First and most definitely foremost, let me welcome the fabulous Stitch to ESPN. His take on the game is always a great read and it is a great addition to ESPN’s college coverage.
It’s time to focus on the mid majors as we head closer to selection Monday. As we near Memorial Day, two mid-majors are squarely in the discussion for national seeds. TCU passed an impressive test this week by winning two of three at New Mexico, then winning two so far this weekend against Air Force. The Frogs put 26 on the board to win the series clincher on Sunday and essentially clinch the regular season crown in the Mountain West. I think that TCU deserves a national seed. They travelled out of conference and played a very tough non-conference tilt. In addition, the one thing that a team cannot control is the yearly strength of schedule within the conference. I discussed their resume a little last week, but they have not ducked anyone out of conference and have fared pretty well against most. Barring a late season let down, the Frogs should be hosting throughout in my opinion.
Coastal Carolina heads to Liberty this weekend in a battle of the top two teams in the Big South. With a solid outing by Anthony Meo, the Chants won game one and pushed their Big South record to 21-0. You better keep their 1-2 off the bases, because Rico Noel and Scott Woodward have now combined to steal 89 bases this year. Liberty now stands at 18-4 in conference, and they probably need to win one of the final two games this weekend to punch their post season ticket. The RPI is respectable, and the season resume is impressive. Jim Toman’s club has a great argument now and should be on solid ground, but a winning weekend against the clear leaders in the conference will go a long ways. For the Chants, a national seed could mean two straight weeks in Conway and a chance at their first ever trip to Omaha. This first trip will happen in the next few years, and a national seed might be the boost that Coastal needs. To attain it though, they almost assuredly have to win the series this weekend against the Flames.
The most visible series this weekend is in Atlanta, where Jim Morris returns to Georgia Tech to take on the Ramblin Wreck. The winner of the series re-enters the national seed discussion, while the loser has to fight next weekend to hold on to a 1 seed. Miami seems to be a forgotten team this year and I am not sure why. Yasmani Grandal is one of the top players in the land and Jim Morris’ crew has put up solid numbers all year. For Tech, the early start garnered headlines but the late season results will determine whether they travel or stay put in early June. Game one was an impressive night again for Deck McGuire, and the Wreck’s offense banged out 15 hits. If Tech finishes 4-1 in conference the rest of the way, they are right in the national seed discussion as well. For the Canes, it would probably take winning the last two in Atlanta and then 2 of 3 against UVA next weekend in Coral Gables.
Staying in the ACC, the Carolina trip to UVA this weekend might determine their post-season fate as well. Some have the Heels on the outside looking in right now and this weekend does not make things any easier. It does give us possibly the top Saturday pitching matchup in the country though, as Harvey v. Hultzen should be something to watch. Those that have seen Hultzen this year are raving again, and Harvey has been as good as anyone in the country over the past six weeks.
Interesting night in the SEC last night as well. South Carolina and Blake Cooper taking game one in Fayetteville is the headliner. The USC RPI will jump with a series win this weekend, Boydsworld.com had them at 15 this morning. If the Gamecocks win the series, next weekend’s conference finale against Florida will allow them to control their own destiny in the national seed race. I think Florida is a lock national seed right now, and the 9th inning rally last night against Georgia should give them a boost the rest of the weekend. You almost feel sorry for Dave Perno and the Dogs right now, they have figured out numerous ways to lose close games all year. The most interesting topic in the SEC right now is the race for the 8th and final spot in Hoover. Kentucky’s walk off win in Lexington last night off of Matty Ott gives them a two game lead over Alabama and Tennessee with 5 to play. There is a decent chance that the 9th place team gets in the dance. Tennessee has been on fire the past few weeks and a strong finish could be enough, even if they miss the SEC tourney. One last note, watch out for Vandy as they try to make a late run to host. They will play two less conference games because of the rain in Nashville a few weeks ago…those two games against Georgia could have bumped their conference record.
While the Big 12 and Pac-10 conference races appear to be over, the bubble discussion has taken center stage in each conference. In the Pac, six should be safe. Arizona St. is a lock for a national seed, and UCLA, Stanford, Cal, Arizona and Oregon should be in. I expect a seventh team to come out of the Pac and Washington St. and Oregon St. might be fighting for that spot. The Beavers are all over the map, but have played better the past two weeks now. A series sweep of Oregon threw them back into the discussion and they won game one last night against UW. The kicker…they go to Tucson and then host the Devils to finish out the regular season. A strong finish gets them in. Wazzu dropped game one last night in Palo Alto as the Cardinal scored 5 in the 8th to win 8-7. One last note…a strong finish for UCLA and they are right back in the hunt for one of the last national seeds.
In the Big 12, Texas has locked up the regular season crown and a national seed. K St. and Oklahoma are absolutely in and A&M and Texas Tech should be comfortably in as well. Kansas needs a hot finish, and a few wins in the Big 12 tourney, to get back into the mix. One note in the Big 12, the tourney is set up as two 4 team brackets, with seeds 1,4,5 and 8 on one side and seeds 2,3,6 and 7 on the other. I point this out because there is a clear advantage to having the 6 or 7 seeds as opposed to 4 or 5. You avoid Texas in the first round of the tourney, which should lead to an easier route to the finals.
One last note on the national seed hunt, Louisville was stung last night by St. Johns as super frosh Jeremy Baltz went deep four times. He now has 18 jacks this year as the Johnnies try to stun Louisville at home this weekend. The Cards dropped a mid-week game to Vandy this week as well and still need to finish strong to claim a national seed. UConn dropping game one at USF stings their hosting chances as well. It might come down to UConn and Vandy for one of the last host locations in the country this year.
I will try to post later tonight after game two of the Ole Miss v. Alabama series in Tuscaloosa. 4 PM Eastern start time on ESPN2. Tune in, we will have plenty of national discussion about the last few weeks as well.
By the way, give me Super Saver to win the Preakness as Calvin Borel wins on the rail again…talk to you soon.