NCAA Offers Few Surprises With 20 Potential Regional HostsTop Stories
The NCAA released the 20 teams that will have an opportunity to host a postseason NCAA Regional, and while most of the selections were not surprising, there were at least a couple of curveballs thrown.
Though a vast majority of the 20 teams will be one of the 16 host sites announced in a couple of weeks, four teams will miss the cut. Meaning, the final couple of weekends of the regular season and conference tournaments will have a huge bearing on who’s hosting and who’s not.
The Southeastern Conference leads the way with seven teams on the list of 20, while the Pac 12, Big 12 and Conference USA each have three teams on the list. The ACC has two teams, which was a surprise, and the WCC and American each have one representative.
Potential Regional Hosts
East Carolina (Greenville)
Louisiana Tech (Ruston)
Mississippi State (Starkville)
Notre Dame (South Bend)
Ole Miss (Oxford)
South Carolina (Columbia)
Southern Miss (Hattiesburg)
Texas Tech (Lubbock)
TCU (Fort Worth)
• One of the bigger questions coming into this year’s postseason field, with the unbalanced and different schedules across the country, how would the committee view hosts? Would it be more merit-based, or would it be more location-based? Clearly, the NCAA went with a combination of merit, and, well, straight RPI. Only Fairfield and Old Dominion are in the Top 15 and did not earn a host site. Fairfield had virtually no shot playing a Metro Atlantic-only schedule, while the Monarchs did not bid to host a regional. If the committee goes this strictly by RPI when it comes to the field of 64, it could be bad news for bubble teams with bad RPIs, with or without unbalanced schedules.
• South Carolina was the most interesting inclusion for me. If you look at the RPI, the Gamecocks seem like a no-brainer, right? But you have to go well beyond the RPI. Sure, the Gamecocks have an RPI of 15, but they’re 8-14 vs. RPI Top 25 and 12-15 vs. RPI Top 50. South Carolina has lost three-straight SEC series and finish with a road series against Kentucky and a home series against Tennessee. Win both series and the Gamecocks probably get back into position to ‘deserve’ a regional, but right now, they should have work to do. This is not a regional hosting resume at the moment.
• Ole Miss was another interesting inclusion for me, but certainly much more deserving than South Carolina, at least for now. The Rebels did lose righthanded pitcher Gunnar Hoglund for the season earlier this week, so it’s hard to see them finishing with a bang with Vandy at home this weekend and a road series at Georgia looming. However, the Rebels still have a 14-10 record in the league, along with a home series sweep over the Gamecocks. Furthermore, if the Rebels won three or four games the rest of the way, including the SEC tournament, they’d have 16-17 SEC wins. Those are solid marks. Ole Miss still has some work to do to earn a host in my eyes, but it’s right there for them.
• I didn’t like the fact the committee shut out Florida State and Louisville from even having a chance to host a regional. I ultimately think the committee will regret not giving FSU a host site opportunity. The Seminoles, yes, have an RPI of 40, but they have 17 wins in the ACC with a 6-2 mark vs. RPI Top 25 and 13-10 mark vs. RPI Top 50. FSU also has a road series win over a slam-dunk national seed in Notre Dame. Ole Miss has comparable metrics, but FSU has the edge over a team like South Carolina for certain. But then there’s that pesky RPI. This is a situation where the committee should’ve looked well beyond the RPI. Clearly it’s skewed, because ACC teams were forced to play a grueling 36-game conference schedule and limited to just 50 games overall. The RPI requires more cross-pollination between conferences to have much value as a tool for comparing ACC teams against teams in other conferences, so typical RPI guidelines for hosts should be set aside when evaluating the top teams in the ACC. As for U of L, it has 16 wins in the ACC right now and does have a head-to-head series win over Florida State at home. However, the Cards did not play a challenging, albeit short, nonconference slate, and the Top 25 RPI metrics don’t compare favorably to FSU and a few other teams. The Seminoles would be higher than Louisville in my pecking order, and the fact both missed the cut surprised me.
• I love that the committee put Louisiana Tech, Charlotte and Southern Miss all on the board. I expected one of those teams to miss the cut — likely Charlotte or USM. But I’m glad to see all three on there because all three have had terrific seasons. Now, we’ll see which of those three teams end the season in the Top 16 as hosts, and that could depend on which club has the deepest and most impressive run in the conference tournament in a couple of weeks. It’s worth noting that Charlotte bid to host in Gastonia, N.C., at the FUSE Ballpark there. The ballpark holds anywhere from 4-5K with standing room only included. Clearly, Charlotte would love to host at its home ballpark, but that isn’t in the cards this spring. Charlotte hopes that will be an option sooner rather than later, however.
• Color me a huge fan of Gonzaga being included as a potential host site. Oregon State to Spokane as a No. 2 seed, anyone? One of the things every committee has reiterated is this idea that mid-majors need to go out and schedule tough teams, and in many cases, win those games, to be considered as hosts. Well, the Zags did just that in non-conference play, hitting the road to face Texas Tech and taking two of three in a weekend series against TCU, which was one of our top eight seeds earlier this week. It’s hard to make much more of a statement than that. Gonzaga has dominated the WCC thus far, though a huge series against San Diego looms the final weekend of the regular season. Gonzaga’s RPI is sitting at 23, so it doesn’t have the luxury of many slip-ups the rest of the way. But that non-conference SOS of four will ring loud between now and Selection Monday. Good job, committee.
• Congrats to Pittsburgh for being selected as one of the 20 potential regional host sites. Though the Panthers only are able to allow a few hundred fans to attend regional games because of COVID protocols and capacity regulations, hosting a regional is still a massive accomplishment for a program that was universally picked to finish near or at the bottom of the ACC standings. This will be Pitt’s fourth NCAA tournament appearance in program history, and certainly would be its first regional host.