After receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, the #17 UCSB men’s soccer team will make its fifth straight post-season appearance this year – the lone representative of the Big West Conference.

And for the umpteenth time, the selection committee has overlooked a lot.

Just like last year, Santa Barbara will host #22 San Diego State at Harder Stadium. And just like last year, the Gauchos will enter the tournament on an automatic bid after claiming the 2006 Big West Conference title.

While Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg has already stated that he is happy with the home field advantage in the first round and is not intimidated by any potential future opponent, it seems that UCSB could have been looked upon a little more favorably in the bracket selections.

UCSB’s first matchup alone can serve as a microcosm for the entire 2006 tournament. San Diego State went 9-5-4 overall, which falls short of UCSB’s own overall record of 12-7-0. On Nov. 15, one of these two West Coast teams will face off in the second round against the #3 seed Southern Methodist University, who finished 17-1-4 in regulation season. On the surface, this all seems fair and even.

But wait a minute, the #3 seed overall?

While SDSU’s record may seem mediocre, one must keep in mind that this is a team that finished second in the Pac-10 Conference. Earlier in the year, San Diego was the victor over both 13th-seeded Cal (12-5-1 overall) and eighth-seed UCLA (10-5-4).

Let’s analyze what happened to those two teams this year.

Cal, who is seeded much lower than UCLA in the bracket, lost to San Francisco – who, upon a successful first-round campaign, may potentially face the Bears in the second round – tied 10th-seeded Santa Clara, lost to SMU, beat UCLA twice, lost to SDSU twice and beat Stanford, who failed to make the postseason tournament.

Eighth-seed UCLA tied Loyola Marymount University, Cal State Northridge and Stanford, lost to fifth-seed Maryland, lost to fourth-seed Virginia, beat San Francisco and UCSB, lost to Cal twice and tied SDSU once.

With the success SDSU had against higher-seeded teams in the bracket, the Aztecs seem to have received a cheap shot with the potential of facing off against the #3 seed in the tournament.

As far as Santa Barbara is concerned, its record alone hints that maybe UCSB and SDSU were shafted in their second-round match up.

For example, Cal will be facing the winner of New Mexico and San Francisco. Bear in mind, San Francisco finished its season 12-6-1, a record similar to UCSB’s. But Santa Barbara could match up with the #3 seed, while San Francisco could face the #13 seed.

This is another example of the NCAA selection committee giving the Big West Conference no respect.

Again, while there is some discrepancy between the ratings percentage index and national media polls, one would think that the NCAA brackets would hold somewhat true to those rankings. Since – according to the polls – UCSB should have only been one spot out of receiving an automatic first-round bye, a potential second-round match up with the #3 seed in the tournament seems absurd.

I guess things could be worse.

Santa Barbara still has the home field advantage.

If this seems like the same story year in, year out, it is. While this is not just an amateur phenomenon, West Coast shafting occurs quite frequently in professional sports as well. Something in the future needs to change to shift national assumptions about regional talent in this country. And a good place to start would be the NCAA.

Santa Barbara will face off against San Diego State this Saturday at 1 p.m. at Harder Stadium. Should the Gauchos win the match, they will face off against SMU in Texas on Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. CDT