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Why are NCAA Postseason Selections so Erratic? All Things CW

By Christopher Walsh,


How many of you were left somewhat dumbfounded by the selection committee on Monday morning when the regional pairings for the 2023 NCAA Baseball Tournament were announced?

The Alabama Crimson Tide will host a regional for the first time since 2006, which was what everyone hoped for and expected. However, the No. 16 seeding was just short of shocking, especially considering the team's strong finish and No. 11 RPI ranking (which is primarily based on strength of schedule).

Alabama also beat both Kentucky and Auburn, teams with very similar resumes, at the neutral site SEC Tournament, and yet both have better seeding. The Wildcats are No. 12 and the Tigers No. 13. (Note: It lost a regular-season series to UK back in March, but beat AU in April).

Why does RPI for the former, and a late-season winning streak for the latter, count for them and not the 40-win Crimson Tide? Kentucky (36-18) is No. 2 in RPI, but Auburn (23-21) is No. 19.

Or, why did Arizona's run in the Pac-12 Tournament appear to factor so greatly that it got the Wildcats in to the field of 64 despite having the No. 45 RPI?

This comes on the heels of the softball selection committee stepping away from following the RPI rankings too strictly, which we applauded at BamaCentral, but left everyone wondering just how exactly it seeded the tournament.

This isn't meant to pick on the committees, per se. It's a tough, thankless task and no matter what they do someone isn't going to be happy. However, while the NCAA has done a better job of  transparency in football, and basketball at least has the NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool), it's otherwise been pretty horrible when it comes to any sort of consistency for postseason tournament selections.

Nearly every other sport seems to be going by its own standards, which vary each season, so there's very little continuity. Not only does it not make much sense, it isn't fair to the teams competing and the athletes. How are they supposed to do everything they can to improve their chances when the standards remain a moving target?

"It's the full body of work," seems to be the regular explanation, but is it really? If so, make it absolutely clear how every team will be judged so there's little room for doubt. Granted, that may by impossible, but the NCAA should take every step it can to minimize the uncertainly.

Here are five other things on our minds following the Memorial Day weekend:

1. Montana Fouts

Not only was the Alabama ace gutting through a hyperextended knee during the Super Regional against Northwestern, which is clearly still bothering her and an issue moving forward, but she also got drilled by a hit ball in the same knee during Sunday's game. It happened with two outs in the sixth inning. Fouts took a few moments, adjusted her brace, threw a couple of pitches to test it out, and kept going.

What Fouts has been doing has been pretty remarkable. Athletes are usually sidelined for weeks with that kind of injury, and that's assuming there hasn't been any interior damage requiring surgery. Plus, she's a pitcher who has to put a lot of force, not just weight, on her knee in order to throw effectively. Call it what you will, grit, gumption, chutzpah, Fouts has it, and it's impressive.

"She's a rocker," Crimson Tide softball coach Patrick Murphy said. "She's a legend and an icon."

We can't argue against that.

Photo | Alabama Athletics

2. Unsung Hero

Go back to the sixth inning, with the runner on first and her team facing elimination, what did Northwestern coach Kate Drohan have the next batter do on the next pitch? Bunt, dropping the ball down right in front of Fouts.

Ruthless, yes. But also a smart play under the circumstances. Emma Broadfoot hustled to barely get the key out. It was one of many key plays that were instrumental in the Crimson Tide advancing to the Women's College World Series.

Alabama Athletics

3. SEC Football Schedule

The spring meetings in Destin are at hand, and it suddenly looks like the league's decision to go to a nine-game conference schedule in football is no long a slam dunk for approval. ESPN doesn't appear willing to pay for an extra week over-and-above its contact and there have also been reports that Alabama has pulled its support due to not liking having Auburn, LSU and Tennessee as its three permanent opponents in the three-six model.

Per Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated , the league is considering keeping an eight-game schedule, at least for now, with one permanent opponent and the other seven rotating: "The temporary, one-year eight-game model is a placeholder for a potential nine-game schedule to start in 2025, if ESPN enhances the deal."

Commissioner Greg Sankey said on Monday that the conference is “poised” to make a decision this week, but it is not a certainty.

Will we finally have an answer in Destin? Your guess is as good as anyone's. Just know that Nick Saban was one of the biggest proponents of the nine-game schedule, but no school is going to sign off on anything that puts it at a competitive disadvantage. Nor should it.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

4. Field Storming

The SEC tasked three athletic directors including Greg Byrne (Georgia's Josh Brooks and Kentucky's Mitch Barnhart the others) to come up with new ways to curtail field storming. It'll be interesting to hear what they've come up with because the practice is dangerous and has gotten out of hand (except obviously at Alabama).

Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

5. Gambling

It's going to be a hot topic, especially with so many states legalizing sports gambling. Alabama may not be one of them, as it's prohibited in the state constitution (which is why it's one of five states that don't sell lottery tickets, Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, and Utah being the others), but that didn't stop the Crimson Tide baseball program from being involved in a scandal with head coach Brad Bohannon fired.

The guess here is that the voiced concerns will be great, but the number of ideas about what to do about it will be small. Here's hoping I'm wrong about that.

Alabama Athletics

Christopher Walsh's notes column All Things CW regularly appears on BamaCentral.

SEE ALSO: The Joe Gaither Show on BamaCentral: Episode 6, May 29, 2023

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