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Stony Brook, Kent State Send Message to NCAA – From the Bird’s Nest

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Back a few weeks ago, when Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajun softball team received the #14 national seed in the NCAA Softball Tournament, Cajun fans were, um, not happy.  They looked at the #12 RPI and the #1 non-conference RPI.  They looked at how good this team was and knew, once again, the Cajuns had been undervalued.

When the selection committee looked at the Cajuns resume, the thing that stood out, in a negative way, was the Cajuns 4-0 record against the RPI Top 25.  The teams from the Pac-12, Big 12 and SEC had many, many more of those games and it worked in their favor and against the Cajuns…..as usual.

Once again, UL had been penalized because of the league they play in.

The Cajuns reached the Super-Regionals and faced #3 national seed Arizona State.  Trust me, the Sun Devils were as upset with the matchup as the Cajuns were.  They knew the Cajuns were much, much better than 14th.

Now, we look at the teams that have made it to Omaha this year for the Men’s College World Series and we see two teams that were undoubtedly very, very good clubs.

Stony Brook won 46 regular season games.  They were in the top five in the nation in hitting.  They had several major league prospects, evidenced by the seven who were drafted a week after the selections were made for the tournament.  They proved how good they were by beating Miami, Missouri State and UCF (twice) to make it to the Super-Regionals and then dominated the SEC regular season champions at their own crib to earn the trip to Omaha.

Kent State won 41 games.  They finished the regular season with a 12 game winning streak and won the Mid-American Conference with ease.  They then won four games in the league tournament to earn the NCAA auto bid.  Now, this is a team that in 2011 went to Austin and took Texas to the brink before falling in their last two games to be denied a trip to the supers.  They were a very good club and everyone knew it before the tournament started.  They stretched the winning streak to 16 by winning the MAC tournament, then swept through the Gary Regional undefeated, including a grinding 21-inning marathon against Kentucky.  They then went to Eugene, Oregon and won the Super-Regional in three thrilling games at the #5 national seed in order to earn their trip to the College World Series.

Now, what to the Golden Flashes and the Seawolves have in common?  Well, plenty.  No America East team had ever been to Omaha.  Eastern Michigan was the last team to make it from the MAC–36 years ago.  No team from Ohio had made it to Omaha in 62 years.  But the biggest thing they have in common is this:

If they hadn’t won their conference tournament, they would not have been selected as an at-large team.

Stony Brook did not have a single win against the RPI Top 100.  They only played three of those games, all against East Carolina…and lost all three.

Kent State was 3-7 against the likes of Georgia Tech, New Mexico State, Pepperdine and Fresno State.  They were swept in a three game series at Western Kentucky, who finished eighth in the Sun Belt.

Stony Brook, on selection day, had an RPI of 86.  Kent State had an RPI of 76.

Trust me, they wouldn’t have gotten a sniff if they hadn’t won their tournament.

If there was ever a time to take a hard look on the selection criteria for the NCAA baseball tournament, the time is now.

The selection committee has information in front of them.  Many, many pieces of paper.  And they use that paper to decide who gets in and who stays home.  The committee, made up of mostly athletic directors and commissioners of conferences, have seen very few of the teams play, and probably don’t spend a lot of time following teams during the regular season.  And, when all is said and done, once again, you’ll see most of the selections come from conferences where teams beat up on each other, and all benefit from the RPI bump.

It’s time for the NCAA to change some of the criteria used to select teams.

But, more importantly, it’s time to change the makeup of the committee.

It’s time to have people who actually know college baseball do the selections.  It’s time for the committee to have members who actually watch games and can tell you all about how good Utah Valley is, despite their location and their schedule.  It’s hard to win 31 in a row playing against yourself.  But hey, UVU didn’t play a tough schedule, therefore, here are some nice parting gifts.  Now, go away.

It’s time for college baseball writers like Mark Etheridge, Aaron Fitt, Kendall Rogers and Keith Law and a broadcaster like Kyle Peterson to be on the committee.  These are guys who follow college baseball for a living.  They actually watch games.  Before the season even started, Fitt suggested Stony Brook might be the best team anywhere in the north.  Think anyone on the committee knew that?

The NCAA can hire these guys, pay them a stipend to go and watch these games and actually sit down at the proper time and pick the BEST at-large teams to be in the tournament, instead of the teams that look the best according to a totally unfair criteria.

Think about it.  We were two conference tournament upsets away from not getting to see two of college baseball’s best stories ever.  And, we would have had bad criteria and people who don’t watch college baseball to thank for it.

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