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2021 NCAA Baseball Bracket Odds and Ends

Every bracket has its oddities. Every committee has things they did right or things that everyone hates. There are usually conspiracy theories abound- some are believable, some...not so much.

In 2019, people noticed and complained that there were a lot of regionals hosted by teams from the same conference paired up for the Super Regional round. It looks like the committee avoided that particular criticism this time around.

There are other oddities that could be an accident, or a grand scheme for the committee to see how one conference pairs with another, or one team, or one seed. Below, I break down some interesting things that I have noticed after digging into the last 15 years of brackets.

Big 12 vs Pac-12

In each of the three regionals hosted by Big 12 teams, the two seed in that regional is a team from the Pac-12 that has seemingly underperformed expectations. Then, in the regional that has the remaining Big 12 team, it is hosted by the highest-seeded Pac-12 team.

This one is likely easily explainable. In general, there are usually much fewer host sites out west, whether that is because of the lack of top teams, or just a smaller number of teams out that way in total, compared to, say, the southeast. Since teams from the same conference cannot be paired up in the same regional, the committee has to get creative. This year, it happened that there were a higher-than-average number of Pac-12 teams worthy of hosting, as well as other at-large-worthy Pac-12 teams. Armed with that and the fact that the Big 12 host sites are the closest spots for the remaining Pac-12 teams, the committee had no other choice than to pair these conferences together. It definitely makes for an intriguing storyline.

LSU host or West Coast

The year 1999 was the last time that LSU did not either host a regional in Baton Rouge or get sent to the West Coast for its regional, in years that it made the tournament (2006, 2007, and 2011). In 2018, LSU was sent to Corvallis to be in Oregon State’s regional. In 2010, the Bayou Bengals were sent to Los Angeles for UCLA’s regional.

LSU fans thought it was fitting or maybe a bit strange that they were sent to Eugene this year in #13 seed Oregon’s regional this year. This was pointed out to us on Twitter when the bracket was announced. What I learned most from finding out this is that LSU hosts really, really often. Sending the Tigers out west seems to be the committee’s favorite thing to do, though it did not happen often.

Last overall #1 seed to win it all was Miami in 1999. Can Arkansas?

In short, it is hard to win that many games in a row, no matter the team. The best season record in MLB history is the 1906 Chicago Cubs, in which they went 116-36. Great teams are still losing 25% or more of their games. By the way, that team did not even win the world series!

That 1999 Miami team dominated their way to the title, not losing a single game in the postseason.

It might be surprising to hear that overall #1 seeds do not have the highest average win percentage for “hosts” (i.e. regional one seeds) in the postseason since 2006; that honor goes to the overall #3 seeds. The overall #1 seeds have the highest average win percentage for hosts in just the regional and Super Regional round over that same time period, so they have generally faltered in Omaha it appears.

The overall #1 seed is usually the favorite, and this year is no different, but for some reason, they just cannot put it together throughout the postseason. I am not saying that Arkansas will falter down the stretch, as they have shown no signs of stopping, but maybe the overall #1 seed is haunted. Can the SEC Regular Season champ and SEC Tournament champ check that last box and win the whole thing?

Seed history

I have been tracking win percentage in Field of 64 play and in Omaha for each seed and found an interesting trend for which to keep an eye out. Recently, regional 2 and 3 seeds have been putting distance between them and 4 seeds, while they are also getting closer to 1 seeds.

Let me show you.

What this graph shows is the nominal percentage difference in winning percentage year over year between certain seeds. The blue line is the difference between 1 seed and the closest of the 2 and 3 seed. The green line shows the difference between the 4 seed and the closest of the 2 and 3 seed, i.e. the opposite of the one that is compared in the blue line. The 3 seeds are included in this because there are several years over this time frame in which 3 seeds had a higher winning percentage than 2 seeds.

Note that there is a general slight downward trend of the blue line and a general upward trend of the green line, even though there are spikes in some years. The 2 and 3 seeds are getting more competitive with the 1 seeds and all three are separating from 4 seeds. Maybe this means in your bracket pick'em, try not to pick all chalk.

Look at 2016! That year, Coastal Carolina and Arizona were in the championship series, and both were 2 seeds in their regional, which helped lead the 2 seeds to have a better win percentage than the 1 seeds. As a college baseball fan, I am hoping for some chaos like that this time around.


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