NCAA forces reality show on Columbia

Clemson's Steve Wilkerson (17) drops the ball as South Carolina's Tanner English (3) is safe at second base during their NCAA college baseball tournament regional game in Columbia, S.C., Sunday, June 3, 2012. South Carolina won 4-3. (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)

Mary Ann Chastain

Duck Dynasty features a bunch of long-bearded good ol' boys who are smarter than they look.

Even more compelling, “Gamecock Dynasty” documents a pair of baseball programs that defy the odds of rivalry history. The cast includes colorful characters and the fans who love them.

Family squabbling makes for a good reality show, and nothing in college baseball beats the Palmetto State's House Divided. But the NCAA tournament selection committee should be charged with three errors on one play for forcing spicy poultry Monday upon its 64-team field.

Clemson deserves one of the 16 host spots.

It's unfair to the Tigers to book them in the Columbia Regional for the second year in a row.

It's also unfair to South Carolina.

“We tried to look at strength of schedule and how teams built their RPIs,” said Dennis Farrell, chairman of the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee and commissioner of the Big West Conference.

Clemson, No. 14 in the Ratings Percentage Index, has the No. 6 strength of schedule.

Kansas State, hosting the Manhattan Regional way off Broadway, is No. 18 in the RPI and No. 43 in strength of schedule.

Kansas State went 0-1 against The Citadel, 0-1 against Coastal Carolina, 0-1 against Elon …

Let's see … No, the Mildcats didn't dare play Spartanburg Methodist.

“Growing” college baseball with new host sites is great in theory, but not at the expense of logic. Or maybe the NFL should say, you know, the Browns didn't do quite as well as the Steelers, but Cleveland hasn't hosted in a while.

Clemson plays in the ACC, the top-rated RPI conference. The Tigers on Friday night took No. 1 overall seed North Carolina into the 14th inning before losing what essentially was an ACC tournament road game at Durham.

No doubt, Tigers coach Jack Leggett should have had closer Scott Firth start the ninth inning Friday with a 7-2 lead in a game everyone knew would clinch a Clemson Regional.

But all No. 2 seeds are not alike.

Freshman-laden team or not, Clemson players would have appreciated a postseason experience less hostile and familiar than Carolina Stadium.

“… That's just committee parameters that we're required to follow by the NCAA,” Farrell said, explaining the in-state bracketing.

Whoa, breaking news there. If there are parameters, they are softer than UC Santa Barbara's RPI (No. 55, but UCSB made the field as an at-large team at the expense of No. 28 Nebraska, No. 32 Notre Dame, No. 42 Michigan State and No. 43 Auburn).

The Gauchos, by the way, are in the Big West Conference.

The committee, to its credit, traditionally winks at any such “parameters.” This year, Coastal Carolina (still located in Conway) is a No. 3 seed at the Blacksburg Regional while Liberty (Lynchburg, Va.) is the No. 3 seed in Columbia. Which is nice for the Chanticleers after their 2012 trip to Columbia.

Then there are the Gamecocks.

South Carolina played a three-game series against both Clemson and Liberty this season (a pair of 2-1 wins). Favorites don't favor familiarity.

But after complaining, it's OK to embrace one of the best rivalries in all of college sports.

Will the postseason dominance USC enjoyed in 2010 and 2012 (and 2002) continue?

Without Ray Tanner, Michael Roth, Christian Walker, Matt Price and Evan Marzilli?

Will Clemson freshman left-hander Matthew Crownover get healthy enough to pitch?

Not much was expected of this Clemson team coming into the season, or right after the USC series in March.

Baseball America in its preseason NCAA tournament projection had Clemson as a No. 2 seed at Vanderbilt, which it correctly tabbed as the No. 2 national seed.

Clemson seems to do better with low expectations.

Which, of course, just adds to the drama that divides Palmetto State families.

It's not quite brother against brother on the field, but wait 'til 2015: freshman Clate Schmidt pitches for Clemson and his brother Clarke, a high school junior in Acworth, Ga., is bound for South Carolina.

Shhh! Don't tell the NCAA.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.