The Fives: Teams With Most To Play For
We’re no longer coming down to the wire—the wire’s here now. With much of the national field already out of the tournament picture and the selection show only three days away, here are five teams that still have something to play for, and what they need to get it.
Need To Win The Big Ten Tournament For A Spot In A Regional
In my roundup from Day 2 of the tournament, I discussed how Michigan—a team that wasn’t supposed to have enough pitching depth to be a threat—has looked like the best team in the conference through two days in Minneapolis, so I won’t belabor the point here.
Except to say this: This bracket looks pretty good for the Wolverines right now. Illinois and Indiana were probably the two teams best-suited to make a run through a double-elimination tournament, thanks to their pitching depth, but such depth will be tested, as both teams will have to go through the repechage, while Michigan and Maryland take Friday off, the Illini and Hoosiers are going to have to expend some of that depth against teams that gave them trouble in conference play. Michigan is playing aggressively and confidently, and as strange as this would’ve sounded three days ago, the Wolverines can probably see their way to a regional.
Need To Beat Missouri State For A National Seed
Dallas Baptist is getting dumped on nationally as a statistical mirage, the whipping boy for people who think that because DBU is No. 2 in the country in the RPI and the Missouri Valley is only going to have two, maybe three, regional teams, that means the RPI must be wrong, and not that Dallas Baptist is actually that good.
It’s unbelievably facile to say that because the Patriots play outside a power conference and didn’t win their league, they don’t deserve a national seed. This team has power, speed and more pitching than it can feasibly use. If you put this team in orange jerseys that said “Texas,” we’d be talking about how this is the most talented Longhorn team in years. Even a mid-major team with a little more history—Rice, say, or Cal State Fullerton—would be a shoo-in with this resume. The Patriots’ problem isn’t that they’re not good enough now, it’s that they weren’t good enough 25 years ago.
And about losing the league. That’s the result of dumping a weekend series in which all three games were decided by one run—two of them in extra innings—on the road to Missouri State, who might be a regional team itself.
Nevertheless, it’d be nice if the Patriots could exorcise that Missouri State demon in the MVC tournament. A tournament title would do a little to shut the doubters up. But even if they don’t get the national seed, the Patriots are going to absolutely ruin some national seed in the super regional.
Need To Win The Big 12 Tournament To Make A Regional
Speaking of the Longhorns. It’s been a rough year for the boys in burnt orange, but like Michigan, Texas has jumped out to 2-0 while some of the conferences top teams have been proved vulnerable. After riding Parker French and Ty Culbreth hard in the first two games, Augie Garrido’s got a day off and a one-game cushion against whoever comes out of the losers’ bracket, and in a format in which pitching depth is everything, he hasn’t used a single relief pitcher yet. And while the Cowboys of Oklahoma State, who swept Texas in April, wait at the end of the bracket, there’s still a chance that Oklahoma or Kansas State can do the Longhorns a favor.
Need To Beat CSUN For An At-Large Bid
Irvine is the No. 3 team in the Big West, behind UCSB and Cal State Fullerton, and after suffering Indiana-like losses from last year’s Omaha-bound club, starting the year 0-6 and coming into the last weekend of the season on a five-game losing streak, the Eaters are back on the good side of the bubble, if only just. Ace Elliot Surrey took the series opener against Cal State Northridge, but there’s still work to do against a pretty solid Matadors team. One more win might be enough, while a sweep—which is more than Fullerton and Santa Barbara got against Northridge, it’s worth noting—would give Irvine some insurance as conference tournament upsets reduce the number of available at-large bids.
Needs To Win The MAC Tournament For A Regional Bid
The first two days of conference tournament play were rough on the state of Ohio, as the state’s two best teams—Ohio State and Kent State—both took only two games to auger in and completely dash their regional hopes.
The best remaining hope for the Buckeye State comes from the MAC tournament, in which four of the six remaining teams hail from the state of Ohio, led by Ohio University.
The Bobcats find themselves as the remaining favorites by virtue of the top two seeds—Kent State and Central Michigan—crashing out without winning a game. If Ohio, now in the winners’ bracket, can sew up a bid, it’d be an unbelievable turnaround for a team that won 25 games the past two seasons combined, and in so doing put out a worse-than-is-usually-believable pitching staff.
The depth of national intrigue in college baseball is what makes it so special—as we’re preoccupied with national seed discussions and the fate of the elites in the ACC and SEC, stories like this are popping up all over the country.