Despite “concern” about increasing parity in Division I college baseball, NCAA committee chair Dennis Farrell boasted an “extraordinarily smooth” selection process that selected the tournament field of 64 this weekend.
On a Monday afternoon conference call with national media, Farrell, also the Commissioner of the Big West Conference, gave much credit to his Regional Advisory Committees for providing the “marriage of art and science” that help make the final tournament selections.
“In my mind the whole selection process is a marriage of art and science,” said Farrell, who is in his fourth year on the selection committee. “Obviously the science is the data that we receive tons of, whether it be RPI information or results against top 25, 50, 100, bottom 150, that type of information that we have plenty of access to.
“The art part of it in my mind is what the coaches that serve on the eight regional advisory committees see. These are the guys that go out and play the games. They know the players. They know the teams’ strengths and weaknesses, and they provide some very valuable insight into each of the regions that the committee takes under advisement, and we ask them in each of the regions to rank the teams from their respective regions.”
The NCAA’s continued request to avoid long-distance travel when possible and the committee’s own desire to avoid regional pairings seen in recent years played into the decision making.
“We have safety net considerations that take into account whether schools have been paired with each other in the last two years,” admitted Farrell.
Travel distance came into play when discussing the weight of the regionals hosted by the University of Florida (Gainesville) and University of Miami (Coral Gables). A reporter pointed out the drastic difference in perceived strength of four seeds in those two regionals, and Farrell pointed to limiting travel and a look more at the science of selection as the reasoning for the combinations.
“All of the brackets are put together with the principle of trying to limit the amount of travel that occurs for the three teams that have to go there,” explained Farrell. “So both of those regionals you have the fourth seed that is a driving team to both Gainesville and Coral Gables, while the No. 2 and 3 seeds in both of those regionals are flying. Now, that being said, we also try to balance the competitiveness of each of those regionals as much as possible, so we look at the combined RPIs of the three teams that are seeded 1, 2 and 3, and in this case the Coral Gables bracket has a combined RPI of 67, while the Gainesville one has a combined RPI of 72.”
Travel also came into play with the decision to send UNLV to be the second seed in No. 1 overall Oregon State’s regional. As the committee slotted their regionals, “It just seemed to fit that UNLV would go (to Corvallis)” said Farrell.
Farrell also dove into the selection process for the final two hosting seeds. He revealed that five teams were considered for the last two spots: eventual hosts Oklahoma State and Louisville, with Houston, Texas and Washington left on the outside looking in.
“Oklahoma State playing in the Big 12 Championship certainly helped them, as well, as well as winning the regular season in the Big 12,” said Farrell. “Then Louisville had the dominance over Houston this year with a series sweep and the championship game.”
Farrell also faced questions about the omission of USC, who won two games against Oregon State this weekend, noting that his committee found faults in their head-to-head against tournament team UC Irvine and their fifth place tie in the Pac-12.