CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina’s difficult schedule and its 14 wins over RPI Top-50 opponents was not enough to overcome its 13-17 ACC record on Monday as Mike Fox’s club was left out of the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season.
UNC (34-21, 13-17 ACC) lost 19 of its final 35 games and six of its final eight ACC series to miss out on last week's ACC Tournament for the first time since 2010. Even so, the Tar Heels built a solid postseason resume upon a top-10 strength of schedule and a top-20 RPI.
UNC’s NCAA Tournament bubble fate depended primarily on how the selection committee would rate those variables. That questioned was answered on Memorial Day as the Tar Heels were one of the final three teams left out of the Field of 64.
NCAA Division I Baseball selection committee chairman Joel Erdmann said the final six teams in consideration – South Alabama, Nebraska, Southeastern Louisiana, UNC, Oregon State and West Virginia - were put on the big board and then compared and contrasted.
“The decision points lie in a mixture of conference finish, strength of conference, nonconference strength of schedule and how teams did in that nonconference strength of schedule,” Erdmann said.
UNC topped the group of six in three of those four metrics: strength of conference (ACC RPI No. 1), nonconference strength of schedule (No. 12) and nonconference winning percentage (21-4, 84%). However, the Tar Heels finished 11th in the ACC standings, while the other five teams in consideration finished fifth or higher in their respective leagues.
As a result, Southeastern Louisiana, South Alabama and Nebraska earned invites over UNC despite inferior strength of schedule and RPI metrics.
|SE Louisiana||Nebraska||South Alabama||UNC|
|Record||39-19 (22-8 Southland)||37-20 (16-8 Big Ten)||40-20 (21-9 Sun Belt)||34-21 (13-17 ACC)|
|Vs. RPI Top-50||7-8||3-5||5-4||14-16|
|Conference Series W/L||8-2||7-1||6-4||4-6|
“I do know that the 30 league games you play trump a lot of those metrics,” Fox said following the selection show on Monday. “When you’re 13-17 in your league, it doesn’t matter how good your league is perceived to be. That record is what it is.”
Fox highlighted UNC’s struggles in Sunday games this season as a determining factor. The Tar Heels lost eight of their 10 ACC series finales, including four of the five rubber matches.
“We didn’t do enough during those games to win a few more series,” Fox said. “I have to think that gave the committee another reason potentially not to select us.”
The 18th-year UNC head coach has consistently built his nonconference schedules with the RPI in mind – the Tar Heels’ strength of schedule has ranked in the top-25 nationally in each of the past 10 years – and did not seem too interested in changing his scheduling approach due to Monday’s outcome.
“We will have to take a look at it, but again, you have to do well in your league,” Fox said. “That’s just the bottom line.”