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Hey! They Got It Right

Publication Date: June 5, 2001

More Is More, Sometimes

I have, on occasion, been fairly critical of the NCAA and the selection committees over the years. I want to point out today that something they has done has apparently had a small positive effect, even if that effect wasn't something that they intended or probably even cared about. First, some numbers:

1990  2
1991  5
1992  4
1993  6
1994  4
1995  6
1996  7
1997  5
1998  5
1999  7
2000  4
2001  7

The first number is obviously a year. The second number is the number of the top eight seeds before the tournament (the #1 seeds under the 48-team format; the national #1 seeds under the current format) who made it to Omaha.

There have been too few years so far under the 64-team format to be certain, but it appears that teams that the selection committee thinks are the best around (and which, then, should have the best chance to win the championship under a fair format) now have a better chance to win the title under the 64-team format than they did under the 48-team format.

At first glance, this is counterintuitive; if you add teams, then you make the better teams play more games and increase the number of chances for upsets. I think the most likely reason for it, though, is that four-team regionals more nearly measure the conditions that the rest of the season has been built for than the six-team regionals did.

On a visceral level, I miss the six-team regionals. They were a marathon, four days of baseball full of strategy, maneuvering, and unlikely heroes. Every year, some freshman who had pitched six innings all year would come out on Sunday somewhere in the country and throw the game of his life, sending his team on to Omaha while he was never heard from again. It made for great drama, but it also weakened the field in Omaha, since those fifth-pitcher-on-the-staff matchups didn't simulate the rest of the season very well. So, all in all, it's probably better to leave the marathons to the conference tournaments (they have to be good for something) and stay with the current format. I miss those bizarre Sundays, but I like watching the best teams in the country battle it out on the big stage like most of them will get to do this week.

None of this, of course, changes the fact that it's ridiculous to have teams like this year's Georgia Southern or Minnesota teams involved in the process of selecting a national champion; I still like my proposal for a 16-team tournament. I'll run another simulation of it over the summer. It also doesn't change the fact that the change was made for all the wrong reasons, or at least is the wrong method for achieving those reasons. Nonetheless, it's turning out well so far.

Random Notes

It's highly unusual for the ISR's to change much this late in the season; too many games have been played already for teams to change things all that much. That makes Nebraska's moves over the last month or so, from #12 up to #4 this week, all the more impressive. I don't think they can catch up to #1 even if they win this week, but the odds are a lot better for that now than I thought they were when the regular season ended.

Speaking of which, the current ISR-based probabilities for the CWS:

27 Southern California
24 Stanford
22 Cal State Fullerton
 7 Miami, Florida
 6 Tennessee
 5 Tulane
 5 Nebraska
 5 Georgia

USC's advantage comes from their side of the bracket being easier; otherwise the top three are remarkably close. There's about a 40% chance of an all-California final.

Boyd's World-> Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha-> Hey! They Got It Right About the author, Boyd Nation