Matt Jones is the editor of the Hawgs Sports Network. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has a bachelor's and master's degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas.
Regional or not-so-regional weekend?
Adam Erwin, an employee with the University of Arkansas Athletics Facilities, uses a pressure washer Thursday, June 3, 2021, to clean one of the gates into Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville as he and other staff members prepare for the NCAA Fayetteville Baseball Regional.
FAYETTEVILLE — As it is leading up to each Memorial Day, the question before Monday’s NCAA Baseball Tournament selection show is this: How regional are regionals?
Once upon a time, NCAA regionals were made up of teams from a similar region. While some of the 16 regional quadrants are still bound to include teams with geographic ties, they have increasingly become more diverse.
Take Arkansas’ last several regionals, for example.
In 2017, the Razorbacks hosted a true regional that included Missouri State, Oklahoma State and Oral Roberts. All three teams are located within 200 miles of Fayetteville.
Arkansas’ regional in 2018 was a little more spread out, but still included three teams from border states — Southern Miss, Dallas Baptist and Oral Roberts.
The last two regionals hosted at Baum-Walker Stadium have included two teams that had to travel more than 1,000 miles. In 2019, California and Central Connecticut State were sent to Fayetteville. Two years ago, Arkansas hosted Northeastern (from Boston) and New Jersey Institute of Technology.
As an aside, there are several teams from the Northeast expected to be in this year's tournament — Central Connecticut State, Boston College, Connecticut, Maine, Army, Maryland, Rider and Pennsylvania, and 44-win Northeastern has a chance to earn an at-large bid. With no host in the Northeast, several of those teams will likely be sent to the many sites in the South.
The same is true of the non-hosting teams from the Pac-12, which will not be sent to the only regional site in the West, Stanford.
The 2021 Fayetteville Regional also included Nebraska and marked the first time Arkansas hosted a regional that did not include a team from a border state. The Cornhuskers’ campus is similar in distance to some border-state teams, though, about 430 miles from Fayetteville.
Last year Arkansas was sent to Oklahoma State, along with Missouri State and geographic outlier Grand Canyon.
More from WholeHogSports: Fayetteville among 16 regional sites
There is no way to know which teams the tournament selection committee will pair with Arkansas. All that is known is the Razorbacks will not host another team from the SEC or one of the other regional hosts.
That leaves 46 teams as possibilities to be sent to Fayetteville.
To underscore how much of a shot in the dark it is to project which teams will come to Arkansas, D1Baseball’s projections updated Sunday morning included Dallas Baptist, Cal State Fullerton and Central Connecticut State. The same exercise at Baseball America yielded three different teams — Oregon, Kansas State and Sam Houston State.
Those publications will update their projections one more time before Monday’s selection show. It would not surprise to see more teams guessed to Fayetteville.
When projecting Arkansas’ regional field, the safest bet has typically been to look at teams from bordering states and teams from the Big 12.
Between 2002-22, Arkansas played in 19 regionals, including 13 that had a team from the Big 12.
Oklahoma State is the only Big 12 team that will host a regional, meaning as many as six teams from the conference could be sent elsewhere. Those teams include Texas, TCU, Texas Tech, West Virginia, Kansas State and Oklahoma, but some of those teams are considered to be on the bubble and might not make the tournament.
Arkansas has either hosted or traveled to Texas, TCU, Kansas State and Oklahoma during the regional round since the tournament’s current format was adopted in 1999. The Razorbacks traveled to Texas Tech during the old regional format in 1996.
Seven non-Big 12 teams from bordering states have earned automatic bids to this year’s tournament — Southern Miss, Dallas Baptist, Nicholls, Tulane, Lipscomb, Oral Roberts and Sam Houston State.
It’s worth noting that no team has been sent to the Fayetteville Regional more than Oral Roberts (3), whose campus is in Tulsa. ORU has been sent to Oklahoma State more times, though, than it has to Arkansas.
Other non-hosting automatic qualifiers that have been sent to Fayetteville before include TCU, Central Connecticut State and Southern Miss — all in the last five years, which might work against a repeat trip.
Who knows? Just when you think you have the selection committee’s tendencies figured out, it throws a curveball.
More often than not it is in the form of a team you don’t consider until Memorial Day.
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