May 27, 2013


Reactions to Regionals

By Sean Ryan Co-Founder



The dust is beginning to settle as the NCAA has announced the Field of 64 for the 2013 NCAA College Baseball Tournament. And there are sure to be a few dust-ups.

Happy surprises included William & Mary, UC Santa Barbara, San Francisco and Texas A&M. Disappointment reigned at Campbell, Seton Hall, Notre Dame and Auburn. And even at Michigan State, which didn't make the Big 10 tourney but was cited as the first team out.

This year's bubble seemed more ambiguous than in years past. How important would conference play be compared to overall RPI? How about that finishing kick? Or strength of schedule? Each of the final teams admitted to the national tournament have flaws, and each of those left home do as well. It just seemed more difficult to choose, say a Texas A&M over UC Santa Barbara, as we did in our final projections (both ended up making the field and will play each other).

Overall, the committee did a lot of good things. When we make our projections, we try to read the minds of the committee, which doesn't often match what we might do. One of our suggestions was to find a way for San Francisco and William & Mary to make the field. While we had both among our first few teams out in our projections, the Dons and Tribe did in fact make the field. And the inclusion of UC Santa Barbara (RPI 57) shows that the almighty RPI may not be as almighty as it has been in the past.

So, who has a beef?

* Campbell was the Big South's regular-season champ and lost in the league tourney final to Liberty, on Liberty's home field. The Camels' 49 wins and RPI of 42 seemed like it would be enough to get them a bid. In the end, the committee cited strength of schedule. We thought the Camels deserved a bid.

* Seton Hall finished second in the Big East and piled up a 37-19 record. It dropped three of four to Notre Dame over the course of the year. And the Pirates didn't play Louisville or Pittsburgh, a knock according from the committee, even though they couldn't control that. We thought Seton Hall might have some trouble, as it went 19-17 against teams ranked 200 or better and 18-2 vs. teams ranked 201 or worse (per The Fighting Irish couldn't overcome a seventh-place finish in the league and came up just short in losing in the Big East tourney final. A gaudy RPI of 34 and aggressive schedule seemed like a good enough reason to put the Irish in. We projected the committee would put both in but also realized it would be tough to keep four Big East teams in the field (Louisville and Connecticut were in). We're pretty shocked that neither Seton Hall nor Notre Dame will play again.

* Auburn could present a good case, namely by comparing its resume against two SEC brothers who likely were lively discussions: Florida and Texas A&M. The Tigers won head-to-head series against both the Gators and Aggies, and won series against Ole Miss, Florida and Arkansas down the stretch. The Gators (No. 2 strength of schedule) limped to the finish, and the Aggies took advantage of a few extra games in the SEC tourney, something Auburn couldn't do by losing to Alabama on elimination day of the SEC tourney.

There are a few other spots where the committee could have mixed things up.

* South Carolina is paired with Clemson for the second year in a row. Clemson could have been sent elsewhere, possibly Louisville, and others, including Miami or Georgia Tech could have been sent to Columbia. And in the Super Regionals, if the No. 1s win, North Carolina and South Carolina could do battle (again).

* Speaking of repeats, the Fullerton and Los Angeles Regionals are paired up with one another again. So, if the No. 1s advance, Southern California's Titans and Bruins will battle again for the right to go to Omaha. It would involve more travel, but we're guessing Fullerton wouldn't have minded hosting, say, the Starkville Regional, and UCLA wouldn't mind a trip, to say Virginia, should all go according to form. Instead, if both survive Regionals, throw the GPS away as UCLA knows the route to Fullerton like the back of its hand.

* There must be some pretty good airline deals from Oklahoma to the Commonwealth of Virginia. Oklahoma will be making its third trip in the past four years to the state, this time going to Blacksburg to face Virginia Tech after two previous trips to Virginia to play to Cavaliers. The Sooners have enjoyed success in their previous trips, winning the 2010 Charlottesville Super Regional and the 2012 Charlottesville Regional.

While we'll go inside the bracket in much more detail, these are some of our immediate takeaways.

* Liberty's coach is Jim Toman, who spent 18 years next to Ray Tanner at NC State and then South Carolina. He'll be making his 15th Regional trip but first as coach of the Flames, and he'll be taking his team to Columbia. Liberty and South Carolina opened the season with three one-run games, with the Gamecocks winning two of three.

* Florida Atlantic gets a trip to somewhere other than Florida, which hasn't happened much. Something tells us the Owls will relish the trip outside of the Sunshine State, even if it happens to be to Chapel Hill, and the No. 1 national seed North Carolina.

* It could be a long shot, but if No. 4 ETSU were to advance from the Nashville Regional to meet Louisville, assuming the Cardinals advanced, it could be a matchup of college teammates. The Bucs' Tony Skole and Cardinals' Dan McDonnell played for The Citadel team that reached the 1990 College World Series. Louisville assistant coach Chris Lemonis was also on that team. Skole remains close with the pair and they talk frequently. Skole had the game-winning hit as the Bulldogs beat Cal State Fullerton in the second round.

* Army has a return trip to the Charlottesville Regional. Last year, it was a family reunion as Black Knights associate head coach Matt Reid is the son of then-Virginia defensive coordinator Jim Reid. The Cavaliers let Reid go in the offseason, but we're betting he'll be back on campus to cheer on his son.

* Central Arkansas and Mississippi State will open the tourney against each other. UCA took two of three from the Bulldogs during the season.