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2015 NCAA Baseball Tournament: Delayed Regional Finals Raise Questions About Motives

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Could the organization that set up the double-elimination tournament for baseball and built in a significant advantage now be trying to take that edge away?

Alex Box Stadium, on a sunnier day
Alex Box Stadium, on a sunnier day
Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

At 6:37 p.m. ET, the Florida State baseball Twitter account sent out a tweet regarding the expect game that night between the winner of the College of Charleston-Auburn game and Florida State, which was waiting after coming through the winners' bracket of the Tallahassee Regional. Already, the Charleston-Auburn game had been subject to almost six hours of weather delays.

Few people outside of the Florida State fan base, and perhaps any hardy souls that had traveled to Tallahassee from Auburn or Charleston, had reason to care much. But the NCAA was setting in motion a series of events that is starting to call into question whether one of the key reasons that teams want to be in the winners' bracket is going to be preserved or subject to the whims of the Association.

A little more than three hours later, the LSU baseball Twitter account sent out a tweet of its own. This one, which concerned what would happen in a game between the Tigers and the winners of the game between UNC-Wilmington and Tulane, was more curious in its choice of words.

Not too long after that, LSU athletics director Joe Alleva spoke to the media. He was not so circumspect.

The NCAA made a decision. They decided that they wanted to -- they didn't give me a reason. I don't have a reason, okay. There's a rule that says you're not allowed to start -- there's a guideline that says you're not allowed to start a game after 11:00. We could have easily started this game at 10:15. Frankly it's a ridiculous decision.

At the time, and with that part of Alleva's statement getting much of the attention, the complaint seemed kind of petty. Not because Alleva was wrong in his statement that one of the advantages a team gets for going through the winners' bracket is that it can be rested for the first of a potential two-game final round, but because it was already getting close to the 11 p.m. local time deadline for the game to start when Tulane-Wilmington wrapped up, and the forecast looked like this, according to the Weather Channel:

weather

It turned out that the rain in the 10 p.m. CT hour was underwhelming, though that didn't prove anything; the forecast can be wrong, and the NCAA had no way of knowing that. However, in his more detailed Q&A with reporters, Alleva indicated the potential for more rain didn't play into the decision.

You know, I understand if it was a weather factor, but right now the weather is fine. We could play this game.

More and more information started cropping up that seemed to back up the idea that this wasn't about storm clouds.

And then TigerBait, the Rivals site that covers LSU, jumped into the fray with this report.

College of Charleston and North Carolina-Wilmington are both in the Colonial Athletic Association. According to sources, representatives of the Wilmington athletic department requested a postponement from the NCAA after that decision was made for the Tallahassee regional.

And the site's senior writer, on Twitter:

I haven't been able to find anything else on the mechanics of the delay in Tallahassee, but if the NCAA is indeed considering and granting request from teams coming out of the losers' brackets to put off the first game of the regional finals until Monday, that's troubling. Because it then becomes malpractice for that team not to ask for the delay if it has any prospect of success.

But if the decision is being made explicitly because the delays put a team from the losers' bracket at a disadvantage, that's even more troubling, because putting a team at that disadvantage is one of the ways you get penalized for losing  a game in the regionals.

LSU is not alone, except perhaps in its willingness to voice its displeasure. Florida State, as noted, is in the same boat. VCU, a No. 4 seed that could win the Dallas Regional, also got a postponement, though its game would have started after 11 p.m., because the preceding Oregon State-Dallas Baptist game ended after 11 p.m. And Lousiana-Lafayette was destined to wait on the winner of a Houston-Rice game going into the wee hours of Monday morning.

But what pushed backed other delayed games isn't so clear. Radford's game with Indiana appears to have been done well before 11 p.m. local time, if time stamps are any indication -- but the first game between Radford and Vanderbilt will take place on Monday. The same timing appears to be true of the end of Wright State's game against Notre Dame -- but Illinois won't take on the Raiders until Monday.

This is not a small thing. If the NCAA is systematically pushing back games to avoid putting teams from the losers' brackets at too much of a disadvantage, it's meddling with the integrity of the tournament. There is a rule in place to prevent games from getting started too late for players and fans, and while I think that cutoff time should be before 11 p.m. local time, the rule that's in place should be the rule that's followed. Having rested position players and the ability to set up your pitching is what a team wins by going undefeated in its first two games in the regionals -- in addition, of course, to the not-insignificant benefit of having to only win one game in the finals while your opponent must win two. Taking that away from the undefeated teams is extraordinarily unfair to players who worked so hard to earn the advantage; in fact, it's far more unfair than any added disadvantage given to a team that had to play through rain delays, because a part of that disadvantage is already baked into the tournament's format.

Teams do rise above those obstacles. While Texas A&M didn't face the marathon weather delays that took place in other parts of the country, the Aggies beat Coastal Carolina early Sunday, then bounced back to win a thrilling game against Cal in the evening. They did so according to the rules that the NCAA has laid out.

The Association now owes it to fans in places like Baton Rouge and Nashville to answer the question of why these games were pushed back. The standards of sportsmanship don't just apply to the players on the field; they apply to those charged with enforcing the rules as well.

Monday's Schedule

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, here are the games that are scheduled to be played today. As always, check local listings, etc. etc. One of the last two games, in particular, could end up on the SEC Network or somewhere else on the family.

Time Regional Game Watch
1 p.m. ET Baton Rouge UNC-Wilmington vs. LSU SEC Network
4 p.m. ET Nashville Vanderbilt vs. Radford
SEC Network
7 p.m. ET College Station Cal vs. Texas A&M -- ELIMINATION GAME
ESPN3
8 p.m. ET Baton Rouge
UNC-Wilmington vs. LSU (if necessary)
ESPN3
8 p.m. ET Nashville Vanderbilt vs. Radford (if necessary) ESPN3