On Monday morning, nervous Sun Devil fans tuned in to ESPN 2 to watch the NCAA Men’s College World Series regional selection show with aspirations of a postseason brith. Sorrow began to settle in once other at-large bided teams began to fill spots.
The Sun Devils missed a regional for the second straight year and were included at one of the selection show’s first four out. ASU narrowly missed a postseason birth in Bloomquist’s second year, and many believe it was a snub.
In the eyes of the selection committee, ASU had not proved itself at the right moment. A 32-23 overall record and a 16-13 Pac-12 conference record looked appealing on paper. But Arizona State was simply not playing the best baseball at the right moment.
The Sun Devils hobbled into the Pac-12 conference tournament after losing nine of their last 12 games, including dropping three of their final four conference series. The remaining portion of the schedule since the Oregon series began in late April, Arizona State was 29-14 with a 13-4 conference record.
It was clear that ASU was not playing its best baseball in the last month, and the committee punished them for it.
Instead, teams to qualify for the tournament included some at-large bided teams playing much better baseball at the moment.
The Oklahoma Sooners were a team in a similar position as ASU. The Sooners finished with a 31-26 record, 11-13 in the Big 12. However, Oklahoma had an advantage over the Sun Devils in terms of RPI. RPI projected the Sooners at the No. 40 spot coming in to Monday morning, meaning Oklahoma had a better record against better opponents.
Oklahoma took two of three from Stanford in late March and swept Texas in Austin, two impressive showing that probably stood out to the selection committee.
Washington was another team — a Pac-12 opponent — who made a run at the end of the season that made it to the Stillwater regional. The Huskies were ranked 36th in the RPI table on Monday.
Washington played its best baseball of the season towards the end of the year. UW rattled off four straight conference series wins including a sweep of eventual Pac-12 champion Oregon Ducks on the road. Again, the selection committee rewarding a team that is playing its best baseball at the end of the year.
That now brings us to the Arizona Wildcats.
Arizona fell into the Fayetteville regional and will play the Big 12 champion TCU Horned Frogs on June 2. The Wildcats went 33-24 on the year which included a 12-18 Pac-12 record. What went right for the Wildcats was their tournament run which saw the Cats not only win three games, but win three in convincing fashion.
Arizona outscored its opponents 39-19 in the first three conference tournament games which included an opening round win against Arizona State. The critical game that perhaps the committee liked the most was the 14-4 mercy rule win over Stanford, a team already in position to host the west coast’s only regional.
For ASU, it was a matter of timing. The selection committee clearly set the standard with the Arizona selection that it would reward teams that are playing their best baseball at the end. Arizona State faltered in the final month of the season and couldn’t make enough noise in the conference tournament to cap off what was otherwise a relatively successful campaign for Bloomquist and company.