Following Coastal Carolina’s national championship victory, Baseball America released its postseason poll, with the Boston College Eagles finishing the 2016 season as the 16th best team in the nation. It’s the first time BC’s finished the year ranked in a major poll, and it marks the best major sports finish for the Eagles athletic department in 10 years.
After taking two out of three games from NC State in the early part of the season, BC earned its first national ranking of the year in at least one poll with a 12-3 record. But a sweep loss to Clemson the following weekend knocked the Eagles out of the rankings, where they would remain until the end of the regular season.
BC wouldn’t return to the national poll until after they won the Oxford Regional. That’s when the USA Today Coaches’ Poll ranked the Eagles 21st in the nation. It was the first time a major poll ranked the Eagles inside the top 25.
After pushing Miami to three games, including a third game where the issue was in doubt deep into the final stanzas, Baseball America, one of the nation’s leading college baseball publications, dropped the Eagles as the 16th best team in the nation.
It’s the first final season poll finish for a major national sport since football finished 10th and 11th in the coaches and AP polls, respectively, in 2007. The basketball team last appeared in a final poll during the 2005-2006 season, when they finished the season ranked seventh. It should be noted that basketball does not release a postseason poll following the NCAA Tournament, so the poll is not reflective of final finish.
There is a tendency following that news to talk about the precipitous fall of two proud programs, but it should be noted just how hard it is to crack into a national poll. There are 351 teams competing in both basketball and baseball, and there are over 125 teams competing in bowl subdivision football.
In order to make a top 25 poll, a team has to be considered in the top 7% of basketball and baseball programs. There are less football teams - the top 25 constitutes 20% of membership - but unranked teams typically have a much higher hill to climb because there are less games. A team can go 9-3 in football, winning 75% of its games, and not be considered for the rankings.
Although hockey consistently ranks in the top 10 and is a major sport at Boston College, it is a much different landscape. Only 60 teams compete at the Division I level and only 16 teams make the national tournament. That means 33% of teams will find themselves ranked on any given week, and 27% of the national field makes the tournament. So it’s misleading to include a team like BC, who is considered a power player in the sport, in that conversation against a sport where the Eagles typically aren’t a national powerhouse or where there are five times the amount of teams compete.
In baseball, Boston College was not the highest rising team to finish the year. Arizona entered the national tournament unranked and finished the year ranked second after nearly winning the championship. In a rare case, it would’ve been considered an upset if a power conference team won because Coastal Carolina, the national champion and number one team, entered the tournament widely regarded as a powerhouse, ranked 15th.
The next highest-finishing non-power conference team came in ninth with UC Santa Barbara. Of top five teams entering the College World Series, only Florida finished fifth, with Miami at 6th, Texas Tech at 7th, Texas A&M at 8th, and Mississippi STate at 10th. Louisville tumbled from sixth to 11th after losing to the Gauchos in the Super Regional.
Three of the Oxford Regional teams finished ranked inside the top 20. While BC finished the highest at 16, Ole MIss and Tulane finished 18th and 19th respectively.
In terms of the ACC, seven teams finished ranked in the top 25 with the Eagles finishing as the fourth-highest ranked team in the conference. Miami finishing sixth ranked as the top, with Louisville at 11, Florida State at 13, BC at 16, Clemson at 17, Virginia at 21 (the largest drop in the poll from their eighth-ranked slot), and NC State at 25.