Monday, May 26, 2014

How would a college baseball NIT go?

College baseball is beginning to grow into a national sport, and providing more teams more time to play would allow the sport to grow across the country. In my article, I will discuss the premise of having a 32 team college baseball tournament for the schools who do not make the NCAA tournament.

My idea for the college baseball NIT is for four eight-team regional tournaments in four distinct locations around the nation. These would generally be smaller cities. I would try to make these events focal points for smaller cities, instead of going to major metropolitan areas like Atlanta or Dallas where the games would be a footnote on the local sports scene.

Even with 32 teams added to a NIT-type tournament at the end of the season, only 31.7% of teams (96 of 302) would be in these postseason tournaments, much less than college football or college basketball.

Every regular season champion from the conferences would get an automatic bid into the tournament, as many leagues only take the winner of their conference tournament to the NCAA tournament. For larger leagues, the bid wouldn't be needed, but this is for record keeping purposes. There are 32 conferences (including independents) in college baseball. All would get an auto bid.

If an independent was over .500, they would get a bid. In this case, for the 2014 season, NJIT at 20-25 wouldn't get a bid, so there would be 31 automatic bids.

Here are the 31 regular season conference champions for 2014. Teams in bold are in the NCAA tournament and won't use these automatic bids.

ACC: Miami (FL)
America East: Stony Brook (clinched bid)
AAC: Louisville
A-10: St. Louis (clinched bid)
Atlantic Sun: Florida Gulf Coast (clinched)
Big Ten: Indiana
Big 12: Oklahoma State
Big East: Creighton (clinched bid)
Big South: Liberty
Big West: Cal Poly
Colonial: William & Mary (clinched)
C-USA: Rice
Horizon: Wright State (clinched)
Ivy: Columbia
MAAC: Canisius (clinched bid)
Mid-American: Ball State (clinched)
Mid-Eastern: Delaware State (clinched)
Missouri Valley: Evansville (clinched)
Mountain West: UNLV
Northeast: Bryant
Ohio Valley: Southeast Missouri State (guaranteed bid)
Pac-12: Oregon State
Patriot: Army (guaranteed a bid)
SEC: Florida
Southern: Western Carolina (still possible for at-large)
Southland: Sam Houston State
Summit: Nebraska-Omaha (guaranteed a bid)
Sun Belt: Louisiana-Lafayette
SWAC: Alabama State (guaranteed a bid)
WAC: Sacramento State
West Coast: Pepperdine 

Fifteen of thirty-one conferences (nearly half) will not have their regular-season conference champion in the NCAA tournament. This is more even than the number seen in college basketball with single-elimination tournaments. Last year, thirteen of the thirty-two members of the NIT in college basketball were teams that won the regular season in their conferences, but lost in the conference tournament.

The four regions would be Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, and Northwest. Each would be in a different city, with eight teams in each, double-elimination. Games would start on Thursday, then go through the week on Friday and Saturday. Sunday would be used if needed, and Monday would generally be the championship for these tournaments. Some could stretch to Tuesday at the latest with rain. To be in this tournament, you have to have a .500 record or above.

A benefit for this tournament would that the season would only be expanded for 32 teams for one more weekend, while four schools would play two more weekends, and two would play three weekends. Also, seniors for these schools could extend their careers.

These would be the regionals. Each would start May 29 and likely end June 2 or June 3 at the latest. The winners of each region would advance to a 3-game series on home fields, then the two winners of those series would play 3 games for the title of NCBT champions.

This would be the 2014 bracket if the tournament was played. 

Northeast Regional: Ripken Stadium, Aberdeen, MD (capacity 6,300)

(1) West Virginia
(8) Delaware State
(4) William & Mary
(5) Canisius
(2) NC State
(7) Stony Brook 
(3) Ball State
(6) Florida Gulf Coast

Southeast Regional: McCormick Field, Asheville, NC (capacity 4,000)

(1) Mercer 
(8) Alabama State
(4) High Point
(5) Southern Miss
(2) Tennessee
(7) Seton Hall 
(3) Western Carolina
(6) Duke

Southwest Regional: Baylor Ballpark, Waco, TX (capacity 5,000)

(1) UCF
(8) Saint Louis
(4) Creighton
(5) Evansville
(2) Illinois
(7) Wright State
(3) New Mexico
(6) Texas-Arlington

West Regional: John Thurman Field, Modesto, CA (capacity 4,000)

(1) Southern California
(8) Nebraska-Omaha
(4) San Diego
(5) Southeast Missouri State
(2) UC Santa Barbara
(7) Army
(3) Cal State Fullerton
(6) UAB

Some very good match-ups in this tournament if it happened in real life. I adjusted some to help boost attendance numbers. Texas had a lot of very good regional teams this year, so that's why only one team from that state made it to Waco. Holding these tournaments would also help to bring more money to the participating cities, with fans, players, scouts, and others

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