By Sean Ryan
The incredible shrinking bubble…
Over the past few days, the bubble for at-large bids to the NCAA College Baseball Tournament kept getting smaller. As teams like Iowa, Oklahoma State, Rice and Xavier played their way into the Field of 64, stalwarts like Texas A&M, South Carolina and Miami and hopefuls like St. John’s, Connecticut and Old Dominion held their breath.
The result was a bit more of a crap shoot than most years.
The bubble was kind to Auburn, Texas A&M, St. John’s and Michigan, the committee’s last four in (for what it’s worth, we had Maryland as our last team in and UCLA in that mix rather than Auburn and Michigan). The bubble was unkind to Miami – ending a streak of 44 straight years – UConn, Old Dominion and South Carolina (we included McNeese and Gonzaga in our first four out).
We happened to project all 64 teams that the NCAA Committee included in this year’s field. But we also admit we easily could have missed a few.
Each of the teams that made the cut could make a pretty solid case. As could the first five to even 10 teams that didn’t.
The main squabbles for us appear to be with powers Miami and South Carolina, each of which played Top 10 schedules and piled up Top 100 wins, and UConn and Old Dominion, teams that were tough all season in tough conferences. The Huskies, for example, finished with an RPI of 38, had 20 road/neutral wins and played only 18 home games.
But who do you take out?
We thought Maryland was vulnerable based on only 10 Top 100 wins (compared to 20 for Miami, 22 for South Carolina, 18 for Old Dominion and 17 for UConn). We also thought hard about Auburn and Texas A&M, but figured the SEC would get eight teams (plus, we thought if one of those two got in, the other would because of similar resumes).
The smaller bubble unfortunately left more teams out – and probably created less debate than we normally have this Memorial Day of which three or four teams should have been in.
Some other thoughts:
- We agree it’s time for teams to be seeded 1-16. It’s good to hear the national discussion appears to be happening and there is some momentum.
- We’ll give some thoughts on toughest and weakest brackets later today, but a few things that stood out:
- Virginia is a really strong No. 2 headed to play national seed TCU; we thought the Cavaliers may host, and when that didn’t happen, we saw them headed to Lexington or possibly Fayetteville, not a national seed.
- South Alabama as a 3-seed was a bit surprising. Also surprising is that the Jaguars were paired with Mississippi State – the teams played three times during the regular season. Southern Miss’ reward for hosting a Regional is two teams in the Top 30 in RPI and UIC, which has the second-best ERA in the country.
- Gainesville and Tallahassee weren’t paired together for the Super Regional round. Thank you! The committee did make some logical pairings like Louisville and Lexington and Stanford and Long Beach. We’re still pushing for ease of travel not to be as much a factor in the Super Regional round. The tournament has come a long, long way. A few extra flights are deserved rather than have the West Coast teams again knocking each other off for the right to go to Omaha.