First it happened to USF men's tennis a couple weeks ago. Then over the weekend it happened to USF softball. Two very good teams who just missed being one of the 16 seeds in their respective NCAA Tournaments, forced into pods with teams much better than they should be facing this early in the tournament because of convenience. Men's tennis finished ranked #16 in the ITA rankings and arguably should have been seeded, but when they weren't they were shoved into a regional with #9 seed Florida, who beat them. Softball finished with an RPI of 19 and rankings in both polls, but they were put into a regional with #8 seed Florida State.
After it seeds the top 16 teams, the NCAA doesn't seed the other 48 in spring sport tournaments like baseball, softball, or tennis. Instead it slots them in based on geography and puts a nominal 2, 3, or 4 seed on them. The only rule is there can't be two teams from the same league in a regional. Inevitably a few teams get screwed in the process. USF is prone to being one of these teams because if they don't get seeded, Florida or FSU (or both) certainly will be and the Bulls will be crammed into either a Gainesville or Tallahassee regional that they don't have very much chance of winning. Some reward.
Just so you don't think this is a USF-only rant, Baylor softball had an RPI of 13 and were ranked 20/21 in the two major national polls. They got dropped into the Eugene Regional with #5 seed Oregon. FAU had an RPI of 23, didn't lose a single road game all year and were ranked 24/22, but they're stuck in the Gainesville Regional with #1 seed Florida. On the flip side, USF got screwed even more on this one: Florida A&M might be the weakest team in the entire field, but because they're already in Tallahassee they get to be #8 seed FSU's sacrificial lamb on the first day.
Why is basketball important enough to seed the entire bracket and provide equitable matchups, but the spring sports aren't? The NCAA isn't exactly hurting for money these days. Those multi-billion dollars they just got from CBS and Turner means they can't cry poor about travel (and God knows we can't even consider paying players!). Most of these schools have already finished their spring semesters, so the athletes aren't missing many classes. And look at some of these softball regionals. They aren't regionalized at all. There are way too many good at-large teams in the South and the West Coast to make that work. Look at Georgia hosting a regional with Maine, Northwestern, and Oklahoma State. Or Tennessee hosting one with Arizona, Ohio State, and Marist. Or Alabama hosting California, Samford, and Texas State. Or Oregon hosting Baylor, Long Beach State, and Fordham. Or how about Washington hosting Minnesota, North Dakota State, and Weber State? We're already sending something like half the teams in the field on airplanes to play in this thing.
The unseeded pods are also a problem in fall sports like volleyball, and to a lesser extent soccer, but it's especially inexcusable in spring. The NCAA baseball and softball tournaments are only going to get bigger. Most of the games are televised now, and there's obviously a lot of fan interest. It's time for the NCAA to start treating these sports like their basketball bell cow and set up regionals that are balanced and fair to everyone. And in turn, it will stop schools like USF from getting the shaft every year.