The Miami Hurricanes seemed on the verge of locking up a spot as a host just a few weeks ago, but after Monday, they find themselves in one of the toughest regionals in the NCAA Tournament. A team that should have been a host, or at least one of best two seeds in the tournament, find themselves forced to go to Starkville, Mississippi, home of the No.6 overall Mississippi State Bulldogs.
The decision to have Miami not be a host was strange, but understandable, but their seeding on Monday was absolutely stunning, to get a better view of the committee’s possible motives, let’s separate the two thought processes.
The decision to not have Miami as a host:
The ‘Canes knew they would not be hosting on Sunday night at 8:30. Their worst fears were realized after a tough loss to North Carolina on Friday at the ACC Tournament. UNC’s subsequent run to the title seemed to be the final nail in the coffin for the ‘Canes. Other teams like West Virginia and Ole Miss making runs in their own conference tournaments didn’t help the Hurricanes either.
Miami didn’t host despite being 17th in RPI and boasting a 39-18 record despite injuries to key players. The committee explained that injuries were a factor in their analysis of tournament resumes when they explained how they evaluated TCU:
Committee Regarding #TCU:— 11Point7: The College Baseball Podcast (@11point7) May 27, 2019
1. Lots of injuries coming back. Healthiest they will be all season heading into regionals.
2. 4-4 in Big12 series.
3. Referenced historical success in postseason.
TCU, who was a below .500 team in their conference, made it in due to the committee taking into account injuries, a strong conference record, and historical success in the postseason...
So why didn’t this apply to Miami’s case for hosting?
Miami was without their best player in Freddy Zamora for several weeks during the middle of the season. Friday and Saturday starters Evan McKendry and Chris McMahon both missed several starts at the same time, and despite all of that the Hurricanes still managed an 18-12 conference record, including sweeping Virginia Tech without any of the three aforementioned players.
Additionally, Miami lost just three conference series all year, one of which was on the road at No.7 seed Louisville. The ‘Canes certainly had a strong conference record, one that put them in contention for the ACC Coastal Division title.
If the committee took into account historical success in the postseason, then there are few other programs with as much success as Miami. The Hurricanes have four national titles and 25 College World Series appearances, including a trip to Omaha just three years ago in 2016. It could be said that Gino DiMare has yet to prove himself as a postseason coach and that’s why historical success didn’t apply. However, Coach DiMare was the Assistant Head Coach for several years, and his staff includes longtime assistants J.D. Arteaga and Norberto Lopez, not to mention volunteer assistant Bo Durkac. Durkac was Illinois State’s head coach from 2015-2018 and coached MLB superstar Paul DeJong. There is certainly no lack of experience or pedigree on Miami’s coaching staff.
Then the argument was made that conference tournament performance was the reason Miami didn’t host, as two teams who had strong tournaments, West Virginia and Ole Miss, moved into the Top 16 due to postseason runs. However, by that logic, why was Florida, who lost their only game at the SEC Tournament, selected for the NCAA Tournament? In fact, the Gators were firmly in the field of 64, as they weren’t mentioned as one of the last four teams in the tournament.
Florida easily making the tournament brings up another important point, that Florida Atlantic, Florida State, and Florida all made the tournament. The committee clearly valued baseball in the state of Florida this year, and Miami had a combined record of 5-4 against those three teams this season.
However, despite that, it was understandable for Miami to not be a host. Late season performance is always going to be more valuable to the committee. A late-innings loss in Durham cost the Hurricanes. Many may have disagreed with it, but it made sense that the committee used the conference tournaments to separate a very tight hosting bubble. Heading to Sunday it still seemed like Miami would be considered one of the best two seeds in the nation...
Miami’s placement in the Starkville Regional:
Heading into Monday’s selection show, many considered the ‘Canes as one of the best non-hosts in the country. Miami seemed poised to be the second seed in a regional hosted by one of the teams that they had been competing with for a spot to host, but instead they found themselves in a regional hosted by No.6 overall seed Mississippi State. To make matters even worse, Ole Miss, who many thought Miami was competing with to host, moved all the way up to the No.12 seed.
Yeah, these were all head-scratchers. MSU 6th? We had them No. 3, really can’t see them below 4. Ole Miss 12th? That’s silly. We had the Rebels No. 16 — and that was the most controversial host. How do they get the 12 seed? https://t.co/2ptCVurANH— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) May 27, 2019
Obviously, the path is hard for the ‘Canes, but it’s important to remember that it is just as hard for the Bulldogs. MSU entered the day as a consensus Top 4 seed, but finished the day with one of the hardest regionals in the nation. The Bulldogs have one of the best two seeds in the nation coming to Starkville, not to mention a three seed that has won 18 games in a row in the form of Central Michigan.
Miami’s seeding comes in contrast to that of another team that narrowly missed out on a Top 16 seed, Texas A&M. The Aggies will travel to the Morgantown Regional, hosted by West Virginia. TAMU got exactly the kind of seeding Miami expected going into the day, a regional hosted by another team that was on the bubble.
Instead, the ‘Canes find themselves with a hard path to the second weekend of the tournament. Starkville is one of the hardest places to travel to in the country, but ultimately it’s up to the ‘Canes to prove everyone wrong starting Friday night.
The Hurricanes were treated in a strange way by the committee. No one expected Miami to be placed in a national seed’s regional before Monday afternoon. It’s hard to find an explanation for why the ‘Canes were placed in Starkville other than the possibility that the committee simply doesn’t think the Hurricanes are as good as their resume says they are. Obviously, this weekend Miami will have a chance to show how well they can play on the field in Mississippi.