Monday, May 31, 2010
Random thoughts: 64-team reveal edition
By Josh Davis
* As Ryan Burr pointed out on The Road to Omaha selection show, the Los Angeles region really is the "Group of Death" when it comes to college baseball, and it's hard not to feel sorry for national No. 6 UCLA.
Handing the Bruins red-hot LSU, the SEC and defending national champions, as their two seed would be okay -- whoever would walk out would be tested and the loser probably wasn't going much further. But by throwing in the higher-ranked No. 21 UC-Irvine as a three seed, a team that has been as battle-tested as any this season, the committee made sure whoever escapes UCLA's regional will a very tough out going forward and there may be another Super Regional-worthy team sitting at home.
* Can't help but feel for TCU, which has another date with Texas looming if it can get by familiar foe Baylor. TCU has a shallow rotation after its best choices for a fourth starter just haven't seemed to pan out. Plus, the Frogs frequently had to play better Big 12 opponents in midweek games, so their lack of depth caused them to lose some winnable games over name opponents, and the ensuing RPI drop placed them as a national "ninth seed."
NCAA baseball committee chairman Tim Weiser said he views all eight hosts who aren't in the national top eight as "ninth seeds." I understand financially, geographically and logistically why the committee has to do that, but that doesn't mean it's fair. UConn, Florida State, Oklahoma and Auburn didn't have as strong a season as Cal State Fullerton, South Carolina and TCU -- they would make for great cannon fodder for Texas, Coastal Carolina and the winner of the "Group of Death." It's a shame the financial constraints of travel can keep some of the eight best teams out of the College World Series.
* The Austin regional is not an easy one either, as the state of Texas is loaded with good teams even when you leave a couple out (UT-Arlington and Texas State) and ship one off (A&M to Miami).
Rice has been a NCAA tournament regular (16 straight, actually) for nearly as long as UT freshman pitcher Hoby Milner has been on this earth. Throw in a Louisiana-Lafayette team that has won 23 of its last 27 games and won a surprisingly tough Sun Belt Conference, and you've got another very tough region. The Longhorns may not have paid dearly for their Big 12 tournament disappointment as the No. 2 overall seed, but karma has come back to bite them with tough matchups.
* The way the Aggies are playing right now, I'll pick Texas A&M to take the Coral Gables regional before bowing to a very good Florida team.
* And Coral Gables is also where FIU's Garrett Wittels will watch his hit streak die. Nothing personal, just a feeling he'll be walked a few times before Florida International's nice run ends.
* For those who haven't heard, Connecticut is hosting their regional as a two seed this year, with Florida State as the one. Again, in an ideal world the committee would not have to worry about geographical balance, but I think Florida State is on its way out either way. UConn has a better pitching staff in Connecticut and it would have the better staff in Florida, too.
* I like Texas and TCU to both handle their business in their opening games against Rider and Lamar, respectively. But I have a feeling Oral Roberts hitters Mark Ballgod and Tyler Saladino (15 home runs) will make some noise in Norman. I don't think the Golden Eagles are going to win the region by any means, but I feel good about them stealing one from an OU team looking ahead to what will be a great scrap with Cal.