Tuesday, May 26

The Road To Omaha Is One To Watch

The attention paid to the 65-team college baseball tournament is minuscule compared to its basketball counterpart, but the same elements exist in both. Last year, Fresno State became the lowest seed ever to win the NCAA Championship during an improbable run just like Villanova did in 1985. There are the familiar powerhouses in the tournament: Texas, UNC, Florida State, Arizona State, Rice and Cal State Fullerton. They are akin to the UCLA, Kentucky, Carolina, Duke, and Michigan State of hoops. There are incredible streaks similar to Arizona's long run in basketball; the University of Miami is in the tournament for a record 37th consecutive year.

The action begins this Friday at 8 regional sites. In each regional 4 teams play a double-elimination tournament. The 8 hosts of the regionals are:

1. Texas (41-13-1)
2. Cal St Fullerton (42-14)
3. LSU (46-16)
4. North Carolina (42-16)
5. Arizona State (44-12)
6. UC Irvine (43-13)
7. Oklahoma (41-18)
8. Florida (39-20)

You can see the full bracket here. Many shun the college game because of the PING! factor but the games are just as entertaining as any baseball playoff and perhaps even more so. I can admit that I do not follow much of the regular season in college baseball but this time of year my eye always turns to the road to Omaha. It has always been on my list to travel to Rosenblatt stadium and see a CWS and those that have gone have told me it is well worth the trip. I was fortunate enough to work the regional last year hosted by Coastal Carolina in South Carolina and the energy of the teams and fans was unbelievable. Coastal is the Davidson of college baseball if you will out of the Big South Conference. They made it to the Super Regionals last year but fell short to North Carolina. The Chanticleers will start their quest to become the George Mason of college baseball in Chapel Hill as the two seed as the Tar Heels host the regional.

Among the many story lines is the story of San Diego State pitcher Stephen Strasburg, the projected number one pick in the upcoming MLB draft. Some scouts are touting him as the "best baseball prospect ever" and he has already signed with Lucifer Scott Boras himself. Strasburg leads the nation with a 1.34 ERA and 174 strikeouts in 94.3 innings pitched. It is also reported he can hit 102 on the gun but as a co-worker of mine wisely said, "They said the same thing about Todd Van Poppel." The Nationals have the number one pick but considering their horrible team, attendance, spelling ability, it will be hard to fathom them successfully signing Strasburg. Aztecs manager Tony Gwynn (Tony Gwynn folks!) has not said for sure whether he will pitch Strasburg Friday against Virginia, who just won the ACC tournament, or he will rest him until the likely match-up with regional host UC Irvine. The Anteaters are the favorites to move on so it might behoove Gwynn to rest Strasburg but if they do not beat UVA they face elimination. It is all part of the strategy of baseball which takes on a new dimension when it comes to the college game which is part of the reason it makes it so captivating to watch.

Just like basketball, a field of 64 teams (after the opening round game) that will be narrowed down to one after a long hard-fought battle of blown calls, great plays, role players becoming stars, and a little bit of good fortune.

Texas grabs No. 1 baseball seed [ESPN]

1 comment:

Real Baseball Intelligence said...

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