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Virginia Baseball Snubbed as NCAA Regional Host

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Non-conference strength of schedule dooms the 2017 Hoos

College World Series - Arizona v Coastal Carolina - Game Three Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

For the fourteenth year in a row, Virginia will hear its name called on Selection Monday as one of 64 teams to make this year’s NCAA Baseball Tournament. That was a certainty given the team’s 42-14 record and lofty RPI. Less clear was whether Davenport Field would host an NCAA Regional for the tenth time in 14 years. On Sunday night, the selection committee released its list of regional hosts, leaving Virginia out despite most in the industry projecting the Hoos would host.

Nobody except the selection committee itself knows the criteria that was used in selecting regional hosts, but it sure seems like RPI was heavily relied upon. Each of the top 15 teams based on RPI were awarded a host bid with the final spot going to Houston who was 17th. The number 16 team? Yup, the Virginia Cavaliers.

Baseball selection committees have long relied on RPI in selecting the NCAA Tournament, for better or for worse. It’s a measure based more upon “who you play” rather than “how you play.” So, it’s no secret that scheduling plays a huge part in building an NCAA resume. Generally, Virginia fares very well by playing series against teams like East Carolina and Coastal Carolina and playing in the always-tough ACC. But this year, Virginia’s non-conference strength fell to 235. Among the selected hosts, only Louisville’s was worse.

So, what about the teams that made it? It’s clear the committee valued how teams were playing at the end of the season. Florida State and Houston parlayed conference tournament championships into host bids. But wait. what about Clemson?

Clemson earned a host bid despite losing four of their last five series, and going 0-2 in the ACC Tournament. And it’s the inclusion of the Tigers and to a lesser degree the Seminoles that has Virginia fans and the national media so perplexed.

If head-to-head matters, Virginia was 2-2 against Clemson and 2-1 against Florida State, with all games taking place away from Davenport Field. If the conference record matters, Virginia was 18-12 (4th) while Clemson was 17-13 (5th) and Florida State was 14-14 (7th).

If quality wins matter, Florida State is deserving, but Clemson had five wins against the RPI Top 25, while Virginia had six. Clemson had 10 wins against the RPI Top 50, Virginia had nine (but a 0.529 win percentage, compared to a 0.417 win percentage for Clemson).

Unfortunately, the determination didn’t come down to what happened on the diamond, rather where the teams can get to via a bus ride. Florida State can load up on mid-week games against the likes of Florida, South Florida, Central Florida, and Florida Gulf Coast, while Clemson can match up against Coastal Carolina and Georgia. Meanwhile Virginia is playing Liberty, Old Dominion, and VCU. When an opponents record against its opponents matters in the RPI, its more beneficial to play teams from the SEC as opposed to the Big South.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what folks around the country had to say

Aaron Fitt from D1Baseball

John Manuel from Baseball America

and a little closer to home

Have no fear Virginia fans. Twice before there has been general agreement about the Cavaliers’ “interesting” treatment by the selection committee. The first was in 2009 when after winning the ACC Tournament, Virginia was given a two seed in the Irvine Regional. UC Irvine was the overall number one seed that year, but on top of that the Hoos earned an opening matchup against San Diego State and their ace Stephen Strasburg. The Cavaliers ended up sweeping the “Group of Death” and making it all the way to Omaha.

Then in 2015, as I noted here in a comparison of recent Virginia teams’ resumes, the Hoos were worthy of a regional host, but were instead shipped out west to Lake Elsinore, California. They swept that series as well and rode that momentum all the way to the College World Series title. So, I guess what I am saying is Long Beach or Palo Alto look mighty inviting right about now.

Tune in to ESPN2 on Monday at 12 P.M. where we’ll find out Virginia’s fate. Regional play kicks off later in the week. Until then, stay with Streaking the Lawn for all of your NCAA Baseball Tournament coverage.