(3) Florida State defeated (8) Florida last night in Gainesville 2-0. It was obviously a big game but it was also a hot ticket. The best seats were going for $100 each on Stubhub before the game. The two teams split the series last year as both teams won at home. Last night’s win was the first time that FSU has won in Gainesville since 2014.
Meghan King (19-1, 1.06 ERA) has been fantastic all year and last night was no exception. She went seven full innings scattering six hits while giving up no runs and issuing no walks. Florida’s lineup is not as imposing as it has been in recent years but this was still a virtuoso performance. King rose from ninth in the nation in ERA to sixth by silencing the Gator bats.
For the first time in quite a while it is clear that FSU is simply better than UF right now. The Seminoles combine one of the very best lineups in the nation with a likely first team All-American pitcher. That is a combination that is very hard to beat.
A few weeks ago I wrote an article recapping the St. Pete Clearwater Invitational. I noted three question marks for the team following their impressive performance going undefeated in the elite tournament. Let’s discuss how the team is doing relative to those questions.
King is obviously the ace of this staff. However, I noted that FSU had yet to settle on a #2 pitcher. That basically remains the case today but it seems that this has turned into a two person race with freshmen Kathryn Sandercock (10-0, 2.28 ERA) and Makinzy Herzog (5-1. 1.70 ERA) as the two front runners. It may turn out that the Noles won’t really settle on a true #2 as both players have generally pitched well and the coaching staff seems to have confidence in both of them.
The next question mark was defense. This is an area of unquestioned improvement. The Seminoles are tied for 11th nationally in fielding percentage (.975) and have only committed two errors in their last 42 innings.
The last question mark was the situation at second base. With the graduation of Jessie Warren third base was vacant. Sydney Sherrill moved to third which left second base open. Early in the season FSU platooned junior Leslie Farris and freshman Morgan Noah at second. As the season has gone on it seems that Farris is getting the majority of the time at second.
Florida State is currently third in all three of the human polls (Coaches, ESPN and Softball America) behind #1 UCLA and #2 Oklahoma but the Noles remain first in the RPI. One of the biggest question marks for the rest of the season will be whether the Seminoles can keep their top ranking (not likely) and if not how far they will fall. It’s not likely that FSU remains atop the RPI because while the ACC is improving it still has a ways to go and that is illustrated by FSU’s schedule for the rest of the season. Other than UF’s return engagement in Tallahassee the Noles will not face a team currently ranked in the top 25 in the regular season. The only other ACC team that is ranked in the Coaches poll is Virginia Tech (#24) and FSU does not face the Hokies in the regular season this year. Basically, FSU needs to dominate in the ACC (which they probably will) and hope that the out of conference portion of the schedule is good enough to keep them relatively high in the RPI. This is important because having a relatively low RPI could damage FSU’s chances of receiving a top eight seed from the committee and that could force the Seminoles to play Super Regional games on the road.
The bottom line is that this is clearly one of the best teams in the nation. FSU features one of the best pitchers in the nation as well as arguably the best lineup in the country (maybe Oklahoma has an argument). If the Noles can continue this level of play and avoid major injury they will right back in the thick of things in Oklahoma City in June.
Of course the season ended last week with a disappointing in the moment but still impressive Sweet 16 appearance. While the season has ended there are still a few loose ends to tie up before we put a final bow on the season.
One of the biggest controversies regarding FSU entering the tournament was whether the Noles were properly seeded as a four seed. I was one of the most vocal voices contending that the Seminoles deserved a three seed. I believe the word “screwed” may have gotten thrown around. There have been people on both sides of this argument. I realized that while I made my ultimate opinion clear I never offered the rationale or explanation for why I felt FSU was underseeded. Let me remedy that oversight now.
First I need to explain exactly what I meant when I said that FSU deserved a three seed. Basically my contention was (and remains) that the Noles clearly had a better resume than two teams that were awarded three seeds: Purdue and Texas Tech. To be clear, my consternation was based solely on resume. If the committee responded that they simply thought that either the Boilermakers or the Red Raiders were better teams after having watched them all season I may disagree but I could accept that explanation because everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, I can’t accept either team being seeded above the Seminoles based on resume. Before I explain my reasoning a couple of caveats are in order.
First, only results from before the tournament are eligible to be considered because obviously the committee didn’t have access to tournament results when constructing the bracket. Therefore, the fact that both Purdue and Texas Tech advanced farther in the tournament than FSU is irrelevant to this discussion.
Second, I am not contending that FSU would have advanced farther in the tournament or would have had an “easier road” if they had been seeded properly. Making that determination requires one to render a judgement on the relative strengths of the opponents that each team faced. That may be an interesting exercise but it is not the focus of this article.
With that in mind let’s turn our attention to the resumes of each team in question. We will start with a comparison of Purdue vs. FSU. All rankings used to examine the resumes will be NET rankings.
Purdue finished the season ranked 12th in the NET while FSU was 16th. Purdue was 7-7 in quadrant 1 games and 9-1 in quadrant 2 games. They were 3-1 in quadrant 3 games (loss was to #112 Notre Dame on a neutral floor) and 4-0 in quadrant 4 games. Purdue’s strength of schedule was ranked seventh. Florida State was 8-5 in quadrant 1 games and 6-1 in quadrant 2 games. FSU was 6-1 in quadrant 3 games (loss was to #136 Boston College on the road) and 7-0 in quadrant 4 games. FSU’s strength of schedule was 11th.
Purdue’s best argument is that they had better topline rankings by finishing slightly higher in the NET and having a slightly better SOS. However, these numbers are so close that the committee really needed to look deeper. When looking deeper it becomes apparent that the Noles had far better wins than the Boilers. FSU had five top 15 wins (including a victory against Purdue). In addition three of those wins came on neutral courts ( #1 Virginia, #11 Virginia Tech and #14 LSU). Purdue had one top 15 win (#6 Michigan St at home). As discussed earlier, Purdue had seven Q1 wins. However, four of them (more than half by my math) came against teams that were ranked 48th or worse. FSU had eight Q1 wins and not a single one came against a team ranked worse than 42nd. FSU had more Q1 wins than Purdue but Purdue had more Q1 and Q2 victories than FSU (16 to 14). However, that stat is misleading because Purdue played more Q1 and Q2 games than FSU (24 to 20) therefore the Boilers had more opportunities to get wins. If you examine the winning percentages in Q1 and Q2 games FSU actually had a better percentage (.700 to .667).
Therefore, FSU beat better teams and beat them more often than Purdue but still got a four seed while Purdue was rewarded with a three seed.
Now let’s discuss Texas Tech. The Red Raiders finished 10th in the NET rankings. They were 8-5 in Q1 games and 8-0 in Q2 games. They were 4-1 in Q3 games (loss was to #106 West Virginia on a neutral floor) and 7-0 in Q4 games. Texas Tech’s SOS was ranked 22nd. Here is FSU’s resume again in case you don’t want to have to scroll upward: Florida State was 8-5 in quadrant 1 games and 6-1 in quadrant 2 games. FSU was 6-1 in quadrant 3 games (loss was to #136 Boston College on the road) and 7-0 in quadrant 4 games. FSU’s strength of schedule was 11th.
Before the tournament the Red Raiders had zero top 15 wins (again, FSU had five). Texas Tech’s best win was either at home against #20 Kansas or on the road against #21 Iowa State. FSU had five wins better than Texas Tech’s best win and a sixth win (#22 Louisville at home) that was comparable. Therefore the Noles had the exact same Q1 record as Texas Tech but had five wins better than Texas Tech’s best win. Tech did go 8-0 in Q2 games but even there FSU had three Q2 wins better than Texas Tech’s best Q2 win. Tech’s best Q2 win was at home against #37 Oklahoma. FSU had Q2 wins against #31 Florida, #33 NC State and #35 Clemson.
Therefore, FSU beat better teams and beat them more often than Texas Tech but still got a four seed while Purdue was rewarded with a three seed.
This is why I threw around the word “screwed” on Selection Sunday.
The other three seeds were Houston and LSU. I won’t go in detail because this article is already going to exceed 1800 words but I have considered their resumes. I think that LSU and FSU had comparable resumes so it was reasonable to have either team ranked higher. Therefore, I have no problem with LSU getting the three seed over FSU. To be clear, I also would have had no problem had the committee given FSU a three seed over LSU. Houston finished the season with only three losses. Even though the SOS for the Cougars wasn’t that impressive (#32) they had only three losses. I have no problem with the committee respecting all of their wins.
I want to emphasize that I don’t think that FSU getting a four seed is the injustice of the century. I just wanted to explain my reasoning for why FSU really did deserve a three seed over both Purdue and Texas Tech.
The comments are yours.