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This Year's 16-Team Championship

Publication Date: July 3, 2001

Has It Really Been That Long?

I recently passed the one-year anniversary of Breadcrumbs (I celebrated with a Mountain Dew and a nap, thanks for asking). For those of you who weren't around for the first one and who haven't gone back through the archives, I opened up with a proposal for a better format for the championship tournament. Briefly, it's a look at a 16-team tournament (all we really need) based on a progression of best-of-five series. This week, I want to take a look at some of the objections to the scheme that have been raised since then and then take a look at how it could have played out for this year.

The Objections

It's not politically salable. Well, of course it's not politically salable, and of course it's not likely to happen any time soon. That doesn't make it stop being a good idea.

It discourages Northern and mid-conference teams from investing in the sport, since it makes them less likely to make the tournament. I'm against trying to convince people to invest in the sport for the same reason that I'm against voter registration drives: Anyone who's not smart enough to participate in the process for their own self-interest just leaves more influence for the people who actually care.

Best-of-five would stretch the pitching staffs too thin. OK, this one's legit, as the switch from 6-team to 4-team regionals has indirectly shown. We'd probably have to jiggle the schedule a bit in order to let teams get by with a 4-man rotation, although then you run into travel cost issues. Note that you only need too many pitchers if you go to game 5 more than once, so there's less of a problem than there could be.

It's not like this is the only alternative format that would be fairer than the current mess; I'll try to present another choice next week. In the interest of handicapping myself properly, I'll try to stick to the 64-team field and go from there.

The Simulation

First of all, I ran through my simulator 1000 times to see how many times each team won:

350 Stanford
276 Cal State Fullerton
191 Southern California
 43 Long Beach State
 28 Rice
 18 Pepperdine
 12 Tulane
 16 Cal-Santa Barbara
 15 Nebraska
 13 Arizona State
 11 Miami, Florida
  8 Louisiana State
 10 Tennessee
  2 South Carolina
  3 Georgia
  4 California

Next, I picked one representative run to look at:

Thursday, May 24:

Stanford 2, California 0
Georgia 2, Cal State Fullerton 0
South Carolina 3, Southern California 2
Long Beach State 1, Tennessee 0
Rice 7, Louisiana State 2
Pepperdine 10, Miami, Florida 8
Tulane 4, Arizona State 3
Cal-Santa Barbara 10, Nebraska 4

Friday, May 25:

California 6, Stanford 3
Cal State Fullerton 10, Georgia 1
South Carolina 4, Southern California 1
Tennessee 5, Long Beach State 0
Rice 9, Louisiana State 7
Miami, Florida 5, Pepperdine 4
Tulane 9, Arizona State 0
Cal-Santa Barbara 11, Nebraska 7

Saturday, May 26:

Stanford 1, California 0
Georgia 10, Cal State Fullerton 4
Southern California 5, South Carolina 3
Tennessee 1, Long Beach State 0
Louisiana State 8, Rice 2
Miami, Florida 7, Pepperdine 4
Tulane 4, Arizona State 0
Cal-Santa Barbara 0, Nebraska 0

Sunday, May 27:

Stanford 8, California 5
Cal State Fullerton 9, Georgia 8
South Carolina 2, Southern California 0
Long Beach State 1, Tennessee 0
Rice 1, Louisiana State 0
Pepperdine 7, Miami, Florida 5

Monday, May 28:

Georgia 7, Cal State Fullerton 5
Tennessee 1, Long Beach State 0
Miami, Florida 8, Pepperdine 3

The upset bug bites hard in the first round, as the #2, #3, #4, and #6 teams all bow out. Oddly enough, in all four cases this represents a California team losing to an underdog Southeastern team; obviously, California teams are chokers and there's a deep media bias built into the random number generator in my computer (if you've ever used evidence that weak in a discussion of regional superiority, or worse yet, if you don't recognize that last sentence as sarcasm, please turn off your computer now).

Thursday, May 31:

Stanford 2, Cal-Santa Barbara 1
Georgia 4, Tulane 0
Miami, Florida 5, South Carolina 2
Rice 9, Tennessee 2

Friday, June 1:

Stanford 8, Cal-Santa Barbara 5
Georgia 5, Tulane 3
South Carolina 3, Miami, Florida 1
Tennessee 6, Rice 1

Saturday, June 2:

Cal-Santa Barbara 8, Stanford 3
Tulane 3, Georgia 2
South Carolina 6, Miami, Florida 0
Rice 3, Tennessee 1

Sunday, June 3:

Stanford 9, Cal-Santa Barbara 6
Tulane 3, Georgia 0
South Carolina 7, Miami, Florida 5
Rice 11, Tennessee 8

Monday, June 4:

Tulane 8, Georgia 2

Stanford, Tulane, South Carolina, and Rice head to Omaha, where Stanford would be a fairly prohibitive favorite (by baseball standards, anyway) in this scenario. Note that, despite the best-of-five format, none of these four have played more than 8 games so far, although Miami and Georgia played nine before going out.

Friday, June 8:

Rice 2, Stanford 1
South Carolina 5, Tulane 2

Saturday, June 9:

Stanford 9, Rice 7
Tulane 11, South Carolina 8

Sunday, June 10:

Stanford 8, Rice 4
South Carolina 10, Tulane 2

Sunday, June 10:

Stanford 3, Rice 2
South Carolina 9, Tulane 4

In a nice balance between the desire for the underdog and the desire for the best team to win, we get the best team playing a Cinderella on a nice, lucky run. Oddly enough, these are the same two teams that played in the finals in the simulation I ran last year; I'm sure there's a conspirancy there, too.

Thursday, June 14 - Sunday, June 17:

Stanford 1, South Carolina 0
Stanford 8, South Carolina 1
South Carolina 9, Stanford 4
Stanford 6, South Carolina 2

No Monday-night title game this time, which probably won't break CBS's heart; as I pointed out last year, that'll only happen every few years, but could draw OK when it does if promoted right.

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