Top Seeding Changes Coming To Tourney

News



For years, college baseball coaches and fans alike have asked the same question about how the NCAA tournament field is assembled.

“If softball can seed the top teams in the tournament 1-16, why can’t baseball?”. That’s the question that has been on everyone’s mind for at least the past decade. It was guaranteed to come up at every State of Baseball press conference in Omaha, and it has always been a topic of discussion at the American Baseball Coaches Association Convention as well.

That question no longer needs to be asked, as the NCAA baseball postseason format will include seeding the Top 16 teams and regional hosts in the field of 64 as opposed to just the Top 8 teams that we’re accustomed to, a measure that was approved this past week by the Division I Baseball Committee and subsequently by the NCAA Competition Oversight Committee.

“This is a big deal for our sport. We have to continue making the tournament better and by going 1-16 with the top seeds, it makes our tournament more equal to all areas,” Sidwell said. “The committee felt strongly that this was something we should do. There were times when there were particular restrictions on travel, mileage and things like that, but we wanted to grow the game and make the tourney better.

“So, now we’re at 1-16, and I think we get more of a true field,” he continued. “We will have true matchups in super regionals for the teams in the Top 16. My biggest thing is looking at our great sport and find ways that we can grow the game and make everything better, whether it’s pace of play or simply tweaking some things in regards to the postseason.”

The best news? It’ll start in 2018 and the format will call for 1 vs. 16, 2 vs. 15, and so on in the super regional round. Should one of those seeds get upset in the regional round, the winner of the regional would replace them as that seed and there would not be a reseeding process, a potential future change that many coaches are still in favor of.

“This is a great step forward for our sport and long overdue,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “College baseball has grown to the point that regionalization of the NCAA tournament should be an afterthought to putting the best possible tournament structure together.”

Committee chairman Scott Sidwell has been a strong proponent of seeding 1-16.

For the most part, the feeling from the NCAA had always been that it wants to help grow and promote the sport in different parts of the country, while also hoping to present supers that will be buzzy for television ratings and attractive matchups. Therefore, we have consistently ended up with outstanding super regionals such as Florida-Florida State, Florida-Miami, of course TCU-Texas A&M, and out on the West Coast, it was a virtual guarantee that some of those teams would be paired in the supers round. While exciting, it left a salty taste in the mouths of several coaches over the years.

“I just think it’s going to be a different angle on the postseason. Instead of making it more regionalized like the past, it’s going to be much more national in scope,” Cal State Fullerton coach Rick Vanderhook said. “This was a good day for the California schools, and frankly, other teams like Florida, Florida State and Miami, along with TCU and Texas A&M. Now, you’ll have multiple teams from multiple areas paired up in supers, which is good for the game. It makes this a national thing.”

But the idea of shifting away from ranking the traditional 1-8 national seeds and moving to a 1-16 seeding format began to gain more traction this past summer in Omaha, thanks to NCAA Division I Committee chairman Scott Sidwell, the athletic director at the University of San Francisco, and others.

Sidwell never budged when asked about the possibility of seeding 1-16. He would always say “absolutely”, and by the end of his trip to Omaha, he made it clear it was his mission to make sure that change occurred before his tenure was up.

He and other members of the committee didn’t waste any time and college baseball will now see a much-needed change take place.

With the premier teams and regional hosts being seeded 1-16, the next question from many around the sport will be about potentially seeding 1-64. Though you can’t say never after today’s news, the likelihood of that occurring in the near future is small. There are some serious obstacles against seeding all 64 teams in the postseason. Unlike basketball, which has almost every game televised on some sort of platform, there are still some conferences where viewing games is a challenge. Of course, there are regional advisory committees, but I doubt the committee will want to rely solely on that and metrics to make those tough decisions in the 50-64 range.

“Going to 64 at some point would be challenging because there are so many championships and the way we do our championship would in theory affect other championships,” Sidwell said. “There are some financial concerns with going to a 1-64 seeding, and some other items that we’d need to look at.”

For now, consider it a win for Sidwell and the sport. We finally got 1-16.

Join the Discussion