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The NCAA Selection Committee had the grueling process the past few days of putting together this year’s NCAA postseason field of 64.
As usual, there were plenty of decisions that made complete sense. However, there also were a few decisions that left us feeling rather perplexed.
Here’s an inside look at where we agreed and differed with the committee.
* Florida getting top national seed -- There are plenty of people out there that will have issues with the Gators getting the top overall national seed, but it was a good move on the committee’s part, it’s just one I didn’t think they’d do. The Gators didn’t win the SEC regular season title, but played a brutally tough non-conference slate to go with an always tough conference schedule. Furthermore, the Gators put together an outstanding resume. For instance, NCAA Selection committee chairman Kyle Kallander pointed to the Gators’ 21-10 record vs. RPI Top 25 as a reason they were the top national seed. Also note that Florida was 23-13 vs. RPI Top 50 and 33-16 vs. RPI Top 100. Those are astonishing marks, and good job by the NCAA to recognize them.
* College of Charleston makes the field -- Here’s another classic case of a situation where I am fine with the committee’s decision. The Cougars probably didn’t deserve to reach the NCAA postseason based on overall resume, but how you finish in conference should have some bearing on your postseason pecking order, particularly if you hail from a conference with respect, such as the Southern Conference. The Cougars didn’t win the SoCon tournament, but finished the regular season tied with Appalachian State for the league lead, as well as having a 37-20. Other mid-majors with strong conference finishes that made the field include Missouri State, St. John’s, Indiana State and Sam Houston State.
* South Carolina gets last national seed -- It wasn’t a fierce fight for the last national seed, but options included North Carolina State, Virginia and Purdue. N.C. State certainly would’ve had a strong case for a national seed had it finished a little stronger. However, the Wolfpack dropped a series to Florida State to end the regular season and failed to advance to the ACC tournament title game. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks didn’t play well in Hoover, but went 18-11 and finished a half-game behind LSU in the SEC standings during the regular season. Overall, the Gamecocks had an RPI of 11 and were 9-11 vs. RPI Top 25, 14-13 vs. RPI Top 50 and 21-14 vs. RPI Top 100.
* Committee puts Clemson-South Carolina in same NCAA Regional -- Gamecocks and Tigers fans don’t like the idea of the two heated rivals playing against each other in an NCAA Regional, but doing so is fantastic for college baseball. The Gamecocks and Tigers were on a collision course last season, slated to meet in an NCAA Super Regional, before Connecticut broke up that quest. Now, the NCAA is making sure the two teams likely have to meet. The Columbia Regional is televised and the rest of the nation gets a taste of one of college sports’ great rivalries. Oh yeah, Coastal Carolina doesn’t exactly like Garnet and Black and Orange and Purple, either.
* Putting together some intriguing matchups -- When it comes to Cal State Fullerton, the committee, in the past, has gotten rather lazy about where they send the Titans. For instance, they’ve had a bad habit (when the Titans aren’t hosting) of pairing them up with UCLA in the Los Angeles Regional. Well, this season, the committee did everyone a favor by sending them up to Eugene, Ore., for a potential bout against former head coach George Horton, now the head coach of the Oregon Ducks. On top of that, former Titans player Ronnie Prettyman is a volunteer assistant coach for Indiana State, the Titans’ first opponent. Also cool was the NCAA pairing up UAB with Florida State and Mississippi State. UAB has former State head coach Ron Polk on its staff, thus perhaps bringing Polk and his former program together once again.
* Giving Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State No. 2 seeds -- It was just over a week ago the Yellow Jackets were on the bubble to reach the NCAA postseason, but they played exceptionally well in the ACC tournament. As a result, the committee gave them a No. 2 seed in the Gainesville Regional. The Jackets are sizzling hot right now, and have overcome some brutally tough injuries to starting pitcher Matt Grimes and closer Luke Bard, among others. They’ve fought through a lot and still have 24 wins vs. RPI Top 100 programs.
* Michigan State making the field -- Trust me, having covered this sport for more than 10 seasons, I know exactly how things work from a geographic balancing standpoint. However, it was a little surprising to me to see the Spartans apparently solidly in the field of 64. The Spartans, Kallander said, were the No. 2 team in that region of the country, according to an advisory committee of coaches. Kallander also said the Spartans played a tough non-conference schedule. However, they lost many of those games, and even worse, they finished fifth place in the Big Ten, a whopping three games behind Indiana for second place, and four games behind Purdue for first place. While conference finish mattered in some cases, it certainly was ignored in this case.
* East Carolina in … and as a No. 2 seed? -- We had the Pirates as the first team out of the field in our final projections. My hope was the committee would look beyond the RPI and do some research when it comes to the Pirates. Not only did they fail to do that, they somehow found a reason to make ECU the No. 2 seed at the Chapel Hill Regional. You’d be naïve to think Gary Overton, a former coach of the Pirates, and a committee member, didn’t have a little something to do with ECU’s inclusion. Outside of an RPI of 32, the Pirates had a rough resume during the regular season. They finished sixth in Conference USA, were 3-8 vs. RPI Top 25, 5-10 vs. RPI Top 50 and 14-19 vs. RPI Top 100. That’s barely a bubble team, much less a No. 2 seed.
* Miami as a host … and especially a No. 1 seed -- We’re still trying to completely figure out the thinking behind the Hurricanes as a host and No. 1 seed. To say the least, Kallander and the committee didn’t give a legitimate-enough reason as to why the Hurricanes are at home in the first round. The Hurricanes reached the ACC tournament title game, but they put together a lackluster regular season resume. The ‘Canes finished fifth in the ACC standings. Furthermore, UM went 7-13 vs. RPI Top 25, 14-19 vs. RPI Top 50 and 23-20 vs. RPI Top 100. Kallander also pointed out that Miami played a tougher non-conference schedule than Kentucky, another potential No. 1 seed. However, Kallander also failed to point out the ‘Canes played a home-heavy non-conference schedule, something the committee hammered LSU for last season. It's obvious by this decision the committee has yet to decide -- does it penalize or reward teams that play home-heavy non-conference schedules? They haven't figured that one out.
* Not putting in Wake Forest, not considering Southeastern Louisiana in last five -- Color me a little surprised the Demon Deacons weren’t part of the NCAA’s field of 64. Sure, the Demon Deacons didn’t put together a great conference record, but you’re talking about a team that hit the road at times in non-conference, namely to New Mexico State to all places. On top of that, they finished decently strong, ending the regular season by sweeping a three-game series from Clemson. Wake Forest 15-19 vs. RPI Top 50 and 17-23 vs. RPI Top 100. In other words, it had a better resume than ECU, for instance, which was a No. 2 seed in the field. Meanwhile, Southeastern Louisiana is another team that won some solid games against good competition, finishing 13-7 vs. RPI Top 100 and 5-1 vs. RPI Top 50, while also finishing near the top of the Southland Conference, and reaching the tourney title game. We feel like the Lions probably fell victim to the stigma that the Southland Conference isn’t worthy of three bids. That’s disappointing, though, because Jay Artigues had a very solid club this season.
* New Mexico State a No. 2 seed over Louisville -- In a classic case of just looking at the RPI and nothing else, the committee somehow thought of giving the Aggies a No. 2 seed in the Tucson Regional over Louisville, the regular season champion of the Big East. The Aggies finished 2-4 vs. RPI Top 25, 5-5 vs. RPI Top 50 and 14-17 vs. RPI Top 100. Meanwhile, the Cardinals were 2-2 vs. RPI Top 25, 8-6 vs. RPI Top 50 and 17-12 vs. RPI Top 100. Again, at the end of the day, whether you’re a No. 2 or 3 seed doesn’t matter too much, but this was a perplexing different in opinion.