Thoughts on the Field of 64 – From the Bird’s Nest
I always watch.
Sometimes it's with great anticipation. Sometimes it's just because I'm a fan of college baseball. And, sometimes I watch but my heart isn't really in it.
But I watch.
I'm pretty analytical when it comes to the at-large pool. And, after seeing who was in and who was out, I really don't have much criticism. But I do have a few thoughts.
LEAVING KENTUCKY OUT IS A GOOD THING--How many times in both basketball and baseball, we debate whether a team that plays under .500 ball in its conference deserves to be in the field. Well, committee chairman Ray Tanner made it clear why Kentucky didn't make it. And, it's not like the Wildcats didn't have a chance to re-make a statement. They failed to win in the single elimination round. I also like the fact Tanner talked about regular season championships being important, which was a big factor in the selection of Northeastern.of the Colonial Conference, who was upset by UNC-Wilmington in the post season conference tournament. Each committee has a different makeup and each committee puts more emphasis on some criteria more than others. This one said where you finish in your league is important...especially if you're under .500. How refreshing.
OH, BOY, TROY--They were one of the last four teams in, but I really didn't think the Trojans would be left out. If you're a mid-major with a top 40 RPI and 40 wins, you're going to play in the post-season. Troy is being sent to Athens, GA in a solid regional. Duke is a formidable #2 seed, but Andrew Crane is capable of beating them in round one.
COASTAL GETS A HOST SPOT--And, good for them. I thought their loss on the final day of the regular season to App State might negate the chance. But the Chants beat good RPI teams in South Alabama (twice) and Troy to get back in the picture. The 2/3 matchup between Washington and UCONN will be interesting. Coastal probably won't need to throw Jason Bilous in the first round, and if he's got his good control (which is always a question mark), the Chants are going to be in good shape, I think.
MOVING CLOSER TO SEEDING THEM ALL--The committee seeded the top 16 this year which did away with geographic pairings for the Super Regionals, a move that was long overdue. But they went farther than that. We're seeing the committee not having a problem with sending teams a long way and pairing strong #2 seeds against weaker #1's and vice versa. That's why Connecticut, which was heavily considered as a host spot, is at Coastal, the #16 seed. It's also why Jacksonville is at Florida, Auburn is at NC State and why LSU is all the way out at Oregon State. We can argue it didn't happen with every single regional and that may be true. But it appears this committee, at least, has gotten closer to getting it right than any other before it, even if it means more teams are flying than ever before.
GAMES I HOPE HAPPEN SO I CAN WATCH
Auburn vs. NC State--For some reason, I think the #1 seed is the underdog here
Louisville vs. Texas Tech--It's gonna be hot in Lubbock (108 on Friday, 100 on Saturday). How will Louisville, a team that always seems to play well in regionals, handle it?
Southern Miss vs. Arkansas--Golden Eagles were hoping not to get sent to Oxford. They got their wish. Their offense up against the Hogs could be must see TV.
Texas vs. Texas A&M--For reasons that should be obvious
Ole Miss vs. Tennessee Tech--The Eagles can really rake. Been wanting to see them all year.
Cal State Fullerton vs. Stanford--The Cardinal are very very good. The Titans started slowly, but are looking more like Fullerton every day.
Stetson vs. Everybody--This team is being undervalued by most, because they're Stetson. But the Hatters have one of the best pitching staffs in America. And, I like teams that can really pitch.