Cal Left Out of NCAA Baseball Tournament

The Golden Bears were listed as one of the First Four Out so they barely missed making it
Photo by Arianna Grainey

There is disappointment at Cal and anger on the West Coast as Cal was not selected to play in the NCAA baseball tournament.

The 64-team NCAA tournament field was announced on national television on Monday, and Cal was not one of the 33 at-large teams selected. Cal was listed as one of the First Four Out, which means the Bears barely missed making the field.

Cal will probably spend the next few hours comparing its results with those of Coastal Carolina, Indiana, James Madison, UCF, Florida and other bubble teams that made the field as at-large selections. Cal was hoping to be in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2019, but instead its season is over.

“It’s hard to understand where we fell short,” Cal head coach Mike Neu told the San Francisco Chronicle, “because I think we proved over the last 25 games [going 20-5] that we could do some serious damage … (and could) beat any team that we played.

“I spent the last two days looking at everyone’s resume, and I thought there were a few teams that we were more deserving than.”

Only three Pac-12 teams are in the NCAA event -- Arizona, Oregon State and Oregon. Meanwhile 11 teams from the Southeastern Conference made the field, and three of them -- Tennessee, Kentucky and Texas A&M -- were the top three overall seeds.

Cal finished 36-19 overall, 17-13 in the Pac-12, and won 20 of its final 25 games. And when the Golden Bears beat regular-season champion Arizona in pool play to reach the Pac-12 tournament semifinals, the Pac-12 Network broadcasters of the game stated on the air that Cal would be in the NCAA tournament, no question about it.

Roxy Bernstein, a Cal alumnus who was the Pac-12 Network play-by-play man on a number of Pac-12 tournament games, had proclaimed on twitter last week that Cal would be in, and on Monday he noted his disappointment with Cal not being selected on twitter.

It seems Cal's strength of schedule may have been its undoing. The Bears strength of schedule ranked 103rd in the country.

"The thread that seemed to weave through that last grouping was strength of schedule," said D1 Baseball committee chairman Matt Hogue after the field was announced. "I think the committee felt very strongly about that. Of the [bubble] teams you listed I think that ruled the day."

So let's look at what Cal had to offer.

--- Cal's 36-19 record tied the Bears’ 2016 team for the most Cal wins in a season since 2011.

--- Cal won six of its last seven gmes, 10 of its last 12 and 20 of its final 25. So you would think the selection committee members might consider how a team is performing coming into the postseason.

--- In April, Cal swept a three-game series from Oregon State, which is the No. 15 overall seed in the NCAA tournament and will host one of the 16, four-team regionals.

--- Cal defeated regular-season Pac-12 champ Arizona just four days ago.

--- The eye test. Cal looked like an NCAA tournament-caliber team over the final third of the season.

But here's what was working against Cal:

---Cal has an RPI ranking of 64, and typically an RPI worse than 55 puts a team in jeopardy of not being selected.

--- Cal has a ranking of 57 on the Kevin Pauga Index (KPI), and that is another metric the selection committee is also using this year in its choices. That's a little low.

--- The Golden Bears only finished tied for fifth in a Pac-12 that was seen as being down this year.

--- Cal's strength of schedule ranked 103rd in the country, and baseball committee chairman Matt Hogue said strength of schedule was an important consideration.

--- Cal lost to USC in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals. If the Bears had won the conference tournament they would have received an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.

Let's take a brief look at five teams that were at-large teams on the bubble but did make the field for the NCAA tournament. Coastal Carolina, Indiana, James Madison and UCF were the last four teams in (in no particular order). The first four out included Cal, Charleston, Cincinnati and TCU.

---Florida -- 28-27 overall, 13-17 in SEC. RPI: 30, Strength of schedule: 1

--- Indiana -- 32-24 overall, 15-9 in Big Ten. RPI: 55. Strength of schedule: 39

--- Coastal Carolina -- 34-23 overall, 16-14 in Sun Belt Conference. RPI: 36. Strength of schedule: 22

--- James Madison -- 34-23 overall, 17-13 in Sun Belt. RPI: 44. Strength of schedule: 39

--- UCF -- 35-19 overall, 14-15 in Big 12. RPI: 33. Strength of schedule: 42.

There are those on the West Coast that believe the RPI and strength of schedule are biased aginst West Coast teams, who have trouble scheduling games across the country to face top-flight nonconference opponents.

The Bears did not hear their name called:

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Jake Curtis


Jake Curtis worked in the San Francisco Chronicle sports department for 27 years, covering virtually every sport, including numerous Final Fours, several college football national championship games, an NBA Finals, world championship boxing matches and a World Cup. He was a Cal beat writer for many of those years, and won awards for his feature stories.