Wednesday.

Heavy rain may arrive late Friday, with up to 7 inches falling in South Mississippi over the Memorial Day weekend.

According to multiple forecast models, the system is expected to make landfall somewhere between Biloxi and Destin, Florida. The farther east the storm goes, the better it is for Biloxi.

On top of the threat of tropical weather, scattered thunderstorms will remain a possibility. As of late Wednesday, the chance of rain stood at 80 percent for Thursday and Friday.

The Conference USA title game is set for 1 p.m. Sunday.

An updated schedule that was provided late Wednesday is at the bottom of this story.

The rule book

The potential of heavy rain this weekend on the Coast begs the question: What happens if the Conference USA tournament is unable to finish due to the wet weather?

According to a C-USA document provided to umpires, much of that decision will go to conference commissioner Judy MacLeod.

Here is what the document says.

“If in unforeseen circumstances it becomes impossible to complete a (tournament) game, the Conference Commissioner or designee is authorized to determine which team(s) shall advance in the (tournament). If it is impossible to complete the (tournament), the Commissioner is authorized to declare the tournament champion and recipient of the Conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Baseball (Tournament). If the (tournament) is canceled prior to the final game, no champion will be declared and the recipient of the automatic bid shall be the highest remaining seed. If only the championship game is canceled, co-champions will be awarded and the automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Baseball (Tournament) will go to the highest remaining seed.”

The only instance where a C-USA baseball tournament was unable to finish happened in 2005 in Hattiesburg when Tulane and TCU were declared co-champions after inclement weather forced the cancellation of the title game. Tulane, the No. 1 seed, was given the automatic bid. TCU was awarded an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

There is also the possibility that the tournament format could be changed to single-elimination if the weather continues to interfere.

The rulebook states:

"Every effort should be made to complete all scheduled games in the (tournament). The Conference representative and Tournament Director will control the start of games under rain conditions. If rain delays games to the point where the (tournament) cannot be completed by Sunday night, with no more than four games in a day and a team playing no more than two games a day, the (tournament) format will change to single elimination."

USM's position

Southern Miss (39-15) enters the 2018 C-USA tournament as the No. 1 seed after winning the regular season title. That means if USM manages to stay undefeated in the tournament, it will be guaranteed C-USA's automatic bid to the postseason regardless of whether the tournament is able to finish.

If the Golden Eagles slip up, that could open the door for No. 2 seed Louisiana Tech or No. 3 FAU to steal the automatic bid.

In the event that USM isn't declared the C-USA tournament champion, it seems assured of receiving an at-large bid. FAU (36-15-1) is also in good position to earn an at-large bid to the 64-team NCAA Tournament thanks to an RPI ranking of No. 31.

Louisiana Tech (38-18) has some work to do to strengthen its position for an at-large bid due to an RPI ranking of No. 59.

The rest of the teams in the C-USA tournament are: No. 4 Charlotte, No. 5 UTSA, No. 6 FIU, No. 7 Rice and No. 8 UAB.

Rice is seeking its 24th consecutive bid to the NCAA Tournament in Wayne Graham's final year as head coach, but the Owls will have to win the tournament to earn a spot in the postseason.

If you're Southern Miss, you just have to keep winning to guarantee an automatic bid.

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New schedule for the C-USA tournament

Thursday's games

Game 4 (5) UTSA vs. (4) Charlotte, 9 a.m.

Game 2 (2) Louisiana Tech vs. (7) Rice, 12:30 p.m. (This will be the completion of a game that Rice leads 6-1 in the 7th)

Game 3 (8) UAB vs. (1) Southern Miss (will follow La. Tech-Rice)

Game 5 FIU vs. Rice/LA Tech loser, TBD

Game 6 Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4, TBD

Friday's games

Game 7 Florida Atlantic vs. Winner Game 2, 9 a.m.

Game 8 Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 12:30 p.m.

Game 9 Winner Game 5 vs. Loser game 7, 4 p.m.

Game 10 Winner Game 6 vs. Loser game 8, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday's games

Game 11 Winner Game 7 vs. Winner game 9, 9 a.m.

Game 12 Winner Game 8 vs. Winner game 10, 12:30 p.m.

Game 13 Same teams as Game 11, 4 p.m. (if necessary)

Game 14 Same teams as Game 12, 7:30 p.m. (if necessary)

Sunday's games

Championship Game, 1 p.m.