Regionals Roundtable: Staff Takes On The Field Of 64Postseason
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We asked our staff to answer a few questions about the field of 64 — which teams have the most difficult and most favorable paths, which sleeper could make some noise, who’s going to win it all, and more. Here are our picks.
Toughest Regional: Stanford. UC Santa Barbara rode a scary offense to a 45-9 record, third-seeded Fresno State had a strong case for a No. 2 seed, and Sacramento State is a quality No. 4.
Softest Regional for 1 Seed: Louisville. Indiana could make some noise if its power bats get hot, and Illinois State and UIC are both seeded appropriately but it’s hard to envision either taking down Louisville. There is no creampuff regional this year; all of them are pretty well balanced, but we’ve got to pick one, so I’ll go with this one.
Biggest Surprise: Obviously, it’s TCU getting in with a No. 59 RPI and a losing conference record. Simply unprecedented.
They Got Snubbed: BYU should have gotten the at-large nod over the Frogs after winning the WCC regular-season title and managing to build a No. 46 RPI ranking despite its geographic isolation and lack of top 50 opportunities.
Best Opening Pitching Matchup: TCU’s Nick Lodolo vs. Cal’s Jared Horn. A great matchup between a pair of high-end talents who put together outstanding junior seasons: Lodolo went 6-5, 2.48 with 125 strikeouts and 21 walks in 98 innings, while Horn went 6-1, 1.82 in 11 starts after returning from an appendectomy.
National Champion: Mississippi State. For most of the season, I’ve regarded MSU, UCLA and Vanderbilt as my top tier of title contenders — all of them are very, very good, balanced clubs that have put together great seasons. But I’m giving the nod to MSU because of the Omaha experience on its roster.
Omaha Sleeper: Coastal Carolina. When the Chanticleers get their bats rolling — like they did last week, scoring 72 runs in six straight wins to run through the Sun Belt losers’ bracket — they’re terrifying. They landed in the perfect spot for regionals, a homer-friendly yard at Georgia Tech, and a regional that lacks shutdown pitching, unless Tanner Burns can return from his shoulder soreness and turn in a gem for Auburn in the opener.
Eight For Omaha: UCLA, Texas Tech, Ole Miss, Georgia, Vanderbilt, East Carolina, Mississippi State, Coastal Carolina.
Most Intriguing Storyline: Can Mike Martin make one final run at Omaha? It seems unlikely, the way Florida State’s season went, and facing a tough draw in the Athens Regional. But FSU was a preseason top 10 team for a reason; if Drew Parrish and CJ Van Eyk pitch the way they did in the ACC tournament, the Noles have a shot.
Toughest Regional: Baton Rouge — You have three teams with similar pitching deficiencies at times in LSU, Arizona State and Southern Miss. That could lead to a lot of runs at The Box this weekend.
Softest Regional for 1 Seed: Nashville — The Commodores get a Missouri Valley club, albeit a good one in Indiana State as a two, while McNeese is one of the weaker threes in the field.
Biggest Surprise: TCU. The Frogs were not even in the discussion for our next five teams out of the field. Yet, the Frogs were somehow in the field on Selection Monday.
They Got Snubbed: BYU. Yes, the Cougars had a rough nonconference strength of schedule. But for as much as the committee talks about winning your conference in impressive fashion, it simply didn’t matter with the Cougars.
Best Opening Pitching Matchup: TCU’s Nick Lodolo vs. California’s Jared Horn. Lodolo can put together an outstanding performance, while Horn, who didn’t start last weekend, has a 1.82 ERA in 69.1 innings, along with 56 strikeouts and 18 walks.
National Champion: Vanderbilt. I had Mississippi State leading the way last week, but the Commodores showed strong pitching and ridiculously impressive hitting in the SEC tournament. I’m aboard the ship, as they might say.
Omaha Sleeper: Tennessee. The Vols are loaded on the mound and have just enough offense to make things mighty interesting in Chapel Hill and beyond.
Eight For Omaha: Arkansas, Georgia, Louisville, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Texas Tech, UCLA, Vanderbilt.
Most Intriguing Storyline: This will be unoriginal, but Mike Martin’s final postseason with Florida State. How far will ’11’ go? We’ll soon find out.
Toughest Regional: Baton Rouge Regional. Despite the raucous home field advantage, LSU may have their hands full with a potent Arizona State offense and a Southern Miss team that was at its best winning the C-USA Tournament. Add in dangerous 4-seed Stony Brook with their own Alex Box history and you have a potent quartet.
Softest Regional for 1 seed: Athens Regional. FAU is one of the lower 2-seeds while Florida State was one of the final teams in the field. Mercer surprised in the SoCon Tournament to be the 4-seed, one who gets a shot at the big in-state power.
Biggest Surprise: TCU’s inclusion was the biggest surprise. Other than that, No. 22 RPI Ole Miss snagging the No. 12 overall seed also caused some head-scratching.
They Got Snubbed: I would have liked to see Sun Belt champ Texas State or WCC champ BYU get in the field. As for the teams in the field, Miami felt they may end up hosting and instead got a tough trip to Starkville.
Best Opening Pitching Matchup: Teams often play rotation games with their starters but I do like Cal’s RHP Jared Horn (6-1, 182) vs. TCU LHP Nick Lodolo (6-5, 2.48)
National Champion: Vanderbilt – Talent meets production. Complete package.
Omaha Sleeper: NC State – Some of this is due to the draw but the Wolfpack had a strong case to host and should be familiar with ECU and Louisville.
Eight For Omaha: UCLA, Texas Tech, Georgia, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, NC State, North Carolina, Mississippi State
Most Intriguing Storyline: I must admit I am curious just what kind of atmosphere the new Dudy Noble will have as this program with a history of overflow crowds hosts a regional in a brand new stadium with a new seating capacity. Could they set a new on-campus attendance record?
Toughest Regional: Stanford. According to Boyd Nation’s ISR rankings, the Trees will have No. 6 UCSB, No. 16 Fresno and from what I saw Sac State could be the toughest 4-seed.
Softest Regional for a 1-seed: Vanderbilt. Not a big deal, the ‘Dores were the No. 1 team in the RPI so they should have the “easiest” path.
Biggest Surprise: How bad the brackets were this year. So many bad facets to this year’s layout. (See my column from yesterday for accompanying rant)
They Got Snubbed: BYU/Texas State. Once again, regular season champions booted out while big money conference losers get in.
Best Opening Pitching Matchup: Oklahoma State-Harvard. Jensen Elliott vs. Hunter Bigge. I’ve got the Pokes on Upset Alert in this one.
National Champion: Texas Tech. Could’ve just gone chalk with UCLA or Vandy, but I decided to get a wild hair on this one. (My only hair)
Omaha Sleeper: UC Santa Barbara. Of course now that I made them my sleeper pick they’ll probably go 0-and-2 in Palo Alto. My apologies, Gauchos.
Eight For Omaha:
UCLA (Rest of the country will finally get to see them)
Texas Tech (The Tadlock factor again)
California (Golden Spikes winner Andrew Vaughn on the big stage)
Georgia (Scott Stricklin makes his return to The O)
Vanderbilt (Yay, whistles!)
Louisville (Strong pitching, versatile batting order, good path to Omaha)
Mississippi State (If they don’t get upset by UCSB)
Georgia Tech (Will bury the ghosts of regionals past)
Most Intriguing Storyline: Jobs saved. Prior to this season there were rumblings for Tracy Smith at Arizona State, Mike Batesole at Fresno State and Danny Hall at Georgia Tech all being on the hot seat. But all three made it back to the NCAAs this year and have the talent to advance.
Toughest Regional: Stanford Regional.
Softest Regional for 1 seed: Nashville Regional.
Biggest Surprise: I think there’s a national consensus on this answer: TCU.
They Got Snubbed: The West.
Best Opening Pitching Matchup: UCLA RHP Ryan Garcia (9-0, 1.42) vs. Omaha RHP Payton Kinney (11-1, 1.65)
National Champion: UCLA. Not going to change from my preseason pick now.
Omaha Sleeper: UC Santa Barbara.
Eight For Omaha: UCLA, Vanderbilt, East Carolina, Texas Tech, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Georgia, Georgia Tech.
Most Intriguing Storyline: Stony Brook’s return to Baton Rouge.
Toughest Regional: Stanford
Softest Regional for 1 seed: Vanderbilt
Biggest surprise: TCU
They Got Snubbed: Texas State
Best Opening Pitching Matchup: Ryan Jensen- Fresno State vs. Jack Dashwood- UCSB
National Champion: Vanderbilt
Omaha Sleeper: Tennessee
Eight For Omaha: UCLA, OK State, Arkansas, Georgia, Vanderbilt, Louisville, Mississippi State, Tennessee
Toughest Regional: Oxford.
Softest Regional for 1 seed: UCLA.
Biggest Surprise: TCU getting in is difficult to defend.
They Got Snubbed: Missouri. 31 RPI in the SEC would have been good enough for me.
Best Opening Pitching Matchup: Drake Fellows (Vandy) vs Seth Lonsway (Ohio State).
National Champion: UCLA.
Omaha Sleeper: Nebraska.
Eight For Omaha: UCLA, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi State, Louisville, DBU.
Most Intriguing Storyline: One final shot at a national title for Mike Martin.