Early Peek: College World Series

USA TODAY Sports

The Hardball Hoosiers are humming along through the B1G season and look poised to return to college baseball's Big Dance. How do you get a ticket to that thing, anyway?

After a rather uninspiring start, the Hoosiers have strung together a nice winning streak and sit atop the B1G standings with an 8-1 conference record (21-11 overall). Better yet, the Hoosiers clock in at 9 in the College Baseball RPI rankings. While the RPI is often (and in this author's opinion: rightfully) lambasted for its prevalence in college basketball, it's very good for a team to possess a good RPI ranking come tournament time and I'll tell you why.

The College World Series is a 64-team tournament that is decided and seeded via a selection committee just like its basketball counterpart. However it's not straightforward single-elimination the whole way as the tournament organizers have made it a more nuanced format to correct for the kind of sport being played. Straightforward single-elimination does not acquit itself to baseball nearly as well as basketball. So how do they do it?

The field is comprised of 30 automatic qualifiers and 34 at-large bids. The 30 auto-bids are awarded to the conference champions, 28 of which (including the B1G) decide their champion by a conference tournament while two other conferences (Pac-12, Big West) do not have a conference tournament and award their auto-bid to the regular season champion. The remaining 34 teams are decided on by the committee using RPI as a guideline along with the kind of criteria you would expect: non-conference record, non-conference RPI, conference record, conference tournament performance, last 15 games' record, road record and RPI, etc. Now that we've got our 64 teams, it's time to send them to the ...

REGIONALS!

Once the field is set, they are divided into 16 four-team regionals. The sixteen 1-seeds play host to three other teams, usually in their home ballpark. In the past, there have been instances where the 2-seed has hosted the regional but that is, obviously, not ideal. The committee wants the bracket to be balanced competitively and geographically, so not every regional will contain teams exclusively from that region. For example, the Hoosiers hosted a regional last year which contained Valpo (Indiana), Austin Peay (Tennessee) and ... Florida (Florida).

Teams from the same conference cannot be in the same regional and if two teams from the same conference are each 1-seeds, they'll be seeded in such a way to avoid meeting up in the Super Regional, which is the next round. The four teams play a double-elimination tournament with the last team standing being declared the champion of that regional. In the 2013 regional round, 14 1-seeds and 2 2-seeds won their regional, so being a host seed is a really nice thing to earn, as the vast majority of them advance onto the ...

SUPER REGIONALS!

"Alright guys, we nailed it when we decided to call the first round the 'Regionals' so we need to knock it out of the park with this second round name. People are counting on us; any suggestions?"

"What if we called it: the SUPER regional."

"You're a visionary."

That's my dramatic interpretation of the meeting in which each round of the tournament was named. The Super Regionals are determined geographically and hosted by the higher national seed. The two teams play a best two out of 3 series, the winner of which advances to the ...

COLLEGE WORLD SERIES!

That's right. The final round of the entire College World Series is called the College World Series. The eight super regional winners advance to TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska and are separated into two four-team brackets and play a double-elimination tournament similar to the format of the Regional round. The two winners then play each other in a best 2 out of 3 format to determine the NCAA Champion.

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The Hoosiers being ninth in the RPI is huge for them because it shows us that, should they continue their winning ways, they will be in play to be one of the eight national seeds and very likely not have to leave Bart Kaufman Field until / if they advance to Omaha. Last year, the Hoosiers won the regional they hosted but had to head down to Tallahassee to play the Super Regional, a top 8 national seed all but assures that they would host the Super Regional as well, if they were to advance.

The college baseball website Perfect Game released their bracket projection today, listing the Hoosiers as a regional host as the B1G's automatic bid, but not among the national seeds. Based on their projection, IU would have to go back down to Florida in the Super Regional, this time to play the Gators for the right to go to Omaha. Still lots of baseball to be played, and it would be hard to imagine that IU would not be among the top 8 seeds if they continue to crush the Big Ten at the rate they are right now.

The action continues for the Hoosiers today, as they host the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at 6:05 down at the Bart, in a midweek clash before Michigan State comes to town for a weekend series.

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