This year’s NCAA Baseball Tournament Committee had some difficult decisions to make when it came to picking the 64 teams that would continue their seasons. Given some close and controversial choices, committee chair and Big 12 deputy commissioner Tim Weiser had some explaining to do on the post-bracket announcement media conference call on Monday afternoon.
“If it were just a factor of RPI, my committee wouldn’t need to spend our holiday weekend in Indianapolis,” said Weiser in response to many media questions about the inclusion of St. Johns and the exclusion of LSU, who finished #9 in the strong SEC.
St. John’s snuck in as the #3 seed in the Charlottesville, Virginia regional. “St. John’s finished second in the Big East to a very good UConn team, who won their conference tournament. Is a #2 finish in the Big East more important than a #9 finish in the SEC? The committee had a very lively debate on that in the end, but once they received 7 of 10 on that blind ballot, they were in.
“This is more an art than a science. There is a lot of discussion,” stressed Weiser. He went on to explain that the schedule of some Northern teams, like St. John’s, is considered differently, given how many games they must play on the road early on.
Another point the committee looked at was “the availability of our student-athletes” – NCAA code for weighing what teams are facing injuries to their most key players. At the crux of this committee discussion was Big 12 Tournament Champion Texas A&M, who recently lost number one pitcher John Stilson to a torn labrum. Texas A&M will still host a regional, but wasn’t as highly ranked as some fans and media members expected.
Weiser said Texas A&M’s placement wasn’t all about the injury, but that it may have swayed the decision for some members of his committee. “What we had to go with was in that final weekend in Big 12 play, Texas took 2 games from A&M. We had those kind of discussions already as a committee, and then we were informed about that injury (to Stilson.) Some members of the committee, when we heard about that injury, that was the final piece of the puzzle for them.”
The committee considered 110 teams for the 64 tournament spots, a five team increase over last year. There were 22 teams in contention for the 16 top seeds, and nine of those 16 top seeds were unanimous decision, though Weiser would not divulge who those unanimous teams were. In order to make the field, any team needs seven of ten votes from the committee.
Weiser did acknowledge that the team had to sleep on their decisions, and assembled early Monday morning to make a few final choices. Though he wouldn’t come out and name the teams who were being toiled over in the end, Weiser did mention that teams such as Elon, Oregon and Stony Brook were hanging around for discussion late in the game.
The committee also had some independents to consider in Dallas Baptist and Cal State Bakerfield. Weiser mentioned that both teams have difficulty finding quality weekend games, and thus are able to start their star pitchers in games during the week, allowing them to beat strong teams. “In the case of Dallas Baptist, that was as meaningful to our group as anything,” explained Weiser. “They beat A&M, they had a good schedule, and had success against the Big 12 teams.” Dallas Baptist ended up as a #3 seed in the Fort Worth regional.
As for the number one overall seed, Virginia, Weiser acknowledged that they were clearly the class of the field for that spot. “When you look at Virginia through the course of the season, there really isn’t anyone else who has had that much success throughout the season. Brian O’Connor has done an outstanding job. They lost some games late to North Carolina, but that wasn’t enough to offset what they did in the other 53 games.”