The Lowdown On The NCAA Baseball Tournament

May 18, 2010

A Look At The Selection Process & Tournament Format

We’re almost there.  I know it sounds cliche, but where has the college baseball season gone?  It seems like I was just bouncing around from Mississippi to Florida and Texas over the opening weeks of 2010, and now here we are.  The last week of the regular season for most teams is upon us.

The Ivy League has already crowned its champion (Dartmouth), while the either Bucknell or Holy Cross will win the Patriot League title after this weekend’s best of three championship series.  Conference tournaments begin in earnest next week (the week of May 24), and automatic NCAA Tournament bids will be awarded to conference champions.

With all that in mind, I though we would give a quick refresher course on just how the selection process works for the NCAA baseball tournament.  And away we go…

  • 64 teams will qualify for the NCAA baseball tournament.
  • 30 of the 64 teams that qualify for the tournament will receive automatic bids based on winning conference championships…most of those automatic bids go to teams that win their conference tournaments.
  • The WCC, Big West and Pac 10 do not sponsor post season tournaments, so their automatic bids go to the regular season champion.
  • Since there are only 30 automatic bids, 34 at-large spots in the tournament are selected by the NCAA baseball committee.

CLICK HERE to see the up to date list of teams that have received automatic bids.

According to the NCAA’s 2010 Division One Baseball Championship Handbook (PDF)  here is how at-large selections are made:

  • The committee uses the Rating Percentage Index (RPI), a computer program that provides the committee with (1) the institution’s Division I winning percentage, (2) opponents’ success and (3) opponents’ strength of schedule. The RPI is an additional tool used in the evaluation of at-large teams. Please note that the adjusted RPI takes into account a bonus/penalty structure. Bonus and penalty values will only be used for non-conference games.
  • Regular-season conference standings and/or conference postseason competition shall be considered by the committee when selecting at-large teams.
  • The committee may consider comparing data of individual teams, including, but not limited to, overall record, Division I record, overall RPI rank, non-conference record and RPI rank, conference regular-season record and conference tournament results, road record and RPI, last 15 games’ record, its record against teams ranked 1-25, 26-50, 51-100, 101-150 and below 150 in the RPI, head-to-head record, common opponents’ record and input from regional advisory committees.
  • Make no mistake…RPI is a huge factor in the selection and seeding process.
  • Regional host sites will be announced on Sunday, May 30, while the field of 64 will be announced on Monday, May 31 (Memorial Day).

The same criteria is also used in determining seeding for Regionals and the top eight national seeds.  The top eight national seeds are essentially the eight teams that (at least in theory) should make it to the College World Series.  Top eight seeds are guaranteed they would not have to play each other until the CWS.

It should also be noted that while making last year’s at-large selections 2009 Selection Committee Chairman, Tim Weiser, added an additional selection criteria to the process “Who are you least gonna wanna play,” is how Weiser explained how some teams were picked over others.

Here’s how the tournament is formatted:


  • Sixteen four-team regional tournaments take place at different locations around the country.
  • Ordinarily, all regional and super regional tournaments are located on or near the campus of one of the competing institutions; however, a regional or super regional tournament may be scheduled at a neutral site provided advance approval is obtained from the Division I Championships/Sports Management Cabinet.
  • The committee shall attempt to place regional tournaments so that maximum national balance can be obtained, preferably at least one regional in each of the eight Division I baseball regions.
  • Except for the 16 No. 1 regional seeds, the pairings for the regionals, whenever possible, will be based on closest geographical location of the teams to the tournament sites. Teams may be moved outside their regions, if necessary, to balance the bracket, or if the proximity to an opponent outside the region would be comparable and a better competitive match-up would occur.
  • Two teams from the same conference cannot be placed in the same regional.
  • Teams from the same conference and seeded first in their respective regional will be placed on the bracket to avoid meeting in the super regionals.
  • Typically, #1 seeds host regionals, but it is possible for a #2 seed to host.
  • Teams are seeded 1-4, with the #1 seed playing the #4 seed and the #2 seed playing the #3 seed on the first day of the tournament.
  • The tournament is played out in a double-elimination format, with the winner advancing to one of eight Super Regionals.

Here’s the Regional format:
Day 1
Game 1—No. 1 vs. No. 4
Game 2—No. 2 vs. No. 3
Day 2
Game 3—Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2
Game 4—Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2
Day 3
Game 5—Winner Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4
Game 6—Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5
Day 4
Game 7—If necessary, same teams as in Game 6.

Super Regionals

  • Two teams will play a best two of three format to determine the Super Regional winner.
  • Super regional competition takes place at on-campus sites or alternate sites approved by the baseball committee.
  • Consideration for hosting shall be given to the higher seed, including the eight national seeds, if a suitable hosting proposal has been received (e.g., meets financial guarantee and quality of facility criteria). If the higher seed has not submitted a proposal, the lower-seeded team will host if their proposal is acceptable.
  • If the super regional match-up is between equally seeded teams, the committee shall review the hosting proposals according to the site selection criteria (e.g., quality and availability of the facility, revenue potential and other available accommodations) to determine the host. If only one of the teams has submitted a
    proposal, that team shall host if the proposal is acceptable.
  • Winners of the eight super regional tournaments will qualify for the Men’s College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.

Here’s the Super Regional format:

Day 1:  Game 1—Team A vs. Team B
Day 2: Game 2—Team A vs. Team B
Day 3: Game 3—If necessary, Team A vs. Team B.

College World Series

  • The eight winners of the super regional competitions will advance to the Men’s College World Series.
  • Two four-team bracket will play a double-elimination tournament to determine the bracket champions (similar to the regional format).
  • The MCWS Finals best two of three format consists of single games Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (if necessary), June 28-30.
  • The College World Series begins on Saturday, June 19 at Omaha’s Rosenblatt Stadium.

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