Published May 30, 2011
NEW YORK – Virginia left little doubt as to which team is No. 1 in college baseball right now.
The Cavaliers know they've still got plenty of work to do to finish there.
Virginia was selected Monday as the top overall seed for the 64-team NCAA Division I college baseball tournament. The Cavaliers (49-9) won the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament and will host one of 16 four-team, double-elimination regionals that begin Friday.
"When you look at Virginia over the course of the season, it's hard to argue that anybody has had more success," selection committee chairman Tim Weiser said.
Led by left-hander and potential No. 1 overall draft pick Danny Hultzen, Virginia opens against Patriot League champion Navy (33-23-1) in the Charlottesville regional. East Carolina (39-19) and St. John's (35-20) also play in the bracket.
"I think that speaks to the level of play, of consistent baseball our team has brought to the field everyday this entire season," Virginia coach Brian O'Connor said of being the top seed. "The committee recognizes that and it's a tremendous accomplishment. That being said, it doesn't spot us any runs Friday against Navy. It doesn't do us anything other than tell people that in the NCAA's eyes we are the top team in college baseball."
The other national seeds, in order, are: Florida (45-16), North Carolina (45-14), South Carolina (45-14), Florida State (42-17), Vanderbilt (47-10), Texas (43-15) and Rice (41-19). Those teams will not have to face each other until the College World Series, if they make it there.
It's the first time Virginia has been seeded No. 1, which doesn't necessarily translate to success in Omaha, Neb. The only top national seed to win it all since the field was expanded in 1999 to 64 teams was Miami in that same year.
"It's definitely an honor, but it doesn't mean anything," senior right-hander Tyler Wilson said. "We have three other teams coming in to the regional and they have earned the opportunity to be in the postseason as well. They are just as hungry as we are."
The 16 regional winners move on to the best-of-three super regionals. Those eight winners advance to the College World Series, which begins June 18 at the new TD Ameritrade Park Omaha after 61 years at Rosenblatt Stadium.
Defending national champion South Carolina will open against Southern Conference tournament champ Georgia Southern in the Columbia regional. The Gamecocks were among seven Southeastern Conference schools selected for the tournament by the NCAA baseball committee, joining Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi St. and Vanderbilt.
Also with seven teams is the ACC with Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Virginia. The Big 12 (Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M) and Pac-10 (Arizona, Arizona State, California, Oregon State, Stanford and UCLA) each had six teams selected.
Miami is in the field for the 39th consecutive year, which extends its own record, while Florida State is making its 34th straight appearance.
Alcorn State, Belmont and Arkansas-Little Rock are all in the regionals for the first time. Mountain West champion New Mexico (20-39) joined Alcorn State (27-28) and Arkansas Little-Rock (24-32) as teams to get in with losing records by winning their conference tournaments.
Weiser, also the deputy commissioner of the Big 12, said the committee balances win-loss record, RPI, strength of schedule and regular-season finish in determining national seeds, top seeds in brackets and at-large berths. Another factor is availability of key players, something that hurt Texas A&M's shot at a national seed. The Aggies (42-18) won the Big 12 tournament despite losing ace right-hander John Stilson to a season-ending shoulder injury.
The committee, which gathered in Indianapolis over the weekend, considered 31 teams for the last seven at-large berths.
"That's where, for a committee, is probably the greatest stress, trying to determine which teams are in and which teams are out," he said. "We realize the disappointment that that creates for those that get left out."
One of the most surprising teams to get an at-large berth was St. John's (35-20), which finished second to Connecticut in the regular season and lost to Seton Hall in the Big East tournament championship game.
"Our overall body of work, including a tough non-conference schedule, a good conference record and a run to the championship, proved deserving of an at-large selection," St. John's coach Ed Blankmeyer said.
The Red Storm, which had one win over teams in the RPI top 50, made it in over several other similarly deserving teams such as LSU (36-20), which had some impressive wins but was hurt by finishing tied for ninth in the SEC and not making the conference tournament.
"There's a human element involved, and there's nothing you can ever take for granted but, honestly, I thought we were in the tournament," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. "This team clearly deserved to be in the NCAA tournament, and I'm so disappointed for the kids that they don't get the opportunity to do so."
Stony Brook (42-12), Elon (36-21), Oregon (33-26-1), Hawaii (34-25) and Michigan State (36-21) were among others left out.
"I think our committee perhaps did a better job of putting the RPI where I think it should be in terms of a single tool to evaluate," Weiser said. "I think a lot of times, that becomes bigger than it really should be. ... In this year's deliberations, I would say that as a committee, we probably didn't use the RPI as the hammer that maybe it's been perceived as being in previous years."