FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas will be part of the NCAA Tournament’s 64-team field when it is announced Monday morning.
But the Razorbacks learned Sunday night they won’t play an NCAA Regional at Baum Stadium this week.
Arkansas (37-20) was not among the 16 teams selected as NCAA Regional hosts when the list was unveiled Sunday night. It means the Razorbacks will be traveling to play in an NCAA Regional for the third straight season.
Four Southeastern Conference schools were announced as regional hosts Sunday night (Vanderbilt, LSU, Mississippi State and South Carolina). The other 12 hosts are North Carolina, Virginia, Oregon State, North Carolina State, Cal State Fullerton, Louisville, Indiana, Kansas State, Virginia Tech, Oregon, UCLA and Florida State.
“It’s always nice to be home and host a regional, but if we don’t, we don’t,” Arkansas catcher Jake Wise said Saturday. “We have a bunch of guys that have the experience. Some of us also like to be on the road because we stay in a hotel and are together all the time, so for us doesn’t really matter if we’re at home or on the road.”
The Razorbacks were left off the regional host list because of their Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). Arkansas finished No. 31 in RPI after going 2-1 in the SEC Tournament. The lowest RPI of a school selected to host was No. 18 Kansas State.
Arkansas’ resume was otherwise solid. The Razorbacks finished third in the SEC during the regular season, advanced to the SEC Tournament semifinals and went 16-15 against teams with a top 50 RPI and 21-16 against teams in the top 100. Arkansas also swept a head-to-head series against regional host South Carolina earlier this year and went 2-1 against another regional host in Mississippi State.
Arkansas’ RPI was dragged down by an 8-2 record against teams rated No. 201 or lower. It included losses to Pacific (No. 244) and Western Illinois (No. 257).
But Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn still believed his team deserved it Saturday largely because of its head-to-head success against schools like South Carolina.
“I think they deserve one in Fayetteville,” Van Horn said Saturday about his team. “We have 20 wins against SEC teams, won seven out of 10 series, won four out of five on the road. They had a lot of wins and I think they deserve one.”
But going on the road didn’t hurt Arkansas last season.
Arkansas was assigned to the Houston Regional and went 3-0, advancing to a Super Regional at Baylor. The Razorbacks won the best-of-three series to advance to the College World Series for the third time under coach Dave Van Horn.
Arkansas also reached the 2009 CWS by winning a road regional and super regional.
So the Razorbacks said they’re entering the NCAA Tournament with confidence.
“Being here for three years I’ve realized that you can never really worry about that,” Arkansas pitcher Barrett Astin said of the regional host selections before the SEC Tournament. “It just depends on what the committee does. So we can’t worry about that. We’ve got some older guys on the team that kind of know what’s going on and we’re confident whether we host or whether we go on the road or not.”