Tuesday, May 31, 2011

St. John's Gets NCAA Tournament Bid Much To LSU's Chagrin

The chances for an NCAA Tournament bid didn't look good for the St. John's men's baseball team after losing to Seton Hall in the Big East championship game on Sunday, but the Red Storm were given one of the final at-large berths to make the field of 64 for the fourth time in five years.  National power LSU cried that the selection of St. John's is a farce and says the NCAA should take a look at how they select the 64 team field.

LSU (36-20) is claiming that they play in a tougher conference and should have been picked over the Johnnies.  St. John's (35-20) finished second in both the Big East regular season standings and championship series.  It is arguably the best team in the northeast.

For the record, LSU finished 9th in the SEC and didn't make their own conference tournament finals.

The Tigers are screaming that their #23 RPI and 12-3 finish entitles the team to be picked ahead of the Red Storm, who go into the NCAA's with a respectable #54 RPI.

"I would say that this year, as a committee, we didn't use RPI as the hammer that maybe it was in previous years," said Tim Weiser, the chairman of the 10-member NCAA Selection Committee.

If LSU wants to find a culprit, the school should look at some of the automatic-bids awarded to winners of conference championships.

New Mexico (20-39) and UALR (24-32) won their respective conference title games (Mountain West and Sun Belt) and will be coasting into this year's tournament field. 

St. John's is a second place team in the Big East conference.  It's hard to argue with all the the RPI's and the fact that seven SEC teams were selected to the tournament that LSU doesn't have a case, but don't blame St. John's.

Sure, Big East baseball will probably never be compared to the SEC, but other factors in St. John's success should be taken into consideration.

For one thing, LSU is a ninth place team. They should know only Big East basketball gets nine or more teams into a tournament. 

Secondly, the Red Storm play in colder weather.  They don't see a home field game until mid-March after they've played about a dozen games on the road.  By seasons end, St. John's has played nearly two-thirds of their games on the road.
"The debate is a consistent one: How do you measure a second-place team versus, for example, a ninth-place team?," said Weiser.  " We've got a divided group in that regard."

While LSU sulks, St. John's rejoices about it's # 3 seed in the regional hosted by top-seed Virginia.

"It felt pretty good," said St. John's head coach Ed Blankmeyer.  "It made it a lot easier to enjoy the rest of [the selection show]...It was exciting for me, and I felt very happy for the players."

The Red Storm is no NCAA interloper.  This will be the 33rd appearance in the NCAA Tournament for St. John's--the eighth most by any school.

Last year, St. John's was also in the same bracket as #1 Virginia and beat them in the first game before losing the rematch with the Super Regionals within their grasp.

This year the Red Storm will face # 2 seed East Carolina on Friday before tangling with #1 Virginia and #4 Navy over the weekend.

For now, put all the conspiracy theories to rest.

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