Gil LeBreton

It’s way past time for NCAA to start seeding all 64 baseball teams

The field for the NCAA baseball tournament was announced Monday, and I have a suggestion for the selection committee:

Quit filling out the bracket as if it was a car pool.

Teams can find the airport. Send some of those Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference teams that the committee slobbers over to the West Coast.

Seed all 64 teams, not just the first eight.

Eventually -- I get it -- a team has to earn its way to the College World Series. The Road to Omaha can't be paved solely with Texas Southerns.

But let's inject some fairness and balance into the pairings. The rationale behind regionalizing the bracket is a once-noble idea that has run its course. Omaha-worthy teams are being needlessly roadblocked.

Last year the committee decided it was fair to match two of the country's best teams, TCU and Texas A&M, in the Super Regional round. This time, it's sending Virginia to TCU for the regional that begins Friday.

Yes, Virginia, there is no NCAA Santa Claus. The Cavaliers were ranked 12th by the respected D1Baseball.com website, yet a Clemson team that finished fifth in the ACC, 0-2 in the conference tournament and had lost four of its last five series was rewarded as a regional host.

And even if Virginia had to be a No. 2 seed in a regional, the proper thing to do would have been to match the Wahoos against something other than one of the national seeds. (TCU is seeded sixth).

The NCAA's intention, it seems, has been to assign teams to regionals that are in reasonable proximity. But why, exactly? Teams miss class and travel farther during the regular season.

Can you imagine those basketball blue bloods in the Commonwealth of Kentucky if their beloved Wildcats and Louisville were matched in the first or second rounds each year?

Bracket geography is designed to reduce travel expenses, the NCAA has said. But visiting teams at baseball regionals only receive 200 tickets -- a trifling number for which to sacrifice competitive balance.

For TCU, this is going to be its toughest regional host challenge since maybe 2010, when the Horned Frogs were paired with Arizona and Baylor.

Virginia has the nation's fifth-highest team batting average, .324. TCU (.272) ranks 153rd. Dallas Baptist, the regional's No. 3 seed, has a .304 average and has hit 84 home runs.

And whoever survives the TCU regional gets another NCAA prize, a possible Super Regional matchup against a hard-hitting Arkansas team that reached the SEC tournament's title game. (The Razorbacks, by the way, have an easier regional than TCU).

The answer is a clear one: Seed all 64 teams, same as basketball. It's not going to hurt Texas Southern's or Maryland-Baltimore County's (23-23 record) feelings.

A team ranked No. 6 in the national polls shouldn't have to face the No. 12 team in what amounts to the first round. Nor should a team get to host its first three or four games, just because its campus is convenient for three other teams.

It's been reported that the NCAA has discussed seeding its baseball championships and a favorable vote is expected one day. But that isn't going to help this year's block party pairings.

Parents, families and avid fans will travel for postseason competitions. College basketball and even volleyball and lacrosse have proven that.

But ever try to fly to Omaha? It's expensive. There aren't a lot of flights. And the hotels jack up prices for the College World Series.

The NCAA must be too busy saving money in Clemson to notice.

Gil LeBreton: @gilebreton

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