Off The Top Of My Head: Week 13Columns
A couple weeks ago when I was in the Carolinas for some college baseball, I caught up with our own Aaron Fitt for a few beers… okay, and a whiskey or two, sure. Anyway, we met at a bar in Chapel Hill near where he lived and we were talking about upcoming games and locations we were hoping to hit before the post-season is here.
Unfortunately, I told him that I was forced to travel more this year than normal because the West was a little on the weak side. Specifically, Southern California denizens were weak. Other than UCLA and Cal State Fullerton there were no more “locks” for the postseason in these parts. Because of the “down” cycles that the Big West, West Coast, Mountain West and Western Athletic conferences are having this year, they are all one-bid leagues. So if you add it all up, it looks like the West is going to get just eight teams into the Big Dance this year. Stanford, Oregon State, UCLA and Arizona from the Pac 12 and then the four one-bid leagues. (San Diego State is a bubble team for an at-large with a current RPI of No. 50.)
Aaron and I decided, even though there are a couple of Western conferences who do it right by leaving the NCAA tournament representative up to whoever wins the long grind of the regular season and not to whoever gets hot in one particular weekend during a conference tournament. But these conferences also need to get on board and do it the wrong way by having a post-season tournament.
Yes, we’re looking your direction Pac 12 and Big West.
The problem is two-fold. One, because every other conference in the country plays a conference tournament, there are multiple chances for stealing an extra bid to the NCAA tournament. (And you know how conferences love to brag about how many teams they get into the Big Dance). Whereas the Big West will get only one bid because there is no conference tournament. And two, if you don’t have a conference tournament, teams at this time of the season start to realize that they have nothing to play for.
For instance, take Arizona State. Right now, the Sun Devils are 19-27 and at No. 119 in the RPI. I’m thinking head coach Tracy Smith and his staff are having a tough time keeping the squad motivated to keep playing hard. I mean, they obviously have no chance to make up ground and win the Pac 12 or win their way to an at-large bid. But if there was a six or eight-team Pac 12 tournament? Then there is your cheese dangled in front of the mouse.
Ironically, both the Pac and BWC once had a tournament or playoff of some sort. Back in the 90s, the Big West tournament was held at the home field of the regular season champion. I’ll never forget the 1998 Big West final between Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton at Goodwin Field. Dirtbag pitcher Mike Gallo threw a complete-game with 12 Ks to eliminate the Titans in a 12-0 rout. That springboard the Dirtbags into the West Regional in Palo Alto, where they stunned the field and upset Alabama for the right to go to Omaha.
And the former Pac 10 used to be split into two divisions; the Pac 10 North and the Pac 10 South. It made no sense to me because the South, known as the Six Pac, was Cal, Stanford, USC, UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State. Meanwhile the North was lame. There was Washington, Washington State and Oregon. And they’d usually add a fourth team like Portland or Gonzaga. That was before the WCC became a more cohesive conference.
Then, at the end of the season, the Pac 10 North winner would take on the Pac 10 South winner in a best-of-three. It was lame. And due to the geography, it was really unbalanced. Oregon didn’t have a program and Oregon State was not Oregon State back then, so the Six Pac south was four times better quality of baseball than the north. But still, at least there WAS a post-season playoff.
Again, time to bring ‘em back boys. You’re missing out on getting more representation from the West by not doing so. And isn’t that what you guys are always clamoring for when the post-season comes around?
BUBBLE BUBBLE TOIL AND TROUBLE
We are now 18 days away from the NCAA Selection Committee’s decision on who gets to keep playing baseball in June and who does not. There are 34 open bids for at-large teams to get into the NCAAs, so let’s do a quick look-see at which teams are on the bubble and what they have to do to make sure they slide off the bubble on the “good” side of things…