The 2016 college baseball season has been a trip into absolute dominance for the eastern leagues. The ACC is looking at anywhere from 10 to 11 bids, which could set a new record, with the SEC trailing them right behind. And with the announcement on Sunday night of the regional hosting sites for the NCAA Tournament, it's been made official.
The NCAA awarded 13 of the 16 regional sites to schools from the ACC or the SEC and only three to schools from any other league. Texas Christian and Texas Tech will host out of the Big 12, and Louisiana-Lafayette will host out of the Sun Belt. Other than that, the rest of the regionals, which teams bid for and are approved by the NCAA, will go to teams from the SEC and the ACC.
From the ACC, Clemson, Florida State, Louisville, Miami, NC State, and Virginia will host brackets, while the SEC will host at Florida, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Texas A&M, and Vanderbilt.
Institutions can bid to host regionals with the NCAA prior to the reveal of the brackets. Bids are mostly determined by merit, where a #1 seed hosts the three others, but can be contested by schools that guarantee the NCAA a certain amount of revenue. Teams that are #1 seeds usually bid to host the regional, but it's entirely possible that a regional is placed outside of a host school's general radius.
For example, Florida Atlantic finished the season with 38 wins and would have had a compelling case to host a regional in Boca Raton. But the Owls didn't submit a bid to host, meaning they wouldn't play at home even if awarded a top seed in a bracket. Likewise, in 2010, Connecticut hosted a regional at Dodd Stadium in Norwich, Connecticut despite being the #2 seed. Florida State, as the #1 seed in that bracket, was forced on the road, despite playing Central Connecticut in the first round.
The bracket hosts determine who may be hosting Super Regionals after the regional brackets are decided. Since a regional host is most likely a top seed in the tournament, the regional host can also conceivably be a host for a Super Regional if it makes it through. Of those regional hosts, half will be named national seeds, giving them a leg up and priority seeding for Super Regional rounds. But a top seed in the other bracket would host if the nationally-seeded team loses.
For example, if Clemson is not a national seed but hosts a regional, their bracket may be paired off with Florida, who is projected to have the #3 national ranking. In this scenario, Florida would host the Super Regional if they bid for it as long as they win their bracket. Clemson would only host if they win their regional before facing a team other than Florida. Should Florida lose, the priority to host the Super Regional would default, most likely to Clemson via the bid process.
The only way the national seed would not host the Super Regional is if they do not have adequate facilities in which to host. This is a scenario in which a team shares their stadium with a minor league stadium. This happened last year when Missouri State, a 45-win team out of the Missouri Valley Conference, earned the #8 national seed. They won their regional running away, then played Arkansas, who was the #2 seed in the Stillwater Regional, in the Super Regionals round.
Missouri State uses the minor league facility of the Springfield Cardinals. Since the Cardinals have priority scheduling in the stadium and had a home series that weekend, Missouri State couldn't host. As a result, the series defaulted to Arkansas, where the Razorbacks won two out of three to advance to Omaha.
If two teams are of the same ranking, the Super Regional is bid upon by the two competing teams.
The 2016 tournament represents the first time no true western schools will host a regional bracket. Utah won the Pac-12 championship this weekend despite having a sub-.500 overall record. That knocked the league's resume further behind the ACC, SEC, and Big 12 (according to Warren Nolan's RPI site), while the Big West, a historically strong baseball conference, was rated eighth.
The chasm in RPI means the wielding power of the ACC and SEC grew that much greater. It means bids will be limited for western teams, and it also means that one of those western schools will likely lose a bid because of Utah. It also means a school like Boston College is likely safer in the field because the committee should limit the bids for the weaker conferences.
The furthest west regional host this year will be Texas Tech, who is hosting in Lubbock.