Virginia planted as top seed in NCAA Tournament
Posted: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 4:01 pm
By: By DENNIS WASZAK JR., AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Virginia was selected Monday as the top seed for the 64-team NCAA Division I College Baseball Tournament.
The Cavaliers (49-9) won the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament and will host one of 16 four-team, double-elimination regionals that begin Friday. Virginia, led by left-hander and potential No. 1 overall draft pick Danny Hultzen, opens against Patriot League champion Navy (33-23-1) in the Charlottesville regional.
“When you look at Virginia over the course of the season, it’s hard to argue that anybody has had more success than Virginia,” said selection committee chairman Tim Weiser, also the deputy commissioner of the Big 12.
The other national seeds, in order, are: Florida (45-16), North Carolina (45-14), South Carolina (45-14), Florida State (42-17), Vanderbilt (47-10), Texas (43-15) and Rice (41-19). Those teams will not have to face each other until the College World Series, if they make it there.
It’s the first time Virginia has been seeded No. 1, which doesn’t necessarily translate to success in Omaha. The only top national seed to win it all since the field was expanded in 1999 to 64 teams was Miami in that same year.
Weiser said that in many of the committee members’ minds, Virginia coach Brian O’Connor has fielded his best team, the only Division I squad with single-digit losses despite three straight defeats at North Carolina to end the regular season.
“That wasn’t, I think for our committee, enough to offset what they had done in the previous 53 games, if you will,” Weiser said.
Defending national champion South Carolina will open against Southern Conference Tournament champ Georgia Southern in the Columbia regional. The Gamecocks were among seven Southeastern Conference schools selected for the tournament by the NCAA baseball committee, joining Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi St. and Vanderbilt.
Also with seven teams is the ACC with Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Virginia. The Big 12 (Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M) and Pac-10 (Arizona, Arizona State, California, Oregon State, Stanford and UCLA) each had six teams selected.
The 16 regional winners move on to the best-of-three super regionals. Those eight winners advance to the College World Series, which begins June 18 in Omaha, Neb., at the new TD Ameritrade Park Omaha after 61 years at Rosenblatt Stadium.
Miami is in the field for the 39th consecutive year, which extends its own record, while Florida State is making its 34th straight appearance.
Alcorn State, Belmont and Arkansas-Little Rock are all in the regionals for the first time. Mountain West champion New Mexico (20-39) joined Alcorn State (27-28) and Arkansas Little-Rock (24-32) as teams to get in with losing records by winning their conference tournaments.
Weiser said the committee balances win-loss record, RPI, strength of schedule and regular-season finish in determining national seeds, top seeds in brackets and who gets an at-large berth. Another factor is availability of key players, something that hurt Texas A&M’s shot at a national seed. The Aggies (42-18) won the Big 12 tournament despite losing ace right-hander John Stilson to a season-ending shoulder injury.
Weiser said the committee, which gathered in Indianapolis over the weekend, considered 31 teams for the last seven at-large berths.
“That’s where, for a committee, is probably the greatest stress, trying to determine which teams are in and which teams are out,” he said. “We realize the disappointment that that creates for those that get left out.”
One of the most surprising teams to get an at-large berth was St. John’s (35-20), which finished second to Connecticut in the regular season and lost to Seton Hall in the Big East tournament championship game. The Red Storm, which had one win over teams in the RPI top 50, made it in over teams such as LSU (36-20), which was hurt by finishing tied for ninth in the SEC and not making the conference tournament, Elon (36-21), Oregon (33-26-1), Hawaii (34-25), Stony Brook (42-12) and Michigan State (36-21).
“It isn’t just about the RPI,” Weiser said. “In the end what that discussion kind of centered on for a number of our committee members was: Isn’t a second-place finish in the Big East more important than a ninth-place finish in the SEC or an eighth-place finish in the Big 12, or whatever it might be?”
In previous years, it appeared the selection committee put more weight on RPI than conference standings. Not so this year.
“I think our committee perhaps did a better job of putting the RPI where I think it should be in terms of a single tool to evaluate,” Weiser said. “I think a lot of times that becomes bigger than it really should be. … In this year’s deliberations, I would say that as a committee, we probably didn’t use the RPI as the hammer that maybe it’s been perceived as being in previous years.”