Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bracketology 101

Hi again everybody!

The Golden Flashes baseball team took two out of three last weekend in a spirited MAC East series with Buffalo. With some help from some other league teams, KSU now sits one game back of Central Michigan in the race for another regular season championship and number one seed in the forthcoming MAC Tournaments. They have also opened up a two-game bulge over Akron in the MAC East.

The Flashes have won recent MAC regular season pennants in 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012 and 2013. Of those five instances, they won the accompanying tournament pennant twice. While it is nice to proclaim a regular season title, I have long said there is very little reward for the league’s top finisher from the regular year in the tournament.

Lets rewind to last spring.

KSU dramatically caught Buffalo on the season’s final pitch to win its third straight regular season league championship. The Flashes reward? They got to select their game time in the first tournament game, were the home team in that game and earned a number one seed.

They were also rewarded with Jordan Foley – arguably the MAC’s most MLB-ready arm.

While the record shows KSU had a phenomenal offensive approach in beating the power right-hander, it doesn’t make the lack of reward for being the league’s best team over 27 grueling games any less glaring.

The current structure of the MAC Baseball Tournaments – which were designed and approved by the league’s coaches and AD’s – isn’t terrible. It just needs some tweaking. Here are my top issues against the current format:

-       No legitimate reward for regular season champion
-       Poor solution for deciding home/away
-       Tournament doesn’t appeal to entire league

Since I’ve already touched on the lack of reward, lets focus on that second point. There have been some years where KSU – as the top seed – was the visiting team more than it was the home team! Should the league’s seventh or eighth place teams ever have home field advantage over the league’s best team over 27 games? I don’t think so. I think the top seed should be the home team throughout the tournament on one condition: as long as it remains in the winner’s bracket.

In 2007, only six teams (half the league) qualified for the MAC Tournament. It was expanded to its current format of eight teams in 2008 when the event moved off campus to a neutral site. When the Golden Flashes raised the conference standard in 2012 with their run to Nebraska, it also brought some national notoriety to a league, which had been dormant on the collegiate baseball scene for several decades. With that moment still fresh, the MAC could capitalize by attempting to grow the sport. In my opinion, it is very much on par with the neighboring Big Ten; and sometimes maybe better. Just yesterday KSU and BG picked up wins over Big Ten schools. There is no better way to grow baseball in the MAC than by expanding the tournament to include all 12 teams. Much like basketball, if a team is struck with injuries or doesn’t play well during the regular year yet gets hot for a week in March it can go dancing.

Without further adieu, I unveil my new and improved MAC Baseball Tournament format!

-     Under my proposed format, all 12 teams qualify. They are seeded 1-12 based on conference winning percentage (MAC games only), regardless of division. Appropriate tiebreakers would still be in place.

-       The MAC would have the option of playing the opening-round games on campus sites (higher seed hosts) or playing them at the main tournament site in Avon. These games would be single elimination. I have them set up to be in Avon. If they were on campus sites, they could obviously all be played concurrently.

-    Seeds 1-4 are rewarded with byes into Wednesday, which is when the previous tournament began. Further, they are rewarded by taking on opponent which had to conceivably use its best pitcher the previous day. The top four seeds are also the home team on Wednesday.

-        Higher seed is always home team. No coin tosses.

-    Two elimination games are played Thursday with two winner’s bracket games later in the afternoon/evening.

-       If two teams reach the title game undefeated, only one title game would be needed and played on Saturday.

-    There are several other title game scenarios which exist. For example, if a team from the bottom bracket is undefeated and a team from the top has a loss, that team with a loss must win twice – forcing play into Sunday.

So there you have it! My new and improved MAC Baseball Tournament. It gets more teams involved, rewards the top teams for their regular season accomplishments and eliminates any wacky ways of determining home/away.

Lets make this happen MAC coaches!


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