Baseball BeatJune 07, 2008
The Road to Omaha is Easier for Some Than Others
By Rich Lederer

The top-eight seeds in the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship all won their Regionals last weekend and automatically earned the right to host Super Regionals this weekend. However, it is important to note that no national seed has won the College Baseball World Series since Rice in 2003.

The Super Regional pairings are as follows:

  • Arizona (41-17) at No. 1 Miami (50-8)
  • Coastal Carolina (50-12) at No. 2 North Carolina (49-12)
  • Fresno State (40-28) at No. 3 Arizona State (48-11)
  • Wichita State (47-15) at No. 4 Florida State (52-11)
  • Stanford (37-22-2) at No. 5 Cal State Fullerton (41-20)
  • Texas A&M (46-17) at No. 6 Rice (45-13)
  • UC Irvine (41-16) at No. 7 LSU (46-16-1)
  • North Carolina State (41-20) at No. 8 Georgia (39-22-1)

    Three of the four national seeds lost in the opening game on Friday. Miami, Florida State, and Cal State Fullerton were all defeated yesterday and are playing today to avoid elimination. In the meantime, Georgia, the only victorious team, lost the second game of its series to North Carolina State earlier today. The rubber match will be held on Sunday. The other four matchups kick off on Saturday, continue on Sunday, and, if need be, will conclude on Monday.

    The winners of the Super Regionals will comprise the eight spots in the College World Series, which starts Friday, June 14 at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska.

    Baseball America's Aaron Fitt has created excellent previews, broken down by the Friday and Saturday start dates. The articles include schedules, TV times, starting lineups, stats, and scouting reports written by college coaches.

    Despite being treated harshly by the NCAA selection committee, teams from the West dominated schools from outside the area in last week's Regionals. Bob Keisser, sports columnist and college beat writer for the Long Beach Press-Telegram, broke down the grave injustices yesterday.

    There were 14 regional games matching West Coast teams against colleges East of Tempe, and the West outdid itself. They were 14-0.

    Arizona, Arizona State and UC Irvine went 9-0, and I imagine the coaches and players at Long Beach, San Diego and Cal are somewhat envious considering they were all forced to play in the same NCAA sandbox.

    But this really just puts an exclamation point on a trend. Since the field expanded to 64 teams and went to 16 first-round regionals, West Coast teams have beaten out-of-towners at a .672 clip, going 117-57.

    It gets better. West Coast teams have been matched against a team from another region in a Super Regional 12 times, and won 11 of them. The winning percentage for all games played in those regionals is .806, 25-6.

    When teams from here play teams from there in the College World Series in Omaha, they win at a .590 clip (36-25), which includes three champions (Oregon State twice, Fullerton once), and three runner-up efforts (Stanford all three).

    It's just another layer of stats underscoring the bias that exists when it comes to NCAA decisions. Teams from here, given the opportunity to play outside their neighborhood, prove time and again their prowess, and the only thing holding them back are the parameters of the seeding.

    It was noted last week that the maximum number of West Coast teams that could possibly advance to this week's Super Regionals was six. Well, six made it. It was also noted that the SEC and ACC - with 24 teams, comparative to the number of teams in the Pac-10, Big West and West Coast Conference (25) combined - had 11 chances to move on to the Super Regionals.

    Only six made it. For those scoring at home, four of the SEC/ACC teams that lost did so in regionals won by a team from the West. I didn't really have to add that, did I?

    Keisser suggests that "the NCAA needs to consider seeding the baseball tournament 1-to-64 like they do in basketball and stop lumping teams together automatically by geography." Using RPIs, Keisser seeded the entire field of 64 teams and determined that the 12 West Coast teams would have been "spread across nine regionals as opposed to six, and there would have been no more than two West Coast teams in any one regional." His conclusion? "There's no guarantee that any would have had more success in these brackets, but based on the numbers and avoiding neighbors, one would like their chances."

    * * *

    The four finalists for the 22nd annual Dick Howser Trophy to college baseball's player of the year were named this week. Georgia shortstop Gordon Beckham, Missouri pitcher Aaron Crow, Florida State catcher Buster Posey, or Arizona State third baseman Brett Wallace will be presented with this prestigious award in Omaha, Nebraska, on June 14, the first day of the College World Series. All four players were also selected as finalists for the Golden Spikes award, which also goes to the best college player. University of San Diego pitcher Brian Matusz is also a finalist for the latter honor. These five players were among the top 13 picks in the MLB draft on Thursday. All but Crow and Matusz are still playing in the Super Regionals this weekend.