Tuesday, June 3, 2008

NCAA Baseball, Regional Recap

On a weekend when the top eight national seeds all advanced, there were still a few surprises. The most notable upset occurred in the Long Beach region where four California teams were matched up:

1) Long Beach St. – BW
2) San Diego – WCC
3) California – P10
4) Fresno St. – WAC

I ignored Fresno St. in my previous column on the conference tournaments for one simple reason. Despite a stellar record, the team didn’t quite have the power ranking to earn a decent seed. Here’s the WAC bracket anyway for the sake of completeness. As a 4 seed, Fresno St. was simply one of the better automatic qualifiers for the field, nothing special. But that all changed over the weekend. Fresno St. beat Long Beach St. in the opener, San Diego in the matchup of unbeatens, and then when San Diego came out of the loser’s bracket, Fresno St. split with San Diego to claim the regional crown. Not bad for a football school.

Actually, according to the WAC website, Fresno St. was ranked at one time during the baseball season, so this isn’t quite a colossal upset. I think the low power ranking for the WAC pulled down Fresno St.’s seed. But it doesn’t matter what the computer said. On the field, Fresno St. was the regional winner.

Elsewhere, second seeded UC Irvine won Nebraska’s region, ensuring there will be no Nebraska teams in Omaha in a few weeks. And second seeded Wichita St., a traditional College World Series power, won Oklahoma St.’s region. This could be classified as a mini-upset, but Wichita St. was a great team playing in a weaker conference, so I’m not sure this qualifies as a true upset.

The other 13 regionals were won by the top seed. Eight of these teams went 3-0 over the weekend and coasted to victory. Texas A&M also had a fairly easy path since they won the first two games. Even though they lost game 6, Texas A&M was able to win game 7 as a fallback. The other four regional winners had no margin for error. Cal St. Fullerton lost to UCLA in the second game, and then had to sweep the Bruins in games 6 & 7 to win the tournament. And Georgia, Florida St., and Stanford all lost the first game of the weekend requiring those teams to win 4 straight games to escape with the regional title. Contrary to what some believe, the loser’s bracket is no aid to bad teams. What the loser’s bracket really does is give the best teams a second chance. And Georgia, Florida St., and Stanford were happy to take advantage of that opportunity.

The remaining conference count is as follows:
3 P10
2 BW
1 Big 12
1 Big South
Many of this weekend’s Super Regional series games will be televised on ESPN. Check them out if you are so inclined.

Pro Sports

-Game 5 between the Red Wings and Penguins was terrific as it went to 3OTs. There is nothing better than overtime playoff hockey, as long as you care about one of the teams. My wife thought the Red Wings made a mistake at the end of regulation by switching into time-killing mode. The Red Wings had been an aggressive puck-controlling team all series, but with a lead and 5 minutes to go, they took their foot off the gas. And once you let up, you often can’t get it back.

-A month ago, I picked the Lakers to win it all. (Yes, I went out on quite a limb.) I still stick by that prediction. Charles Barkley said early in the playoffs that he thought the Jazz were the second best team, behind the Lakers, and thus far he has been right. Utah is the only team to get two wins against the Lakers in the playoffs this year. To me the question for the finals is not whether the Lakers will win, but whether they do it in five, allowing me to keep the silly claim that Utah was the 2nd best team, or whether they win in six or seven.