Tuesday, May 1, 2012

USC Men, UCLA Women Top Seeds in NCAA Championships

There's much to like about the selections and choices made tonight for the NCAA Division I tournament, which begins with regional play May 11th.

Here's a short list of positives:
  • Although an hour late, the two shows produced by the NCAA are straightforward and to-the-point. They don't try to build suspense or provide analysis. 
  • The committee rewarded their top 16 seeds, which were the consensus top 16 seeds, with hosting privileges, without reference to the cost of the travel involved. In the past, this has been the justification for taking away that precious home court advantage, earned with a top 16 ranking, even though the NCAA doesn't cover the team's travel costs in the first two rounds.
  • No teams from the same conference will meet before the round of 16, which adds a layer of complexity to the regional selections, but is definitely an improvement.
Unfortunately, these positives were introduced along with a very big negative. There will be no release of the April 30 rankings that were compiled by the ITA and used by the committee for their decisions, both in the team and individual selections.  I was under the mistaken impression that the rankings would be released later, but they will not be released at all, leaving those of us who write about college tennis without the information we need to perform our jobs.

But the confusion and uncertainty (should I use the April 24th rankings, even though they don't include the results from the season's last weekend, or should I refer to say, a 17-32 seed, an awkward and not particularly enlightening construction?) is secondary to the question of how this decision improves the student-athlete's experience.

If you are on the bubble for the team or the individual championships selection, how can you be sure there were no errors in the final rankings when you can't see them?

Last year I came across a mistake (you can read about it here) that allowed an unranked player to receive entry into the individual tournament. I don't think another such occurrence is likely, but without the release of the final rankings, it would be impossible to detect.

Transparency in rankings is something the NCAA has embraced in basketball, and their committee is willing to make decisions based on the same information that is available publicly to anyone. None of us are perfect, but the willingness to allow review of your work is a tenet of the academic/scientific model that most universities embrace. Freedom of Information requests are a fact of life at public universities. To change rules solely in order to deflect possible criticism isn't in keeping with the NCAA's stated mission to "govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner so that the experience of the student-athlete is paramount."

I don't know how the SIDs and other media members will handle this, but I will be using the April 24th rankings when I make references to national rankings, even though I know they aren't accurate.  I believe there are significant distinctions to be made between No. 17 Nebraska and No. 32 TCU, and when the 50th-ranked player in the nation beats one of the top seeds, a headline reading "unseeded Joe Smith takes out No. 4 John Doe" doesn't have the same impact. I'm not sure the ramifications of this decision were considered, but I hope it's "one and done" and we can go back to normal next year.

Enough on that subject, and on to the draws.  Due to a direct win over USC, the Stanford women went from No. 5 to No. 4 and so are in top seed UCLA's side of the draw. UCLA beat Stanford in Palo Alto, the Cardinal's first regular season home loss in 13 years, giving them even more motivation in Athens. Defending champion and No. 2 seed Florida, with their starters all returning, is in the same half as No. 3 Duke, whom the Gators shut out in Gainesville this year. Cal was seeded No. 9 for the second straight year, with Alabama getting the No. 8 seed. Last year Cal's battle with No. 8 Georgia was one of the highlights of the round of 16.

The women's seeds:
2. Florida
3. Duke
4. Stanford
5. USC
6. Georgia
7. North Carolina
8. Alabama
9. Cal
10. Miami
11. Texas
12. Baylor
13. Northwestern
14. Virginia
15. Michigan
16. Ole Miss

The complete draw is available here.

The men have three-time defending champion USC in the top spot, with the only team to beat them this season, UCLA, at No. 4, in their side of the bracket.  The second seed went to host Georgia, who is in the same side of the draw as No. 3 Virginia. I believe 1 and 4 and 2 and 3 are always placed at opposite sides of the draw. ITA Indoor finalist Ohio State, which was among the top 3 teams all year, fell to number 5 in the seedings and they are in the USC and UCLA side of the draw.

The men's seeds:
1. USC
2. Georgia
3. Virginia
5. Ohio State
6. Kentucky
7. Pepperdine
8. Duke
9. Mississippi State
10. Oklahoma
11. Stanford
12. Florida
13. Ole Miss
14. California
15. North Carolina
16. Illinois

The complete draw is here.

Ten schools will be hosting both men and women's regionals on their campuses. The women start play first,  on May 11th, as they open play in the Sweet 16 on Thursday May 17th, with the men beginning play on Friday May 18th in Athens.

The ten schools with joint regionals are:
USC, UCLA, Stanford, Cal, Georgia, Florida, Ole Miss, Virginia, Duke and North Carolina.


Brent said...

My predictions for the men are as follows...

Round of 64
1 USC over Fairfield
Texas A&M over South Carolina
Auburn over Drake
16 Illinois over W.Michigan
9 Mississippi St. over Alcorn St.
Baylor over Memphis
LSU over Northwestern
8 Duke over George Washington
5 Ohio State over E.Tennessee St.
Notre Dame over Vanderbilt
Harvard over Virginia Tech
12 Florida over Navy
13 Ole Miss over Binghamton
Michigan over Middle Tennessee St.
San Diego over Fresno St.
4 UCLA over E.Kentucky
3 Virginia over Fairleigh Dickinson
VCU over Columbia
Texas Tech over Cal Poly
14 Cal over UTSA
11 Stanford over Sacramento St.
Texas over Santa Clara
Indiana over Louisville
6 Kentucky over Radford
7 Pepperdine over Green Bay
Washington over NC State
Tulsa over Minnesota
10 Oklahoma over UMKC
15 UNC over College of Charleston
Tennessee over UNC Wilmington
Florida St. over Boise St.
2 Georgia over S.Carolina St.

Round of 32
1 USC over Texas A&M
16 Illinois over Auburn
Baylor over 9 Mississippi St.
8 Duke over LSU
5 Ohio State over Notre Dame
12 Florida over Harvard
13 Ole Miss over Michigan
4 UCLA over San Diego
3 Virginia over VCU
14 Cal over Texas Tech
11 Stanford over Texas
6 Kentucky over Indiana
7 Pepperdine over Washington
10 Oklahoma over Tulsa
15 UNC over Tennessee
2 Georgia over Florida St.

Round of 16
1 USC over Duke
8 Duke over Baylor
5 Ohio State over Florida
4 UCLA over Ole Miss
3 Virginia over 14 Cal
11 Stanford over 6 Kentucky
10 Oklahoma over 7 Pepperdine
2 Georgia over 15 UNC

1 USC over Duke
4 UCLA over 5 Ohio State
3 Virginia over 11 Stanford
2 Georgia over 10 Oklahoma

4 UCLA over 1 USC
3 Virginia over 2 Georgia

3 Virginia over 4 UCLA 4-3

wi tennis said...

Looks like LSU jumped South Florida to get the last spot on the women's side. (I might be missing one, so correct me.) Very cowardly move by the NCAA to not allow ITA to publish rankings. Not shocking, though!

wi tennis said...

va tech last on men's side, leaving out bama, dartmouth and rice.

PAC-12 said...

Stanford Women should be the #2 seed if you think about it logically. They have a win over Florida and their only loss is UCLA. Now USC who beat UCLA 6-1 will have to play Stanford on a neutral surface- USC is the hottest team at the moment with nothing to lose. ACC and SEC teams got lucky on the bottom half of the draw- no PAC12 teams to deal with. Cal is much better than their ranking, so UCLA did not want to see them on their side of the draw. I'm sure they prefer to play UNC, Georgia, Alabama (they will lose to Cal), Miami.

Austin said...

I really wish they would institute a rule like NCAA basketball where top four conference teams can't meet until later in the tournament.

guest said...

Pac 12, when you skip the Indoors, you lose the benefit of the doubt for seeding.

Austin said...

Round of 64
(1) USC over Fairfield
A&M over South Carolina
Auburn over Drake
(16) Illinois over Western Michigan
(8) Miss State over Alcorn
Baylor over Memphis
LSU over Northwestern
(9) Duke over Geo Wash
(5) Ohio State over ETSU
Vandy over Notre Dame
VaTech over Harvard
(12) Florida over Navy
(13) Ole Miss over Bing
Michigan over MTSU
San Diego over Fresno
(4) UCLA over EKU
(3) Virginia over Fairleigh
VCU over Columbia
Texas Tech over Cal Poly
(14) Cal over UTSA
(11) Stanford over Sac State
Texas over Santa Clara
Louisville over Indiana
(6) Kentucky over Radford
(7) Pepperdine over Green Bay
Washington over NC State
Tulsa over Minnesota
(10) Oklahoma over UMKC
(15) UNC over Charleston
Tennessee over UNCW
Florida State over Boise State
(2) Georgia over SC State

Round of 32
(1) USC over A&M
(16) Illinois over Auburn
Baylor over (8) Miss State
(9) Duke over LSU
(5) Ohio State over Vandy
(12) Florida over VaTech
(13) Ole Miss over Michigan
(4) UCLA over San Diego
(3) Virginia over VCU
Texas Tech over (14) Cal
(11) Stanford over Texas
(6) Kentucky over Louisville
(7) Pepperdine over Washington
(10) Oklahoma over Tulsa
(15) UNC over Tennessee
(2) Georgia over Florida State

Round of 16
(1) USC over (16) Illinois
(9) Duke over Baylor
(5) Ohio State over (12) Florida
(4) UCLA over (13) Ole Miss
(3) Virginia over Texas Tech
(6) Kentucky over (11) Stanford
(10) Oklahoma over (7) Pepperdine
(2) Georgia over (15) UNC

(1) USC over (9) Duke
(4) UCLA over (5) Ohio State
(3) Virginia over (6) Kentucky
(2) Georgia over (10) Oklahoma

(1) USC over (4) UCLA
(3) Virginia over (2) Georgia

(1) USC over (3) Virginia

I gotta say, once we get to the quarterfinals anything can happen, but I gotta pick someone! We may see 3-5 non-seeds in Athens this year...I'm not picking it, but some good parity this season.

PAC-12 said...

To GUEST: Florida lost to Stanford and skipped indoors! Stanford should be the #2 seed. NCAA needs to do a better job with their research.

guest said...

Pac 12, are you familiar with how the ITA rankings work? Teams are ranked according to their best 9 wins at this point in the season with losses counting a smaller amount. We all have opinions about where Stanford should be ranked. I completely agree they "should" be seeded higher. However, Stanford doesn't have as many "best wins" as some other teams. That's why they are ranked 5. See the Texasollegetennis blog for unofficial final rankings. The NCAA may move a team one spot from their ranking, but I'm not sure if they've ever deviated much from the ITA rankings.
If Stanford had simply played the Indoors, they would be ranked more accurately. Yes, Florida skipped the indoors, but they ended up with a better computer profile (best wins/losses) If the NCAA had subjectively seeded Stanford up to #2, well above their ranking, they would also be telling every team that the National Indoors does not matter. If that's the case, why would any warm weather teams bother going?