May 25, 2009

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Instant Reaction to the Field of 64 (1:15 p.m.)

By Sean Ryan


New year, same old questions…


How does a team that doesn’t make its conference tournament make the NCAA tournament? Why take the ninth-place team over mid-majors that win their regular season titles and falter one week of the season. What more can the smaller schools do?


My first reaction is sadness for Rhode Island. The Rams lost their top spot in the Atlantic 10 late in the year and then lost in the conference tourney final. Second best clearly was not good enough in the eyes of the NCAA committee.


Yet, here again, a power-conference team that finishes outside of its conference tourney makes the field. Oklahoma State is in – somewhat amazingly as most college baseball followers did not include the Cowboys in their projections. Its RPI was bolstered by the stability of the Big 12, which this year received a shot in the arm from the likes of Kansas State and Kansas. Give OSU some credit for playing a nice early-season schedule, and picking up wins against Cal State Fullerton, Oregon State, East Carolina and Arizona (2).


But don’t you have to feel for Rhode Island, which didn’t play its first home game until April 1?


URI went down to Stillwater for a tournament and split with Oklahoma State. The game it lost to the Cowboys was a one-run game. In that same tourney, the Rams were pasted by Cal State Fullerton but also lost a one-run game to the Titans. Rhode Island won at Miami (Fla.) and also beat Ohio State on a neutral Florida field.


Rewarding Oklahoma State is a mistake. The Cowboys can play with anyone – at times. But they didn’t do jack in conference. And if they were better than Rhode Island, couldn’t they have at least swept the Rams in their home park?


Other observations:


·        Baylor was rewarded for a rough finish (however, the Bears did well in the Big 12 tourney); San Diego was not.

·        Eastern Illinois and Missouri State get shut out despite great seasons.

·        Southern Miss gets in. No real problems with that, although most pundits had Rhode Island ahead of the Golden Eagles.

·        Dallas Baptist left out despite a RPI of 37. The Patriots didn’t have a ton of great wins, although they did pound Baylor.

·        The Big 12 got all the breaks, with three bubble teams making the field and Oklahoma receiving a national seed. The chairman of the committee, Tim Weiser, is the Deputy Commissioner of the Big 12. The ACC took a hit with Florida State being bypassed for a national seed and tourney champ Virginia sent to Irvine when the Cavaliers could have stayed closer to home.