Could the NCAA Tournament actually be played without the defending national champions?


The Ouch List, May 28


Man, this was one painful weekend in our sport, boys and girls. There has never been a single conference tournament week that has seen so many “stolen bids” for the NCAA Tournament. Sunday was especially brutal as Rice, Oklahoma State, Dallas Baptist, Illinois State, Xavier and Iowa all won their respective conference tournaments and stole bids away from bubble teams across the country.

As I wrote in the latest Off The Top Of My Head, there were the “Lucky Seven” teams in college baseball that bubble teams out there needed to win their respective conference tournaments to save some at-large bids. Only ONE of the seven actually won their auto-bid. Coming into this week, five was the highest number of “stolen bids” in any of the previous 15 years of conference play. This year, it looks like six… maybe seven, if Gonzaga ends up getting an at-large bid. Tough week.

So this week was a cruel one for sure. And this is definitely the one Ouch List you do NOT want to be on. Though there is probably a pool of 20 to 25 Ouch List candidates this week, here are the most painful 10 of all.

Here you go. Try to enjoy yourselves.

The Ouch List…

– Arizona State
What Happened: Swept in three games at Utah
Why It Hurts: A losing record? Is this for real?
Oi vey. This is NOT Arizona State baseball. The Sun Devils lost all three games at Utah and ended their season at 23-32. Not sure how it happened, but this is the same team that swept Long Beach State back in March. The last time the Sun Devils ended the season with a sub-.500 mark was in 1985 when they went 31-35. The last time ASU did not win 30-plus games was in 1962 when they went 27-18. I know this all sounds really crappy right now, but worry not Devil fans as this program had 2017’s No. 1 ranked recruiting class in the country and coach Tracy Smith told me next year’s freshman class is possibly even better. Good times ahead.

– Arizona
What Happened: Lost two of three to Cal
Why It Hurts: Hit the road Jack.
The Wildcats have been a hard team to figure out, great one weekend, average the next. This was one of those “average” ‘weekends, and it cost them. Losing two of three to Cal caused their RPI to drop from No. 15 at the beginning of the week down to No. 23. That obviously means they will start the defense of their national runner-up spot on the road, instead of getting a home Regional which seemed likely a week ago. Looking for a silver lining? Well going on the road can’t be too bad. Remember how well things turned out for these road warriors a year ago?

Arizona had a painful week on the diamond, one that was fully worthy of the Ouch List thanks to their missing out on a home Regional. But at least they weren’t as bad off as their rivals from Tempe. Egad.

– Georgia Southern
What Happened: Lost Sun Belt championship game to South Alabama
Why It Hurts: Disappointing the home folks.
The Eagles were lucky enough to host the SBC tournament, even if it was pock-marked by rain early on. It became a single elimination tournament and GSU made it to the title game against South Alabama. The Eagles took a 6-4 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning, only to see the Jaguars hit back-to-back home runs in the the ninth to send the game into extras. An inning later, the Eagles not only had a baserunner thrown out at home but they also left the bases loaded. In the bottom of the inning the Jags won the game in a jog-off fashion, sinking the shoulders of the Eagles.

– Wright State
What Happened: Lost the Horizon League title game to Illinois-Chicago
Why It Hurts: They’re sitting at home next weekend.
Up until mid-April the Raiders had an RPI in the at-large range. That impressive RPI was buoyed by wins over Clemson and South Carolina in the first two weekends. Though they did have some pretty dubious losses peppered in here and there, for the most part the reason their RPI is down at No. 98 is due to the Horizon League anchor effect. After WSU lost to UIC in the tournament title game, 4-2, Flames coach Mike Dee said, “Wright State is a tremendous team. They deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament, it’s a shame that’s not gonna happen. But there’s no way you can convince me they aren’t one of the best 64 teams in the country.”

– Coastal Carolina
What Happened: Lost 7-5 to Texas State
Why It Hurts: There will be no defending national champions in the Dance
Tough week for the Chanticleers. They entered Monday in good shape, sitting at No. 48 in the RPI and by anybody’s guess they’d probably get good treatment by the selection committee, being the national title winners last year and all. But in their lone game this week, they lost to the Bobcats, who were ranked in the 190s of the RPI. Thus, the 11-slot drop for the Chants. Gah! How did that happen? Oddly, despite looking like a three-bid league most of the season, the Sun Belt now looks like a one-bid league with South Alabama winning the tourney title. Tsk, tsk.

– Maine
What Happened: Lost to UMBC in title game of AmEast tourney.
Why It Hurts: Lost the final game in actual walk-off fashion
Arrrrrrgh. The Black Bears came THISCLOSE to getting their first NCAA bid since 2011 after advancing to the America East title round to face off with UMBC. But a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the 10th inning allowed the Retrievers to earn their first-ever NCAA bid and leave the Bears hibernating.

– Binghamton
What Happened: Went 0-and-2 at the AmEast Tournament
Why It Hurts: They broke down at the worst time.
Ole Bingo didn’t pick a very good time to have a faceplant. Going into the week BU had an RPI ranking of No. 44. In fact, they spent the entire season in at-large-land. But this weekend, they went 0-2 against Albany and Maine, two teams they swept in three-game sets in the month of April. The Bearcat pitching staff, the tops in the AmEast, gave up 23 hits and 10 walks in their two losses.

– Eastern Michigan
What Happened: Lost the MAC title game 7-4 vs. Ohio
Why It Hurts: One bad inning.
The Eagles had a solid 4-1 lead with six outs to go against the Bobcats. But then came the horror film known as The Eighth. Ten pitches into the frame, OU had tied the game on a three-run home run by Ty Black. Then, after a pitching change, the go-ahead run was provided by a throwing error on what could’ve been an inning-ending fielder’s choice. A two-run double by Devib Garcia accounted for the final two runs of the game, sending Ohio to the Big Dance.

– Jacksonville
What Happened: Lost two straight heartbreakers in A-Sun title round
Why It Hurts: Did I mention they were two heartbreaking losses?
The Dolphins looked monstrous in their first three games this week, beating down Lipscomb, North Florida and Kennesaw State by scoring eight runs in each game. Then came two games on Saturday against FGCU. Game one went to the Eagles 4-2 and game two… OOF… JU gave up two runs in the top of the ninth inning and then lost the game in the top of the 10th because of a wild pitch. That’s a painful way to enter the long off-season.

– Buffalo
What Happened: Ended the season short of the MAC tourney
Why It Hurts: This is the end.
Not sure if you guys remember but at the beginning of the season, BU administrators decided to drop the baseball program after this 2017 campaign. The Bulls just didn’t get inspired enough,  finishing 8-16 in MAC play, good for last place in the Eastern Division and short of making the MAC tournament. Bummer.

The Ouch List contingency list:
A handful of SEC teams that will be added to this list if they don’t get an at-large berth to the NCAAs…

– South Carolina.
The Gamecocks went 3-2 in the SEC Tournament, eventually getting eliminated by LSU by an 11-zip plundering. Their RPI ended up at No. 32, up five spots from the beginning of the week. Still, my hunch is that the Cocks will get the shaft from the NCAA Selection Committee due to really poor play in the SEC during the regular season (13-17). So if that’s the case, add SoCar to this Ouch List after the selection show is done.

– Ole Miss.
Like the Gamecocks, the Rebels had a losing record in SEC play, going 14-16 but they also had a non-conference RPI of No. 47 thanks to a non-conference SOS of No. 77. Also, the Rebs went one-and-done in the SEC tournament, so their hopes of getting into the Big Dance are slim to me. But like Arizona State above, their recruiting class was also ranked No. 1 in the nation (by D1baseball) and the future is brighter than the present.

– Auburn.
The Plainsmen have an RPI that has dropped to No. 45 and a non-conference strength of schedule that checks in at No. 115.

– Texas A&M.
The Aggies non-conference strength of schedule is buried at No. 200 and a non-conference RPI at No. 68. Phhhhew, that’s bad.

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