Ducks Skipper Sees Lack Of Respect For West Coast…
By CB360 Contributor Kris Anderson
Monday was a somber day in Eugene, Ore., as the Oregon Ducks learned that they were not selected to the NCAA Baseball Tournament’s field of 64.
Despite winning nine of their last 12 games and finishing the regular season by sweeping then No. 6 ranked Oregon State, the preseason top-15 Ducks proved that three strong weeks could not save themselves from an 11-16 Pac-10 Conference record.
After learning of the tournament field, Ducks coach George Horton expressed his disappointment in not being selected, as well as the selection committee’s perception of college baseball’s western region.
“Those teams like us that thought they had an opportunity to play are devastated and confused,” Horton said on Monday. “You compare your numbers to others that get in, but ultimately, I didn’t think that west coast baseball was very well respected.”
Horton, who made six College World Series appearances and won a national championship during his 10 years as head coach of Cal State Fullerton, pointed to the fact that no national seeds were awarded to teams from the west. He also noted that western teams like Cal State Bakersfield, Gonzaga and Cal Poly—teams that were on the bubble—were not selected to regionals. He called the selections of three Big East teams and three Sun Belt teams “ridiculous.”
“I think the Fullerton regional and the Oregon State regional, they’re all tough, but that isn’t a typical western regional as far as level of difficulty, for me,” Horton said. “The UCLA one certainly is. For me, that’s the toughest regional on paper. And then the fact that all three of those teams match up with national seeds—one, three and six—I think is pretty ridiculous.”
Horton came to the defense of Pac-10 conference champion, UCLA , saying they “didn’t get much respect.”
“They played for the national championship last year, and have the same team back,” he said. “I thought the committee missed the mark there.”
“I thought the western region was under represented. I’m not taking anything away from the committee’s efforts or the national perspective in teams like St. John’s and some of those other team that got in. It’s too bad for western baseball and too bad for the Ducks. I don’t even know, ultimately, whether we were on the board….”
So, how does the west gain respect?
“You schedule all your games at home and play ‘Molly Putts University’ at home and get a bunch of great records,” said Horton, who has been the coach of the Ducks since the program was reinstated in 2009. “But that can’t happen because the budgets aren’t conducive to that, and we don’t have those kinds of stadiums like the ACC, SEC, Big 12 has.”
“They play all their games at home. They play weak opponents in the mid-week. Their leagues are very strong, make no mistake about it. But they all feed off each other because they all come into conference 24-3. And then whatever they do in conference, they do, and then they don’t lose a mid-week game.”
This season, Arkansas, for example, entered conference play with a 14-2 record, but went 15-15 vs. SEC teams. Also, they did not play any mid-week games against an SEC opponent.
Oregon played two mid-week games against No. 13 Oregon State, which they split. They also played two mid-week games against eventual West Coast Conference champion San Francisco and two against WCC runner-up, Gonzaga.
“In the west you play each other, so it’s almost like a conference wash where it’s fifty-fifty,” Horton said. “I’m a little west coast biased, of course, because I’ve been out here, but a third place team, a western team, a .500 team in the west, I think is a more difficult challenge than some of those teams that the others are playing. Not taking any respect from them. It’s always been a problem.”
“Every year you see two (Pac-10) teams, at least, in the College World Series, and the committee tends to forget that. I don’t know why.”
After the Ducks completed the sweep of their in-state rivals, the Beavers, Horton declared that his team had a 40-percent chance of being selected to regionals. After looking at tournament predictions and seeing how the committee treated teams from the west, he said 20-percent would have been more accurate.
The Ducks’ chances were also hurt by the results of certain conference tournaments, which Horton says he is not a “fan” of.
But none of that matters now. The Ducks will spend the off-season evaluating how a season that began with dreams of Omaha, is over before June.