Friday, June 8, 2007

June Madness

Conference Baseball Tournaments

We’re just a week away from the start of the College World Series. Here’s a recap of some of the conference tournament action and the number of bids earned for each of the top conferences.

SEC (5): The SEC tournament proved as deep as ever as 8th seeded Tennessee beat top seeded Vanderbilt on the opening day. But, proving that there is some value in a loser’s bracket, Vanderbilt clawed back with 5 straight victories to win the tournament and earn the top overall seed in the NCAA Baseball tournament. Wait a minute? Vanderbilt is the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament!?! Wow, the hot story last week was how much success Vanderbilt has had despite folding their athletic department. Who needs an out of control mammoth athletic department with brand recognition everywhere? This is a triumph for the little guy. In other news, Michigan defeated Vanderbilt and eliminated them from the NCAA tournament this week.

CUSA (4): Rice won the CUSA tournament and earned the second highest national seed in the NCAA tournament. Memphis gave Rice its only loss in the CUSA tournament and did just enough to earn a fourth bid for CUSA.

Big East (3): After losing on the first day, 8th seeded UConn nearly pulled off an amazing comeback, but lost 7-6 in the championship game of the Big East tournament to Rutgers.

ACC (7): Of the eight teams in the conference tournament, seven advanced to the College World Series. I don’t understand the value of this round-robin tournament format, but if you get seven teams in the NCAA tournament, you must be doing something right.

Big 12 (6): The Big 12 also adopted the weird round-robin format, but it at least had a little more drama. 6th seeded Oklahoma and 7th seeded Baylor were both bubble teams and both won their first two games. They then faced off in a game where the winner advanced to the Big 12 championship game and the loser was likely out of the NCAA tournament. Baylor won 7-6 and locked up one of the last NCAA tournament bids.

MVC (2): Creighton defeated Wichita St. in the championship game and both teams earned high NCAA tournament seeds.

Atlantic Sun (2): Welcome Jacksonville and Stetson.

Big Ten (3): 6th seeded Ohio St. went undefeated in the Big Ten tournament and earned a 3rd bid for the Big Ten.

Mountain West (1): Bubble teams rejoiced as TCU won its tournament.

Big South (1): Bubble teams rejoiced as Coastal Carolina won its tournament.

Southern Conference (2): Bubble teams cried as West Carolina fell and Wofford won the tournament.

WCC (2): San Diego beat Gonzaga in the championship series and despite missing the championship series, Pepperdine had enough non-conference strength to earn an at-large bid.

Pac 10 (4): No conference tournament, but four teams in the field.

Big West (4): Big West might not be Big in basketball, but they are Big in baseball even if they don’t recognize the value of a conference tournament.

Sun Belt (3): Finally, I offer an apology to the Sun Belt which I failed to include in my tournament preview. They even had a nice shiny bracket available. New Orleans won and three teams made the field rounding out the last of the at-large bids.

NCAA Baseball Tournament First Weekend

After one weekend of the NCAA tournament, which conferences are still alive?
SEC (3) South Carolina, Ole Miss, Mississippi St.
Pac 10 (3) Arizona St., UCLA, Oregon St.
ACC (2) North Carolina, Clemson
Big 12 (2) Texas A&M, Oklahoma St.
Big West (2) Cal St. Fullerton, UC Irvine
CUSA (1) Rice
MVC (1) Wichita St.
Big 10 (1) Michigan
Big East (1) Louisville

The NCAA’s own website also had some fun facts about the first round. This was the year of the upset. Only 3 of the national seeds escaped the first weekend. The NCAA Baseball tournament has never had fewer than 5 of the national seeds escape the first weekend, and on two occasions, 7 of the national seeds escaped not just the first weekend, but also the second weekend.

The same link also says that for the first time since 2002 there will be no Florida teams in the College World Series. Looking at the bracket, there sure seemed to be a lot of Carolina teams in the tournament this year: Coastal Carolina, Clemson, South Carolina, Wofford, Charlotte, North Carolina St., North Carolina, Western Carolina, Eastern Carolina, and Wake Forest. Sheesh. And three of those teams are still alive.

One More Year

In basketball news, names both major (Brandon Rush, Roy Hibbert) and minor (James Mays, Chris Daniels) have withdrawn from the NBA draft. Here’s a list if you want to check on your favorite players. I still say there is no point on speculating about next season until after the early entry withdrawal date on June 18th.

As a Hoyas fan, I’m ecstatic that Hibbert is coming back. The team would have had little depth in the front court if both Hibbert and Green had left. While Green’s loss hurts, the team is adding two McDonald’s All-American guards and Green’s departure may make for a better situation for players competing for playing time. It will be interesting to see if JT3 employs more three guard lineups in the upcoming season and how much Summers is utilized as a true post player.