Boyd's World-> Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha-> The 2003 Tournament Field About the author, Boyd Nation

The 2003 Tournament Field

Publication Date: May 27, 2003

The Good

Well, it's not a perfect field, and I'll talk more about that at considerable length, but there are a few good things that the committee did this year, so in order to make my mama happy, I'll say the good things first. They ignored a couple of ludicrously bad RPI placements with Washington and Pepperdine and did the right thing to let them in. They were willing to consider the ninth place SEC team. I actually have mixed emotions about that one; the notion of taking non-tournament SEC teams fits in well with my general philosophy that I'll discuss later in talking about Southern California, but I wish they had picked a better team than this year's Florida squad (like last year's Ole Miss team, or Alabama in 2001) to set the precedent with. They only gave out one snow bid, to Rutgers, and, combined with the none from last year and the fact that that one can be explained by conference standing just as easily, I'd say the snow bids are on life support, even if they're not quite dead yet.

The Bad

I'll try to cover these in more length below, but here are the high points. The national eight seeds are just silly. They took the top eight in RPI (or at least pseudo-RPI, and this is one time the difference could matter), shuffled them oddly, and took that as the list. Long Beach State was allowed to host, but was not given the national #1 seed they deserved, was saddled with a horribly difficult field, and got stuck with Stanford in the supers. The Big 12 got no national seeds, when they probably deserved two, while the SEC deserved none and got two.

They paid way too much attention to the conference tournaments. I've said this before, but it's time to start beating the drums -- conferences, unless you're making a lot of money, all you're accomplishing with the conference tournaments is taking a chance that your league won't be represented by the best that you've got to offer.

My basic beliefs are fairly simple. First of all, I believe the tournament is too big, and they should cut back to sixteen teams. Zipping up and turning out of the wind, though, I believe that the at large teams should be the thirty-four best teams that don't win their conference. Anything else represents a distortion of the process and just makes the committee's job harder to do. Southern California played the hardest schedule in the nation this year. They're the #21 team in the country by the ISR's, and I don't see anyone below them that I think is likely to be better. But because they lost a game to Fresno State last Tuesday, they're done for the year. That's silly. This same principle is why I would be glad to see Florida in if they were just a bit better.

The Field

I'll have a table included in my discussion of each regional, so I need to describe the columns.

W-L -- Won-loss record against Division I opponents
RPI -- Pseudo-RPI ranking
ISR -- ISR ranking
Probs -- The probability of the team winning the regional, super-regional, and championship, respectively, according to the method based on ISR gaps I usually use.

                          W-L   RPI  ISR   Probs

Florida State            50-10    1    8   66/35/ 5
South Alabama            40-17   18   26   26/ 8/ 0
Rutgers                  36-20   56   91    4/ 1/ 0
Jacksonville             32-28   87   93    4/ 0/ 0

FSU is deserving of a national seed; their true quality is probably somewhere between the ISR and the RPI, as I discussed a couple of weeks ago. USA is seeded correctly. Rutgers doesn't belong in the tournament, but this could be the last gasp of the snow bids covered over by conference standings (which they're also relying on less these days). Competitively, this is about what it should be; the national seeds really shouldn't have very interesting regionals. FSU deserved better than to be paired with Texas, though; the ISR's actually have them as an underdog there.

                          W-L   RPI  ISR   Probs

Texas                    43-17   11    5   72/45/ 8
Arkansas                 34-20   27   35   12/ 4/ 0
Lamar                    37-16   36   24   16/ 6/ 0
Bucknell                 27-14  143  185    0/ 0/ 0

I'm glad to see Arkansas in, although that kind of got lost in the uproar over Florida. They should be a #3 seed, but Lamar should be a #2, so that kind of balances out if you hold your head just right. There's a 1% chance that Lamar plays in the national championship series, and wouldn't that be a shock to the system? There's a 48% chance that Texas meets Florida State in the super-regional, and a 0% chance that they both get to go to Omaha where they belong.

                          W-L   RPI  ISR   Probs

Miami, Florida           39-14    4   19   52/31/ 2
Florida Atlantic         46-14   25   29   29/15/ 0
Florida                  34-19   32   47   18/ 8/ 0
Bethune-Cookman          30-26  101  150    1/ 0/ 0

Miami's just not a legitimate national seed this year; it's a stretch to even see them as a #1 at all. This is an obvious RPI-based blunder, though, so there's not much point in worrying about it. Fortunately, they're matched with a competent #2 seed, so things could get interesting. I've spoken at enough length about Florida already.

                          W-L   RPI  ISR   Probs

North Carolina State     42-16   12   20   59/31/ 1
Virginia Commonwealth    45-11   41   52   23/ 8/ 0
Western Carolina         41-19   66   64   17/ 5/ 0
LeMoyne                  33-15  138  157    2/ 0/ 0

I guess they were too busy sending all the #2 seeds to Long Beach to find one to put in here. I think this is probably the weakest of the regionals, although Lincoln may give it a run for the money.

                          W-L   RPI  ISR   Probs

Auburn                   40-19    2   13   59/31/ 2
Clemson                  38-20    9   34   26/10/ 0
Ohio State               41-19   64   58   13/ 4/ 0
Princeton                27-21   70  137    2/ 0/ 0

Let's see, what's a positive spin? Auburn's better than Miami; how's that? The thing that's odd to me is that if they can see that Clemson's obviously not a #1 seed despite their RPI, and that Washington belongs in despite theirs, why can't they see that Auburn's not a national seed?

                          W-L   RPI  ISR   Probs

Nebraska                 44-16   14   10   68/44/ 5
Coastal Carolina         45-16   24   39   18/ 7/ 0
Southwest Missouri State 35-23   58   55   12/ 4/ 0
Eastern Michigan         32-26  117  133    2/ 0/ 0

Anybody want to go back five years and collect bets on Nebraska becoming a legitimate national contender? After looking at it, this is probably a bit stronger than the NCSU regional, which is extremely faint praise. SMSU didn't deserve this bid, which is OK, because if you look at the pitch count section, you'll see the odds are against them actually doing anything with it.

                          W-L   RPI  ISR   Probs

Rice                     48-10    7    2   80/58/17
Mississippi              34-25   34   48    8/ 2/ 0
Wichita State            47-25   78   44    8/ 3/ 0
McNeese State            31-28   82   71    4/ 1/ 0

And here we have our favorite -- they're not the best team in the country (OK, they might be; I can't tell), but Fullerton has a tougher draw, so Rice has the best chance of anyone of winning it. Worse things could happen. I hadn't realized until now that Ole Miss was actually a bad selection; the fifth place SEC finish and the RPI was going to get them in, but they should have been just out.

                          W-L   RPI  ISR   Probs

Texas A&M                43-17   13    9   58/26/ 4
Alabama                  37-22   19   25   21/ 6/ 0
Houston                  32-27   33   37   15/ 4/ 0
Oral Roberts             38-18   95   77    6/ 1/ 0

You know, everyone's seeded right (unless you want to make a case for A&M as a national #1), everyone deserves to be in, and it's a reasonable draw. Move along, folks, nothing to see here.

                          W-L   RPI  ISR   Probs

Louisiana State          37-18    6   12   65/30/ 2
Tulane                   40-16   30   23   30/11/ 1
UNC-Wilmington           38-21   47   90    5/ 1/ 0
Northeastern             24-21  168  181    0/ 0/ 0

Wilmington is a rather odd RPI-based bid, but that's a minor thing unless you're TCU or somebody. The bigger problem here is one inherent in the way the committee is chosen. When you have Charlie Carr as committee chair and Skip Bertman as the de facto most influential member, and FSU and LSU end up both overrated as the #1 and #2 seeds, you have a considerable appearance of conflict of interest. They're both known as honorable men, but honorable men have the duty to appear stain-free as much as actually being stain-free.

                          W-L   RPI  ISR   Probs

Baylor                   37-19   10    7   66/42/ 6
Southern Mississippi     41-14   23   17   32/17/ 1
Southern                 45-5    67  102    2/ 0/ 0
Murray State             20-28  221  190    0/ 0/ 0

Competitively, this is the most interesting regional. Baylor's ISR has looked a bit high too me for a while now, while USM's rise through the ranks has been interesting to watch; they've been hot for a while now. Meanwhile, Southern is a complete enigma; there's just no way to know how good they are.

                          W-L   RPI  ISR   Probs

Cal State Fullerton      43-13    8    1   72/47/14
Arizona                  35-16   26   18   21/ 8/ 1
Notre Dame               40-15   54   67    3/ 1/ 0
San Diego                26-30  149   62    3/ 1/ 0

Try to understand just how good Fullerton has to be to get to #8 in the RPI's, remember that the only reason they didn't flat out run away from the ISR field was the Littleton suspension, and be a bit afraid of this team. They were even given a fair or better field here, so the only real mistreatment was the second-hand one received when Arizona State didn't get their deserved national seed. Notre Dame solved a PR problem for the committee by winning their tournament.

                          W-L   RPI  ISR   Probs

Arizona State            46-11   20    4   66/33/ 7
Nevada-Las Vegas         41-15   38   15   26/ 9/ 1
New Mexico State         42-14   45   46    7/ 1/ 0
Central Connecticut St.  31-15  180  206    0/ 0/ 0

The #1 seed should have been a national #1. The #2 seed should have been a #1. On the other hand, the #3 seed could have been left because of going 2-and-cue in the conference tournament and wasn't (although, to be honest, they're a borderline choice as it is), so it's not all bad.

                          W-L   RPI  ISR   Probs

Georgia Tech             39-15    3   16   50/31/ 2
South Carolina           38-18   21   36   26/12/ 0
East Carolina            31-23   55   74   11/ 4/ 0
Stetson                  36-20   46   57   14/ 5/ 0

4-4. Every single team here was given a higher seed than they deserved, and two of them didn't deserve to be here at all. On the other hand, it should be a competitive weekend.

                          W-L   RPI  ISR   Probs

Mississippi State        38-16   16   22   39/21/ 1
North Carolina           37-19   17   45   20/ 8/ 0
Missouri                 34-18   29   27   31/16/ 0
Middle Tennessee State   29-25   80   79   10/ 3/ 0

Any idea how hard it is for me to be a fan of a team that consistently benefits from overranking by the RPI's? Oh, well. This is also a pretty-well matched regional, so it should be fun to watch.

                          W-L   RPI  ISR   Probs

Stanford                 38-15    5    3   67/45/11
Richmond                 44-13   28   51    4/ 1/ 0
UC Riverside             40-15   42   11   29/16/ 2
Illinois-Chicago         35-16  189  158    0/ 0/ 0

Well, at least this year they only sent them one extra #1 seed, rather than the usual two. As unfair as it is to be matched with both Riverside and Long Beach, I think this is actually the highest chance that Stanford has had pre-tournament in a while.

                          W-L   RPI  ISR   Probs

Long Beach State         37-16   15    6   47/22/ 4
Minnesota                37-18   35   33   13/ 3/ 0
Washington               36-16   94   14   28/10/ 1
Pepperdine               35-21   71   32   12/ 3/ 0

I've vented about LBSU's treatment before. I'm glad that Washington got in, although I wonder if the committee would have done the right thing without the sweep of Southern California, but I hate that they're stuck here with a #3 seed. It's a normal world when Pepperdine gets mistreated (I'm also pleased that they're in at all), but it's a strange one when the Big 10 champ actually gets mistreated in placement. This is far and away the strongest field.

The Omitted

There were nineteen automatic qualifiers below the ISR threshold where they should have been at large bids, which is about the usual number, I think. That means the cutoff line should have been after #45, strictly speaking. At large bids below that point include New Mexico State, Florida, Mississippi, Southwest Missouri State, Stetson, East Carolina, UNC-Wilmington, and Rutgers way down at #91. The eight omitted to make room for them are #21 Southern California, #28 Texas-Arlington, #30 Nevada, #38 UCLA, #40 Texas Christian, #41 Oklahoma State, #42 Fresno State, and #43 Northwestern State. Of these, the only ones that fall out of the acceptable margin of error are Texas-Arlington, Nevada, and TCU instead of ECU,Wilmington, and Rutgers. The two Pac-10 teams, especially USC West, are a problem, but that rule is not going to go away.

Pitch Count Watch

Rather than keep returning to the subject of pitch counts and pitcher usage in general too often for my main theme, I'm just going to run a standard feature down here where I point out potential problems; feel free to stop reading above this if the subject doesn't interest you. This will just be a quick listing of questionable starts that have caught my eye -- the general threshold for listing is 120 actual pitches or 130 estimated, although short rest will also get a pitcher listed if I catch it. Don't blame me; I'm just the messenger.

Date   Team   Pitcher   Opponent   IP   H   R   ER   BB   SO   AB   BF   Pitches
May 15 Xavier Adam Jahnsen Duquesne 7.2 10 3 3 5 3 31 38 151
May 17 Xavier Sean Finnegan Massachusetts 6.1 9 6 5 6 7 24 33 139
May 18 Xavier Adam Jahnsen Richmond 6.0 6 2 1 3 2 22 26 89
May 21 Southwest Missouri State Chad Mulholland Creighton 9.0 6 1 1 1 9 32 34 143
May 22 Southwest Missouri State Brad Ziegler Northern Iowa 7.0 7 5 4 3 6 26 33 134
May 22 Massachusetts Eric Chown Richmond 7.1 10 8 7 5 4 30 37 139 (*)
May 23 Arizona Richie Gardner Arizona State 7.2 10 5 5 4 5 31 35 129
May 23 Louisiana Tech Jon Lockwood Nevada 7.1 7 3 2 2 15 28 35 148
May 24 Rice Jeff Niemann Fresno State 6.1 6 2 2 5 7 25 30 131

(*) Pitch count is estimated.

If you're interested in reprinting this or any other Boyd's World material for your publication or Web site, please read the reprint policy and contact me


Boyd's World-> Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha-> The 2003 Tournament Field About the author, Boyd Nation