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Southern College Sports
Jonathanís Journal
May 28, 2002


THIS REGIONAL MESS

Once again, the NCAA Committee comes through. Bases loaded, one out, tying run on third base. Ground ball to short, to second for one, on to first. 6-4-3 double play, and itís over. They blew it again. Just once, I wish theyíd let me be on the committee and decide who gets in and who goes where. Some of the decisions they make just make no sense.

It all began when they announced about a month ago that they would be sending teams to regional sites according to close location. Their definition of a ďcloseĒ location was less than 400 miles, or driving distance vs. flying distance. Last season (according to ESPN), there were 22 of the 64 teams who had to fly. This year that number was 11. All this was set up due to last Septemberís terrorist attacks which have put the fear of flying in almost everyone. If you remember back last year, Americans everywhere vowed not to let Bin Laden take over and control their lives. Yet, now almost nine months later, it seems the NCAA is letting him do just that. First we had the ďpodĒ system in basketball and now this. And the idea of putting teams from the same conference in the same four-team regional is totally crazy. Most of these teams have already played at least three times in the regular season, plus any other meetings such as in conference tournaments.

Obviously, there will always be arguments about who should have gotten in and who should not have gotten in. It wouldnít be as much fun if it werenít like that. Yet there is an outrageous number of arguments that could be made this year. Hereís a brief glance at several of those.....
South Florida is in the tournament as a 3-seed in the Florida State regional. The Bulls were C-USAís fifth team, yet they finished the regular season in seventh place in their conference. A decent RPI of 37 probably let them in, but they were just two games over .500 at 16-14 in their conference games. And C-USA isnít all that great of a conference. Oh yeah, they had a 33-27 record against D-I opponents, just six games over .500 for the entire season.
BYU got in thanks to a conference tournament championship in the Mountain West. Check out their very impressive stats: RPI of 132, record of 29-29 against D-I opponents, and were one game over .500 in the Mountain West, a weak baseball conference, at 15-14.
The Stanford region could make up three of the eight teams in the CWS in a good system. Stanford, the host and number one seed, has an RPI of 12, record of 40-16, and finished 13-8 in the PAC 10. The two seed, Long Beach State, has an RPI of 21, a record of 37-19 overall. Both LBSU and fourth seed Cal State-Fullerton finished 14-7 in the Big West (tied for second). CSF had an RPI of 24 and a record of 35-20. Oh yeah, and they went to the CWS last season, as did Stanford. And theyíre a four seed? Oh yeah, a not-to-shabby San Jose State team is also here. The Spartans have a RPI of 51, and a 41-15 overall record to go along with a 18-9 record in WAC play.
How the heck does Washington get into the tournament? They have an RPI of 79 and are just six games over .500 overall at 30-24. They did, however, play well in the PAC 10, finishing with a 13-8 record which was good for a tie for second place. Yet, how can they overcome an atrocious RPI without a great, great record? Doesnít make sense to me.
Congrats to Central Connecticut State (sarcasm) for making the tournament for the first time ever. A RPI of 194 and a third place finish in the Northeast Conference leave me with no doubt theyíre one of the best sixty-four teams in America.
New Mexico State won their Sun Belt Tournament and made up for a pretty bad season in one weekend. They finished with an RPI of 90 and a sixth place in the Sun Belt at 10-14. Itís not fair for one team to play good one weekend and earn a spot while at the same time costing a team a spot who has played well all season.
Stetson and Coastal Carolina are four seeds? Both have very good RPIís (S-23 and CC-29), very good records against D-I opponents (S-42-17 and CC-43-17) as well as good conference records (19-9 and 16-5). Both of these teams deserved at least a three seed. They likely suffered because better teams from bigger conferences that would have normally been sent a little farther from home had to stay and in the process, take these teamsí seeds. In Stetsonís case, South Florida undeservedly got the three seed.
Virginia Commonwealth is another example of a team who played well at the very end and won their conference tournament to get a berth. They have an RPI of 62 and finished fifth in the Colonial Athletic Association (boy, thatís impressive!).
Elon got an at-large bid? So what if they had never made the tournament before. They didnít earn it then, and they didnít earn it now. A decent RPI of 45 likely got them in, but if you donít win the Big South, I donít think youíll have much of a chance in a regional (they finished second with a 13-8 record).
How does Arkansas get in the tournament? Obviously, they rode the RPI bubble right into this yearís tourney (35). The Hogs were only one game above .500 against D-I opponents at 27-26 and had a losing record in conference play at 13-14. They were the eighth place team in the SEC yet got the conferenceís seventh and final spot over seventh-seeded Mississippi State (record of 33-24 yet only 13-14 in conference).
The Patriot League is not impressing me much. Their first place team, Navy, is 13-7 in the conference. Yet they have only a 22-22 record against D-I competition and a stellar RPI of 173. And thatís not the worst part. Because the committee put Richmond and George Washington (both of the Atlantic 10) in the same regional, they are a three seed!


So those are some of the faults I found with this yearís selections. There are probably more, but there are probably some of the above that arenít as big a deal as I made them out to be. Anyway, hereís a few interesting notes about the field this year.....
Five teams are in the college baseball tournament for the first time ever: Central Connecticut State, Elon, Louisville, New Mexico State, and San Diego.
The committee says the selections were based on ďteam record, strength of schedule, quality wins, and RPI.Ē But I would put it in this order based on emphasis: RPI, strength of schedule, quality wins, record.
The committee complained that no northeast (or northern) school bid to host a regional. But who there deserved to host one? Nobody did. Just look at the candidates: Navy, Maine, Harvard, Central Connecticut State. If one of these teams had bid and been awarded a regional.....
There are two regionals with all teams from one state: Palo Alto (Stanford, Long Beach State, San Jose State, CS-Fullerton) and Baton Rouge (LSU, LA-Lafayette, Tulane, Southern).
The Miami Hurricanes, who one the National Championship last season, were once again invited to this yearís tournament. This is the 30th straight time theyíve received a bid, extending their own record.
Miami is the 3rd seed at the Gainesville regional, making the Canes and Gators one of several groups of rivals placed at the same site. Texas and Baylor were both placed at the Austin regional. Two traditional football powers and rivals, Notre Dame and Ohio State, were placed at the South Bend regional and will meet in the first round. The Georgia Bulldogs and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets were placed at GTís home regional in Atlanta. Two of the biggest rivals (in all sports) in the country, Alabama and Auburn, were both given regional assignments in Tuscaloosa. LSU and Tulane, who met last year in the Super Regionals in New Orlenas, will meet in the regionals this season in Baton Rouge. The Green Wave won last yearís Super Regional and advanced to the College World Series.
There are six regionals in which two of the four teams are from the same conference. When this happens, these two teams cannot meet in the first round but the second round at the earliest. In Tallahassee, (2) Central Florida and (4) Stetson are both from the Atlantic Sun Conference. (2) Long Beach State and (4) Cal State-Fullerton, both from the Big West, are both playing in the Palo Alto Regional. Big XII rivals (2) Baylor and (1) Texas are both playing in UTís regional in Austin. Two of the SEC Westís most hated rivals, (1) Alabama and (2) Auburn, will both be participating in the Tuscaloosa regional. (3) James Madison and (4) Virginia Commonwealth, both of the Colonial Athletic Assoication, will be playing at Sarge-Frye Field in Columbia, SC. Finally, Atlantic 10 rivals (2) Richmond and (4) George Washington, will be participating in the Winston-Salem Regional, hosted by Wake Forest.
The committee was quoted as saying that Mississippi, Mississippi State, and Oklahoma State were three of the last teams left out of the tournament. The Rebels had a good record (37-19), good RPI (32), yet they were only 14-16 in the SEC (good for 9th in the standings) and were left out of their own conference tournament. If you arenít in the top two-thirds in your conference, you obviously arenít one of the best sixty-four teams in America. MSU had a record of 33-24 yet was only 14-15 in the SEC (seventh place) and had a bad RPI at 50. However, the Bulldogs were skipped over in the standings by Arkansas, the eighth team in the standings. Oklahoma State had a good record at 37-21 but their RPI was a little weak at 46. The last spot may have come down to Arkansas and OSU, both were about equal distance from the Wichita regional. The committee may have felt the SEC deserved a seventh team and rewarded Arkansas even though they proabably didnít deserve it.
Other teams who were likely left out towards the end: NC State (32-26, RPI of 38) -- Delaware (34-22, RPI of 43, winners of their division in the CAA) -- Rutgers (35-22, RPI of 48)


MORE COMING SOON

Iíll continue to have more and more preview items for the NCAA Regionals throughout the rest of the week, so continue to check back. Each of the regionals will be previewed, and Iíll make a prediction on each of them. Also, a link to the live stats for each game will be posted. The brackets for each regional have already been posted as have the regional pairings. Keep checking back for more info, and send me an email to let me know what you think!

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