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Nine Innings: Questions heading into Monday


Nine questions heading into the Regional Selection Show
First Inning

"There are
mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi'>damned lies and statistics
class=st>." - Mark Twain

RPI: Mention those three little letters to an
Arkansas fan right now and you might get a four letter word back. The Razorbacks
finished third in the SEC but were not awarded a host site. Teams they finished
ahead of in the standings - South Carolina and Mississippi State - each will
host Regionals this week. Arkansas also has the head-to-head advantage taking a
series from Mississippi State in Fayetteville and pulling off an impressive
sweep of the Gamecocks in Columbia.

They won 19 regular season games plus a
couple more in the conference tournament and the Hogs still came up short. Why?

Those three letters, that's why. Arkansas
sits at #31 in the RPI at the moment. Teams with RPI ranks in that range rarely
host. The few occasions where they have were "grow the game" Northern hosts or
the year UCLA had Trevor Bauer and Gerrit Cole and
won the Pac 10 with a team everyone felt was better than their RPI.

I think most people feel that way about
Arkansas too. If they had this same resume last year they might have been able to host despite the RPI. Remember LSU won the SEC with 19 wins in '12. A co-regular
season champ might have been enough but with the unbalanced schedule the
conference record gets some extra scrutiny.

The other part of this topic is that Arkansas
entered the week with an RPI hovering around 50. They beat Ole Miss and split
with LSU and rose almost 20 points. Should a formula that allows a team to jump
20 points by winning in their 55th and 56th games be the
one we use to select our postseason field?

We need something to measure teams that play
vastly difference schedules. 37-20 is different based on who you play. But 20
point swing in two games at the end of the year?

We need a better way.
Second Inning

I've been around the
Had my pick of any girl
You'd think I'd be happy
But I'm not
Ev'rybody knows my name
But it's just a crazy game
Oh, it's lonely at the top
- song
by Randy Newman

We have known six of the eight National seeds for quite a
while now. Our April
2nd Projections had Vanderbilt, LSU, North Carolina, Virginia,
Oregon State, and Cal State Fullerton as National seeds and nothing has changed
since. That batch also had Oregon and Indiana - two teams hoping for one of
those last spots.
If this was my field to pick - I'd probably go with NC State
and Florida State. But that would give the ACC half of the National seeds. In a
committee setting, that's a tough sell.
As a result the smart money would be on either the Pack or
the Noles getting one and the Ducks or maybe the
Hoosiers getting the other.
Let's compare their resumes:
The biggest difference is how many high RPI clubs the ACC
teams play. Part of that is due to the strength of the conference. Another
class=GramE>factor  is that some
of the ACC teams have inflated RPI rankings (Do we really consider Maryland the
37th best team in America?). 
Looking at this NC State appears to have the better resume - but they
did lose head-to-head at home to Florida State in a late-season series.
Will the committee value on the field for a weekend or what transpired
over the entire season?
The tipping point for me picking Oregon over Indiana is how
well the Ducks did when they traveled to Ohio State. The Ducks swept an Ohio
State team (held them one run in three games) that finished two games behind
the Hoosiers. Indiana did win three of four from Buckeyes and several were by
dominating fashion. It comes down to a preference and at a distance the Oregon
performance is slightly more impressive.
In our final projections, we will have the following
National seeds:
<![if !supportLists]>
<![if !supportLists]>
<![endif]>North Carolina
<![if !supportLists]>
<![if !supportLists]>
<![endif]>Oregon State
<![if !supportLists]>
<![if !supportLists]>
<![endif]>Cal State Fullerton
<![if !supportLists]>
<![endif]>NC State
<![if !supportLists]>


Third Inning
"I understand how
scissors can beat paper and I get how rock can beat scissors but there's no way
paper can beat rock. Is paper supposed to magically wrap around rock and leave
it immobile?

Why the hell can't
paper do this to scissors? S

Screw scissors, why
can't paper do this to people?

Why aren't sheets of
college ruled notebook paper constantly suffocating students as they take notes
in class?

I'll tell you why, because
paper can't beat anybody!

A rock would tear that
%$&^ up in two seconds.

When I play rock, paper,
scissors I always choose rock. Then when someone claims to have beaten me with
paper, I can punch them in the face with my already clenched fist and say:
Oh I'm so sorry, I thought paper would protect you!" --
Dane Cook

Sorting out the pecking order for teams often ends in
circular logic. Team A beat Team B but Team B beat Team C who beat Team A. It's
why head-to-head doesn't always work as the tie-breaker and why pool play
tournaments are the devils spawn sent here along with Carrot Top and Jar Jar Binks just to hack us off.
We have a similar scenario at the bottom of the SEC. There
are three bubble teams and with the run on stolen bids like they were
rib-flavored potato chips (seriously you have to try those) there probably isn't
room for all of them.
So how do you choose?
Florida finished eighth in the regular season, Texas
class=GramE>A&M was ninth, and Auburn tenth. Auburn went to both
Gainesville and College Station and took two out of three for each. So Auburn
is in, right?
Except Auburn broke the cardinal sin of SEC
teams in the Selection Committee's eyes by playing a home-baked preconference
schedule. When your primary resume strength is your conference record and you finished tenth, that argument doesn't take you far.
But the problem is Auburn won their last three SEC series beating Florida (a
bubble team) and a pair of #2 seeds in Ole Miss and Arkansas. Right now Auburn
is playing its best ball of the season and could realistically go into a
Regional and do keg stands on the kitchen table en route to ruining the home
team's party. They have that kind of upside as they showed us the last three
Then there's Florida. The Gators limped down the stretch and
lost nine of their last 11 games. They are only one game over .500 overall and were
also 14-16 in the conference. But they scheduled tough. Their SOS is rated #2
in the nation and they have 11 wins versus the RPI top 25 teams. They did what
the committee asked - they scheduled tough. When you play good teams you are
going to lose some games. That's the way that typically works.
style='mso-spacerun:yes'> If Florida gets left out because they played
too many tough opponents, what message do you think coaches are going to take
from this? They are going to print out Boydsworld
RPIs, take the bottom part that we usually discard, and call that school for every
opening on the schedule. It's already being discussed. We'll see where we land.
Texas A&M is kind of the middle
ground here. They played a top ten strength of schedule and had a nice run in
Hoover beating Florida and Vanderbilt. If you add in their Tournament showing
they move up to eighth in the SEC standings. Plus they have AD Eric Hyman on
the Selection Committee. And Johnny Football - I don't think he's on the
committee but he's popping up everywhere else these days. Going to guess that
combination is enough to extend their season.
The Verdict:
Texas A&M then Florida then Auburn.
Which means at least Auburn probably gets send Quahog. Again.
Fourth Inning
choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I've never tried
before." - Mae West

What does the committee value? Will they stick to the RPI?
Will they give extra weight to conference champions? How much will strength of
schedule factor in? What about quality wins, bad losses?
That's the thing. We find out after the fact what is being
valued in the present year. There are often carry-over and a few trends but
each season there is a curve that has us screwed into the batters
For example, what do you do with a Notre Dame that has a
losing conference record and finished sixth in the sixth rated conference but
has a top 35 RPI? By RPI they should be in but by conference finish they should
The Big East is going to struggle to get someone other than
regular season champ Louisville and tournament champ Connecticut in the field. Is
Notre Dame getting in ahead of 2nd place teams Pitt and Seton Hall?
The Irish have the better RPI.
On the flip side of this you have regular season champions
like Western Carolina, Sam Houston State, New Mexico, and Gonzaga who had great
regular seasons but their RPI's are not as strong. And what about teams that
didn't win their leagues but played well in the conferences but don't have
great RPIs? Examples would be Coastal Carolina, William & Mary, UCSB, San
Francisco, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma State, and Ohio State. All of those teams are
not getting in. There isn't room.
It will be interesting to see which way the committee leans
this year.


Fifth Inning
from the past, set vivid, detailed goals for the future, and live in the only
moment of time over which you have any control: now." -
class=bodybold>Denis Waitley

The advantage of having 14 years covering Regional field
announcements is we can go back and see how the committee did things in years
past and see if any of them are relevant to examples in the current season.
Here's my
Regional Reaction piece. Some notable parts:
<![if !supportLists]>
<![endif]>"Basically the committee can pick who they want.
If the members decide this year to reward strength of schedule, they can do it.
Then on another team they can reward a team for winning their conference. When the
team has neither, they can rely on other criteria - like being second in their
region. The bottom line is if you are a bubble National seed, bubble host team,
or bubble at large team you are at the mercy of the committee conversation."
Here's the committee folks. Don't
be surprised if their teams do OK Monday.
The members of the Division I Baseball Committee for the
2012-13 academic year include Dennis Farrell (Chairman), Commissioner,
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>Big West Conference; Randy
class=SpellE>Buhr, Senior Associate Director of Athletics, Dr.
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>Washington State University; Joel Erdmann,
Director of Athletics, University of
South Alabama; Larry Gallo, Senior Associate Director of Athletics,
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>University of North Carolina,
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>Chapel Hill; Robert Goodman, Senior
Associate Commissioner, Colonial
Athletic Association; Richard Greenspan, Director of Athletics,
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>Rice University; David
class=SpellE>Heek, Director of Athletics,
normal'>Central Michigan University; Eric Hyman, Director of Athletics,
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>Texas A&M University; Mark
class=SpellE>LaBarbera, Director of Athletics,
normal'>Valparaiso University; and Ed Scott, Associate Director of
Athletics for Student Services,
Binghamton University.
<![if !supportLists]>
<![endif]>"Wake Forest is probably upset they missed out
on the deal. Committee chair Kyle Kallander said the
group kept coming back to their 13-17 ACC record. And without anything in
non-conference to offset it, the Demon Deacons are packing up for summer ball
instead of Gainesville or Columbia."
Sound familiar Auburn?
text-indent:-.25in;mso-list:l2 level1 lfo3'><![if !supportLists]>
<![endif]>"College of Charleston received an at large bid,
one of three the Southern Conference received. Sam Houston State received a bid
out of the Southland. Indiana State and Missouri State each received at large
bids out of the Missouri Valley. New Mexico State got one from WAC. San Diego
(WCC), TCU (Mt West), Louisville (Big East), Michigan State (Big 10), Dallas
Baptist (Independent) all got in as well. That is eleven at large bids from
outside the SEC, ACC, Pac 10, Big XII, CUSA, and Big West.
That's 11 of 34 - close to 33% from non-power conferences. Of those, only three
(at larges) were better than #3 seeds. This season only Big 10 champ Purdue
broke through the old boy's host club.
Look for that trend to only continue as the power
conferences get more members and more television money.
<![if !supportLists]>
<![endif]> "The
other comment was that Michigan State was considered the best team in their region.
Note the distinction that region does not equal conference. There is a coach in
that region that provided the committee with a ranking of the teams in the Big
10, MAC, and any other teams in the geographic area. There is a similar adviser
for other regions."
This could help an Ohio State, Michigan State, Pitt, Seton
Hall, or Notre Dame get in. If we're on the quota
system for geographical areas, these guys will benefit.


Sixth Inning

It was a moving scene
today at Hatch Pond as six members of the Pawtucket fire department struggled
valiantly to save the life of a fish, trapped under the frozen ice. Rescue
workers managed to get the fish out of the water, but unfortunately it died
shortly after. - Family Guy episode

All Stanford did was win 16 Pac 12 games and finish fifth in
the conference. They have one of the most talented rosters in the country and
the probable first or second overall pick in the draft. And unless something
changes, they will sit home next week while we enjoy the Regional party.
There's a similar story in Arizona where the defending CWS
champs finished sixth in the Pac 12 and didn't do enough in non-conference to
realistically get an at large bid.
If I am a Pac 12 (or Big West for that matter) program I
have to be wondering how Maryland or Duke or Kentucky can have such a good RPI
finishing in the bottom of the first and second rated conferences while the Pac
12 #5 can't crack #60?
Over the years we have added win bonuses to the RPI and this
year we rewarded road wins. Guess what? It is still just as unpredictable after
the first few teams as it ever was. Is there really much difference between Stanford
and Miami? How about UC Irvine and Alabama? The Southern teams are going to be
playing next week while the west coast teams likely won't be.
Keep putting addresses in the GPS folks,
we haven't yet reached our RPI destination.


Seventh Inning

"Sorry Meg. Daddy
loves ya, but Daddy also loves Star Trek, and in all
fairness, Star Trek was here first." - Family Guy

Sometimes life isn't fair. A team like Western Carolina
dominates the SoCon and takes the regular season but
because they dropped two games in the conference tournament they may get left
at home. Those are the kinds of teams you feel bad for.
There are several teams that would have seen their name on
the board Monday that will not thanks to a few conference tournament upsets
resulting in automatic bids. Here is our stolen bid list for this season:
San Diego State pushed the Mountain West from a one bid to
two bid league - assuming New Mexico gets in.
Towson gave the CAA an extra bid although we don't know yet
if William & Mary will get in or not.
Central Arkansas pushed the Southland from a one bid league
to two - assuming Sam Houston State gets in.
Liberty gives the Big South a third
bid. I think Campbell and Coastal Carolina each get in.
Connecticut takes a bid from someone - although it is hard
to know if Notre Dame and Seton Hall will join Louisville to make it a four bid
We'll have a better idea tomorrow but right now we sit at
five stolen bids.


Eighth Inning

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>The aim of the wise is not to secure
pleasure, but to avoid pain. - Aristotle
Some teams are going to make someone very anxious when they
pop up in your bracket.
Here are three projected #2, #3, and #4 seeds most #1s would
just as soon avoid:
#2 seeds:
Arkansas' pitching staff will probably make them favored by
most to win many Regionals
Oklahoma has a double-barreled rotation to get them into the
Clemson probably had a host site and top seed until they
went 0-3 this week. They are a tough #2.
#3 seeds:
Central Arkansas has confidence after winning series at
Mississippi State in February and taking the SLC tournament this week.
Oklahoma State has a poor RPI but did well in the Big XII
and has the players to scare you.
Campbell has 49 wins in an underrated conference.
#4 seeds:
Wichita State is not your typical #4 seed.
St. Louis is another accomplished team that has some talent.
East Tennessee State has an ace and is hot after their A-Sun
Ninth Inning

style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>Maturity is the ability to reap without
apology and not complain when things don't go well. - Jim Rohn

It should be fun again as another regular season comes to a
close with the Selection show. ESPN is stepping up their Regional coverage with
broadcasts of all 16 Regionals. They'll have a studio show and a Bases Loaded
channel where they whip around to the top games. When one thinks back to where
this sport has come in the last decade it really is impressive. Despite all of
our sniping and complaining, college baseball is as healthy as it has ever