Okay StitchHeads, here we go. The field of 64 has been announced and big wigs of the sport have been given the red carpet treatment while the angst and anger of those mistreated ones has begun being aired. (Don’t worry, I’ll join in on that below). For starters let’s put on the tweed jacket with the patches on the elbows, get out the red pen and grade the NCAA Selection Committee on their layout of the Big Dance for 2017.
Overall grade for the committee: C
And the test scores that make up that grade…
Spreading of the Regional sites: C
Dispersing of the teams: C
Treatment of the mid-majors: D
Treatment of the undeserving: B+
Choosing of the teams: C-
Leaning too much on the conference tournament results: D-
Common sense factor: C+
MY KNEE-JERK REACTION TO THE ANNOUNCEMENT SHOW:
- Just like everyone else, I was left asking myself why Clemson gets a home Regional and Virginia doesn’t.
- Only one team got into the NCAAs with a losing record in conference play, Texas. But Ole Miss and South Carolina did not.
- Other than possibly having Oregon State and Clemson match up in the Supers – which probably won’t happen – there is almost zero interaction between the West and the ACC/SEC until we get to Omaha.
STREAKS, PEAKS AND NO REPEATS
- Miami’s streak of 44 straight NCAA Tournament appearances came to an end. Now the longest streak belongs to Florida State, which is making the 40th straight Big Dance.
- Rice made the biggest climb of anyone from the mid-season point of the season. At the beginning of April the Owls had an RPI of No. 132. Today they enter the NCAA Tournament at No. 39.
- The only newbies to the dance are Davidson, which won the Atlantic 10 tournament to make its first NCAA tournament, and Florida Gulf Coast, which won the Atlantic Sun tournament (but might have gotten an at-large bid anyway).
- South Carolina wins the award for being the best RPI team not to make the NCAA field of 64 at No. 32.
- The worst RPI time taking part in the tournament is Texas Southern at No. 268. Not so shockingly TSU gets sent to play LSU in game one. Hey TSU, you guys got a 2004-like stunning upset in you? (Rice remembers that one).
- For the third time in the last five years we are reassured of not having a repeat champion as Coastal Carolina did not make the NCAAs.
WHO GOT SCREWED:
Look NCAA, if you’re not going to reward a deserving team with a home Regional you should at least send that hacked-off team somewhere as a two-seed and at least send them to a site that was NOT a National Seed. In other words, you treated the Cavs like crap, so they should’ve been sent to Fayetteville or Lexington instead of to No. 6 National Seed TCU.
THE WEST FEST
Here’s how things panned out for the occidental types.
- Unlike last year, there will be Regionals out West of the Rockies as Oregon State, Stanford and Long Beach State were awarded Regionals.
- Although there is a little bit of funnel effect for the West with Stanford and Long Beach Regionals matching up for the Supers, but Oregon State will match its Regional with the Clemson Regional.
- My God, the West Coast Conference has to be so freakin’ curled right now. To show you the quality of the teams in the WCC, Boyd Nation’s more-sane ISR rankings have LMU (No. 22), San Diego (24) and Gonzaga (26). FYI, the WCC tournament champion BYU Cougars checked in at No. 31 in the ISR. But Gonzaga was the highest-rated RPI of the three at No. 49. No bids for any of them.
BIASED AGAINST THE BAYOU STATE
- While the WCC had its problems, mid-majors out of Louisiana weren’t treated much better. Southland member McNeese State (No. 42 RPI) and Conference USA member Louisiana Tech (No. 47) were both left to turn their gear in and start their summer ball early. Tech’s absence was particularly troubling since their non-conference RPI was up to No. 16 in the country. I mean, what else do the Bulldogs have to do to get an invite? Oh, and the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns were left out of the NCAA field as well.
- Long Beach.
Holy Magillicuddy, this is going to be one big-time knock-down, drag-out Regional. All four teams in the Long Beach Regional – Long Beach State, Texas, UCLA and San Diego State – are within the Top 32 of Boyd Nation’s ISR rankings. No other Regional even comes close. And by the way, why the hell is the toughest Regional always one of the ones out West. Well, except for last year, that is.
Well, the Oregon State Beavers are the No. 1 team in the country and they were treated like they were cared for with kid gloves. All three of their opposing teams will come from two to three time zones away and two of them, Holy Cross and Yale, are teams from the Northeast that rarely get into the Big Dance to begin with, so enjoy your red carpet Beaver fans.
MOST INTRIGUING POSSIBLE SUPER REGIONAL
- Kentucky at Louisville.
How ‘bout this one? Well, we’ll see if it actually happens. You know how these upsets come out of nowhere. But if it DOES happen, we’re all in for a treat. The third-ranked pitching staff in the country (Louisville at 2.82) will take on the No. 13-ranked offense (Kentucky at .312) will have geeks like me salivating from the first pitch to the last walk-off home run. C’mon baseball gods, let this one happen.
MOST REGIONAL REGIONAL
With Arkansas, Missouri State, Oklahoma State and Oral Roberts being within a 60-to-90 minute drive of each other, this one has a lot of familiarity to it. The Razorbacks have a significant home field advantage, but don’t be shocked at any one of them coming out of this one with a Regional title.
BEST TWO-SEED (BESIDES VIRGINIA):
Okay Texas Tech, you are on notice now. These Wildcats have shown that they have no freakin’ fear whatsoever. Last year they went to humid hot-boxes of Lafayette, Louisiana and Starkville, Mississippi and came out like champions, putting the beatdown on both the Ragin Cajuns and the Bulldogs. And those are two hostile environments, so they won’t be intimidated by Rip Griffin Park. Then again, the Red Raiders are a much better team than last year’s Louisiana or Mississippi State teams.
BEST THREE SEED
How does a team with a No. 25 ISR ranking end up as a three-seed? The Wolverines were apparently the “last team in” but don’t be fooled. The Fighting Harbaughs have the best pitching staff in the Big 10 (3.26 ERA) and also the best middle infield that I saw this year in the form of Michael Brdar and Ako Thomas, who is now back to 100% after sitting out some significant time due to injury. And you just get the idea that head coach Erik Bakich won’t let his charges go meekly So beware Tar Heels, you’re being warned here and now.
TOUGHEST FOUR SEED
The Houston Regional runs a close second to Long Beach Regional as the toughest out there thanks in part to the Iowa Hawkeyes, who enter the NCAA post-season for the second time in three years. I would say the Oral Roberts Eagles were the best four-seed but I saw the Hawkeyes beat the Eagles in the Dairy Queen Classic at the home of the Minnesota Vikings. Plus, the Hawkeyes have the nation’s top home run hitter in Jake Adams (27 bombs, team-leading .339 average), a right-hand hitting power-plug who can change a game with the swing of the bat.
MOST UNDERRATED 4-SEED
The Flames will have absolutely zero fear going down to Hattiesburg to play the Eagles or South Alabama or Mississippi State. In case you don’t remember, the Flames took down Vanderbilt in Nashville two out of three back in the second week of the season. Add to that, the Flames have the second-best team ERA in the country at 2.57. In fact, the Eagles need to beware as UIC ace Jake Dahlberg is 34th in the nation with a 2.09 ERA and will put anybody on “Upset Alert.”
BEST CHANCE FOR A ONE-SEED TO GO 0-2
This team is going to be under a ton of pressure. If they don’t live up to their seeding, they’re going to hear about it from their fellow ACC fan bases. Add to the fact that they have been on a 6-11 skid since late April and they’ll face off with the fourth-best hitting team in the country in UNC-Greensboro. If offense is contagious, don’t count out the Spartans in this 1-vs-4 matchup. And of course, Vanderbilt is a potential monster that just needs to be awakened and St. John’s is the only team in the nation with an ERA (2.97) and batting average (.327) inside of the Top 10. Tough draw for the IPTAY boys.