Notable college baseball tournaments this week:
8 Teams, Double Elimination
The Southern Conference tournament could be the most exciting with at least 4 bubble teams and no dominant team. Any of the teams could either win the tournament title, do enough to secure an NCAA bid, or end their season early.
8 Teams, 2 Division Round Robin
I understand why the ACC and Big 12 chose the round robin format. They have a lot of NCAA teams and this way everyone gets to play at least 3 games, regardless of outcome. But isn’t a double elimination format more fun? Nobody likes tie-breakers.
6 Teams, Double Elimination, No Byes
The traditional 6 team tournament looks a little confusing in scenario-bracket form. Do you see the loser advancing in game 9 in the bottom scenario? Let’s see if I can explain it more clearly in words, because the traditional 6 team tournament is my favorite random baseball tournament. After the first two rounds there are basically two scenarios:
Scenario 1: 2 teams at 2-0 and 2 teams at 1-1
This scenario is easy. You simply have a winner’s bracket and loser’s bracket.
Scenario 2: 1 team at 2-0 and 4 teams at 1-1
Having an odd number of teams is never ideal. The traditional format is to have the 1-1 teams pair up and play. This leaves you with a team at 2-0 and two teams at 2-1. Next the 2-0 team plays each of the 2-1 teams. If the 2-0 team beats both opponents, they are champ. If they lose one, they re-match with the team they lost to. If they lose both, they are out and the other two teams play for the title. That’s exactly what they have drawn and it seems a lot less confusing in word form.
6 Teams, Double Elimination, With Byes
The Big Ten and MWC are not quite at the elite level in college baseball. They have some very good teams, but they want to ensure their best teams advance. And much like the WCC and Horizon league in college basketball, they alter the 6 team format and give byes to the best teams to try to ensure that the best teams advance.
Now here’s a complicated tournament format.
Day 1 Single Elimination: 5 vs 8, 6 vs 7
Day 2+ Double Elimination, 6 Teams, No Additional Byes
Once again, the WCC will feature a championship series instead of a tournament. Gonzaga faces Loyola Marymount for the second weekend in a row. And the Pac-10 and Big West are just playing regular season games this week.
Celebrate the Non-Championship Seasons
The Washington Capitals were blown out in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, losing 6-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Capitals had a better regular season record than the Penguins, led the series 2-0, and now lost convincingly on their home ice to lose the series. And yet they received a standing ovation at the end of the game. It was one of those “Grinch who stole Christmas” moments. It didn’t matter that the Capitals lost and played poorly. The fans cheered just the same.
In pro sports in 2009, I didn’t know that kind of support was even possible. It speaks to the importance of expectations. The Capitals have perhaps the best young team they’ve ever fielded and they’ve surged from being one of the worst teams in the league to at least a good playoff team. And people will always cheer a team on the rise.
But it really brings me back to one of my college basketball themes. It is easy to be disgusted in March when your team loses. But remember to celebrate what a team has accomplished even if the last memory is painful. Certainly Villanova fans will remember this Final Four run for years to come. But I also hope Michigan St. fans can cherish this season even if it didn’t end in a national title. I mean, how often do you get to go to the Final Four in your home state?
It is time for the annual tradition where I criticize people for making preseason rankings for 2009-10. This is something editors want to see, but presumably no one wants to write with so much information still up in the air. You see tiny things can make a big difference, like Patrick Paterson withdrawing his name from the NBA draft. Hmm. Where did you have Kentucky? Well, next year the draft soap opera could be over quicker. But I still prefer to wait until November before I take any ranking seriously.
See you in the fall for the college football kickoff!