If you know what an RPI is, you know more than UCLA baseball Coach Gary Adams, who said half-jokingly Monday that the ratings system the NCAA selection committee uses to pick the field for its regional tournaments is more puzzling than precise.
"Hey, I don't know how the NCAA picks this thing," said Adams. "I don't know what [the selection committee] looks for."
Luckily for Adams the committee was looking for teams like UCLA, which was awarded the No. 1 spot in the Midwest Regional in Stillwater, Okla., and was one of four Southland schools in the field of 48.
Of those four, one earned an automatic berth (Cal State Fullerton for winning the Big West Conference tournament) and three others (UCLA, USC and Long Beach State) each received one of the 29 at-large invitations.
And all had a Ratings Percentage Index--a mysterious computerized formula derived from winning percentage (25%), schedule strength (50%) and opponents' schedule strength (25%)--high enough to appease a selection committee that slighted Cal State Northridge.
"I though Northridge was a pretty darn good team," Adams said.
So did the Matadors, who gathered at a restaurant to watch the selection show on television.
But Northridge's RPI, which is not released by the NCAA, was apparently low because eight of Northridge's victories came against non-Division I opponents, and the Matadors lost three of four games against ranked opponents the last two weeks of the season.
A look at the chances of the other Southland schools:
Adams remembers the last time the Bruins (40-18-1), ranked No. 4 by Baseball America, played an Ivy League team in the postseason, as they will Thursday in sixth-seeded Harvard. "It was against Yale in 1992. Ryan McGwire hit a grand slam," he said of the 8-0 Bruin victory.
Harvard earned its first tournament berth since 1984 by winning the Ivy League title and then a best-of-three, play-in series over Patriot League champion Army.
UCLA has its best lineup since 1986, when current Dodgers Todd Zeile and Eric Karros played, and the Crimson might be soft enough for Adams to gamble and rest his top three starting pitchers--Jim Parque Tom Jacquez and Pete Zamora.
The ninth-ranked Trojans (39-18) got a second-seeding in the South II Regional at Tuscaloosa, Ala., and play untested Virginia Tech in the first round Thursday. Top-seeded and top-ranked Alabama, coming off a Southeastern Conference tournament victory over Louisiana State, and third-seeded and No. 25 Wichita State are the regional's other threats.
Virginia Tech went 0-6 against teams selected for the regionals, and sneaked in by upsetting Massachusett for the Atlantic 10's bid.
Randy Flores gives USC a veteran pitcher, starting in his fourth regional.
LONG BEACH STATE
The 49ers (37-24) lost six of their last 10, including four of their last five at home during the regular season, and then lost in the finals of the Big West tournament to Fullerton.
But Long Beach State's schedule was unlike Northridge's enough to land the fourth seeding in the South I at Baton Rouge, La., and a game Thursday against 16th-ranked Oklahoma, the third-seeded team. Louisiana State, ranked No. 2 in the country and winner of College World Series titles in 1991, 1993 and 1996, is the host.
The Titans (38-22-1) were given a No. 2 seeding in the West Regional at Stanford behind the top-seeded host team.
Even though Fullerton, which will meet West Coast Conference champion and fifth-seeded Santa Clara on Thursday, has won 15 of its last 18 games and is ranked No. 20, the seeding was a surprise.
"Being a No. 2 is a generous seeding from our standpoint," Fullerton Coach George Horton said. "I think both Long Beach and us could have been No. 3s."
Times staff writers Jason Reid, Lon Eubanks and Steve Henson contributed to this story.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
NCAA Baseball Tournament
Division I regionals beginning Thursday. Times Pacific.
Texas A&M (39-20) vs. Fresno St. (37-26), 11 a.m.; CS Fullerton (38-22-1) vs. Santa Clara (39-18), 3 p.m.; Northeastern (33-17) at Stanford (39-18), 7 p.m.
At Stillwater, Okla.
UCLA (40-18-1) vs. Harvard (32-14), 9 a.m.; Tennessee (41-17) vs. Ohio (43-16), 1 p.m.; Stetson (37-24-1) at Oklahoma St. (43-17), 5 p.m.
At Baton Rouge, La.
Oklahoma (39-18) vs. Long Beach St. (37-24), 9 a.m.; South Alabama (40-17) vs. Houston (40-21), 1 p.m.; North Carolina-Greensboro (44-15) at Louisiana State (48-12), 5:30 p.m.
At Tuscaloosa, Ala.
North Carolina St. (41-18) vs. Wichita St. (51-16). 9 a.m.; USC (39-18) vs. Virginia Tech (33-26), 1 p.m.; Troy St. (36-22) at Alabama (48-12), 5 p.m.
Arizona St. (36-20) vs. Florida International (42-19), 9 a.m.; Florida (38-22) vs. St. John's (35-15), 12:45 p.m.; Richmond (33-24) at Miami (44-15), 4:30 p.m.
At Starkville, Miss.
Georgia Tech (44-13) vs. Tennessee Tech (38-21), 10 a.m.; Southwestern Louisiana (43-16) vs. Washington (43-18), 2 p.m.; Ohio St. (42-16) at Mississippi St. (41-18), 6 p.m.
At Lubbock, Texas
Clemson (40-21) vs. Nevada (38-19), 9 a.m.; Rice (43-14) vs. Southwest Missouri State (33-23), 1 p.m.; Southwest Texas State (36-24) at Texas Tech (46-12), 5 p.m.
At Tallahassee, Fla.
Central Florida (40-22) vs. South Florida (37-22), 8 a.m.; Auburn (45-14) vs. Western Carolina (41-18), noon; Marist (32-17) at Florida St. (46-15), 4 p.m.
Note--Regional winners qualify for College World Series, May 30-June 7, Omaha, Neb.