Virginia Returns to Site of Three ACC Titles

All three of Virginia's ACC Tournament championships have come from Durham.
All three of Virginia’s ACC Tournament championships have come from Durham.

UNC and NC State fans are the greatest beneficiaries of the ACC Baseball Championship being held at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, as they will have a shorter drive than many of their peers.  However, Virginia can’t be too disappointed about the site, considering their success in the Bull City.  All three of UVa’s ACC Tournament championships have come in Durham.

The last two ACC Tournaments held in Durham (2009, 2011) were both won by the Cavaliers.  Sixth-seeded Virginia defeated top-seed Florida State in the 2009 tournament.  In 2011, the Wahoos again claimed the title against the Seminoles, that time with Virginia boasting the No. 1 seed.

Three other ACC Tournaments were held at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park (1996, 1998, 1999) before the event spent nine years outside of North Carolina. The Cavaliers suffered early exits in the latter two years, but claimed the ACC Championship in 1996, again defeating Florida State in the championship game.

There is no chance that the Seminoles will meet the Cavaliers in this year’s championship, as they are both in Pool B. However, it is possible that their Saturday game could decide which squad will advance to Sunday’s championship game.

Rivalry Renewed: Last year’s NC State-North Carolina game broke the state’s collegiate baseball attendance record, with 10,229 people coming to Greensboro’s NewBridge Bank Park to watch the Tar Heels deny a Wolfpack championship game appearance with a 4-0 win in 12 innings.  The two teams will meet again this Saturday night in Durham with a chance to break that record.

That game could again decide who represents their pool in the ACC championship game.  It will also serve as the rubber game between the two teams, as their regular season series was limited to two games by rain.  North Carolina won the first game of that series behind ACC Pitcher of the Year Kent Emanuel, while NC State claimed the second game with a strong outing from Carlos Rodon.  While there was hope for a matchup between the two aces, UNC has instead opted to match Hobbs Johnson against Rodon on Saturday.

Best Foot Forward: While college baseball may be more forgiving in the postseason than other sports, which generally use single-elimination formats, there is still a lot of value in a good start.

In the last five years of the ACC Tournament, teams who won their first pool play game have won the conference title four times.  The lone exception is Florida State in 2010. That season’s Seminoles lost on the first day to Miami, 9-3, but defeated Boston College and NC State to win their pool.

It could be argued that the first-day success is merely part of getting one-third of the way through pool play.  Maybe teams who lose on day one are mathematically eliminated earlier, and have nothing to play for later in the week.  This is not the case in double-elimination formats, but the numbers don’t get any kinder.

The double-elimination format of regional weekend forces a team that opens with a loss to win four consecutive games in order to advance to Super Regionals (with the last two coming against a fresher team that started 2-0).  In 2012, 13 of the 16 regional champions won their opening-round game.  That may sound like a high number, but it actually marks the worst such rate for first-day winners since 2008.

Since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1999, there have been 224 regionals held (16 each year for 14 years).  Of those 224, 18 have been won by a team that opened with a loss.  In other words, losing to open the four-team double elimination bracket drops your chances of advancing to Super Regionals to less than ten percent.


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