May 28, 2012
Leadoff Thoughts on Selection Monday
By Sean Ryan
grill will be smoking soon. But before we pause to remember all
who have fought to make our nation what it is, here’s a quick
look at who’s going to be playing for a trip to Omaha and a
chance to win college baseball’s national championship.
We have grown
accustomed to using this space to politely disagree with the
NCAA committee – OK, some years downright bash the committee.
Either we’re getting soft after doing this for 11 years, or this
is one of those years where the committee did a good job with
what it had to work with.
Our dilemma as we
predicted what the committee would do came down to the final few
teams. Nothing new there.
The issue this year
was that you could make a case for about a dozen teams for the
final four spots. And almost as easy, you could break the case
for that dirty dozen. We were correct on three of those four –
and 63 of 64 in the tourney – with Michigan State, East Carolina
and New Mexico State sneaking in. We thought the committee would
overlook Texas’ warts and accept the Longhorns, based on
finishing third in the Big 12 regular season. But we were far
from confident that after Missouri won the conference title that
the Big 12 would get five teams in the field – I thought the
committee might lean toward Southeastern Louisiana, Phil thought
it might lean toward Wake Forest.
In the end, we missed
on College of Charleston, which has been left at the altar
several times since we began covering college baseball. Like the
committee, we debated the merits of the Cougars and other
schools. Charleston tied Appalachian State for the Southern
Conference regular-season title and had wins over South
Carolina, Clemson and Coastal Carolina. We feared the Cougars’
two-and-barbecue in the SoCon tourney might doom them. That
said, we can’t argue with the committee’s selection here.
And we wouldn’t have
argued much had Wake Forest, Southeastern Louisiana or Utah
Valley State been chosen instead of Charleston, Michigan State
or New Mexico State. Each had a case:
Demon Deacons had a RPI of 34 and a strength of schedule of 34
(15-19 against the top 50), according to WarrenNolan.com; losing
three to Boston College likely hurt.
Lions were 5-1 against the top 50 (although three game against
another bubble squad in Indiana State) and 13-7 against the top
100; the RPI of 55 was solid, apparently not solid enough, and
the strength of schedule at 124 could have factored (tough
because it’s an aggressive schedule).
Valley won 32 straight and 41 of 42. And it had wins over
Arizona and Arizona State. But the committee decided a schedule
strength of 242 was more important than a nation’s best 47
Hurting those schools
– and Maryland, Virginia Tech, Elon, Gonzaga, Wichita State,
Georgia and Tulane – more were the other NCAA probables that
dropped like flies in their conference tourneys. All around the
country, from UAB to Missouri and Samford to Creighton, there
were more upsets than usual that flattened the bubble.
St. John’s got in last year with an RPI of 54 and SOS of 135,
and Dallas Baptist made the cut with an RPI of 45 and SOS of
162. Elon didn’t make the cut last year after winning the SoCon
regular season and boasting an RPI of 49.
A different year, a
So, where were the
Carolina and New Mexico State, bubble teams, not only got into
the tourney, but also were given 2-seeds. While we know travel
can play a role – ECU was sent to Chapel Hill, and NMSU was sent
to Tucson – it’s tough to go from a bubble to a 2-seed, no
matter the RPI (the Pirates were No. 30). We thought Coastal
Carolina could have been a No. 2 seed instead, and we thought a
little reshuffling could have given NMSU a 3 seed, namely
sending Fullerton to Tucson as the 2.
confused with Mississippi State, the SEC conference champ with a
RPI of 19, being sent to national seed Florida State. While we
love the matchup, MSU should have been sent to Coral Gables and
UCF to Tallahassee. The Seminoles drew three conference champs,
including the Bulldogs, one of the hottest teams in the country.
The Hurricanes avoided the SEC – and Big 12 for that matter –
but still will be tested, with a strong 3-seed in Missouri State
and a strong 4-seed in Stony Brook. We thought as one of the
last host sites, Miami would be tested even more.
possible Super Regional matchups, again, we were a bit surprised
with Miami’s potential matchup with No. 7 LSU. While we’re cool
with Miami avoiding matchups with Florida or Florida State, we
thought as one of the last regional sites, it would be paired
with one of the top three national seeds. We also thought the
Gary Regional would be paired with one of the top three national
seeds, rather than No. 5 Oregon. By the numbers, No. 1 Florida
got a tough matchup with the possible matchup with NC State (RPI