I compared Wake Forest specifically to Michigan State because I believed the Spartans to be one of the weakest teams in the field. Other question marks that made it over the Deacs were East Carolina, Sam Houston State, Indiana State and the College of Charleston. Wake does not match up favorably with all of these teams (some of them have surprisingly good numbers for mid-major teams), but if you are picking five out of the six listed teams above, Wake Forest without a doubt deserves to be in the field of 64.
This article details what two of the more prominent experts on college baseball (Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game, and Aaron Fitt of Baseball America) had to say about the exclusion of Wake Forest from the field.
Click through the jump to see what the experts had to say about Wake Forest being left out.
Kendall Rogers, one of the games most respected opinions, particularly in predicting the field of 64 (he successfully predicted 61/64 teams that made the tournament), had this to say about Wake Forest missing out on the tournament: (this comes directly from his article here on PerfectGame.org)
Not putting in Wake Forest, not considering Southeastern Louisiana in the last five – Color me a little surprised the Demon Deacons weren’t part of the NCAA’s field of 64. Sure, the Demon Deacons didn’t put together a great conference record, but you’re talking about a team that hit the road at times in non-conference, namely to New Mexico State to all places. On top of that, they finished decently strong, ending the regular season by sweeping a three-game series from Clemson. Wake Forest 15-19 vs. RPI Top 50 and 17-23 vs. RPI Top 100. In other words, it had a better resume than ECU, for instance, which was a No. 2 seed in the field.
Kendall listed several of the same numbers that I listed yesterday that should have made a difference in the eyes of the committee. He specifically mentions ECU in this blurb about the Deacs, and he also listed Michigan State as an extremely questionable insertion into the tournament:
* Michigan State making the field -- Trust me, having covered this sport for more than 10 seasons, I know exactly how things work from a geographic balancing standpoint. However, it was a little surprising to me to see the Spartans apparently solidly in the field of 64. The Spartans, Kallander said, were the No. 2 team in that region of the country, according to an advisory committee of coaches. Kallander also said the Spartans played a tough non-conference schedule. However, they lost many of those games, and even worse, they finished fifth place in the Big Ten, a whopping three games behind Indiana for second place, and four games behind Purdue for first place. While conference finish mattered in some cases, it certainly was ignored in this case.
Once again, the Deacs matched up favorably to Sparty when all the statistics and factors are taken into consideration. The head of the committee said that Michigan State was rewarded for their tough out-of-conference schedule, but as noted, they lost many of those games, with their only marquee win in the OOC coming @Baylor (No. 5 in the final regular season Warren Nolan rankings).
Overall, Michigan State went 22-8 in their non-conference schedule, but only two of those wins were against top 50 teams. Wake Forest went 19-5 against their non-conference schedule and won one game against top 50 teams (they also won a game against No. 51 Elon).
Michigan State lost to No. 15 Texas A&M (3 times) No. 42 Louisville, No. 66 South Florida, No. 172 Pittsburgh, No. 187 Miami-Ohio, and No. 213 Eastern Michigan.
Wake Forest lost to No. 39 New Mexico St. 3 times, No. 51 Elon once, and No. 119 High Point once.
The article is dead on when it postulates that Michigan State played the harder schedule, but they only got two wins in the top 50, and had several bad losses in it as well. That seems to negate the scheduling of harder teams, not to mention Wake Forest knew that the ACC is one of the elite conferences, therefore they need to get wins in the OOC schedule to make their W-L record look respectable come Selection Sunday.
The Spartans also finished 5th in their conference (the 10th best conference in America according to Warren Nolan). The Deacs finished in 7th place in the BEST conference in America and were left out.
Aaron Fitt from Baseball America also weighed in on Wake Forest missing the tournament and who made it at the Deacs expense:
1. Wake Forest deserves to be in the field of 64 after sweeping Clemson in the final weekend to finish 13-17 in the nation's strongest RPI conference. The Demon Deacons are inside the top 40 in the RPI (No. 38) and posted a better conference record than fellow ACC bubble teams Virginia Tech and Maryland, which each missed the conference tournament (and also the NCAA tournament).
He's probably right—the Spartans look like the second-best team in the region, on paper. If that's the case, then the Spartans sure underachieved by finishing fifth in their own conference, let alone their region. Wake Forest, on the other hand, performed about how it should have and maybe even overachieved slightly by finishing seventh in a loaded ACC.
This article went over a lot of the statistics that I provided yesterday in the head to head comparison between these two schools, but they also make a couple of different points. Apparently the coaches up north said that Michigan State was the second-best team in the region, yet managed to finish only 5th in the conference, a full 3 games out of second place.
So they either underachieved (which Aaron Fitt notes here), or they weren't as good as the coaches think (unlikely). Why would the committee reward a team for underachieving all year when Wake Forest, a team that performed about where they were expected to, even with the injuries to Mike Conway and Joe Napolitano early in the year?
Aaron also notes that ECU had an administrator on the committee and this might have led to ECU getting picked over a team like Wake Forest and getting a #2 seed at that.
2. Afore-mentioned East Carolina had no business getting a No. 2 seed. We had ECU as the final team in the field in our final projection, and Wake Forest deserves to be in the field over the Pirates, too. ECU played very poorly down the stretch, losing three of its final four series (including a sweep at Southern Miss to end the season) and going 1-2 in the Conference USA tournament. The Pirates were just 3-8 against the top 25 and 5-10 against the top 50, and they lost their series against four of the five teams that finished ahead of them in the standings. East Carolina getting an at-large team is defensible, but not at Wake's expense, and not as a No. 2. The committee clearly leaned heavily upon the RPI this year—the Pirates rank 32nd in that measure.
And it must be mentioned that East Carolina has an administrator on the committee (Gary Overton), just as St. John's did a year ago when it shocked everyone by getting a bid over LSU. Politics sure seem like a factor in the committee's process.
Aside from these two articles from some of the most respected college baseball analysts and experts, there were several tweets that were provided from Rogers and Fitt that responded to people asking about Wake Forest not making the tournament:
Clearly these two esteemed guys feel that Wake Forest got snubbed over ECU and Michigan State. While at the end of the day the committee has to choose a team over another team, these selections seemed to be particularly egregious.
It also seemed that the committee as a whole was not choosing teams based on their merit, but more on the politics of the NCAA. ECU gets a head-turning #2 seed when they were on the bubble, getting in over a much more deserving Wake Forest team with an administrator on the committee? Circumstance? Probably not because it happened last year with St. Johns getting in when they had an administrator on the board.
Michigan State gets in while getting 5th in the Big Ten and underachieving all year while Wake Forest stays at home after playing at least equal with expectations for the year and getting 7th in what is by far the hardest conference in America. The SEC got 8 bids and the ACC got 7. While Georgia Tech obviously stole a bid by winning the ACC Tournament this past weekend in Greensboro, it really makes you wonder what the committee is actually picking teams based on.