Thursday Thoughts - Lights, camera, HACK-tion!

You know stitch-heads, even though I've long-maintained that I have the face more suited for radio, it looks like I'm heading to the CSTV home base in New York City to do some in-studio stuff during this first weekend of Regionals. Can't freakin' wait. It's always a lot of fun to watch all the games on the multiple studio TVs and then get in front of the red light and talk about the June Madness to all the baseball fans out there in TV land.

Yeah I know, where the hell do I get the gall to spew my twisted view of college baseball all over the airwaves? Don't ask me. I guess CSTV just likes making a fool out of me on the air. So with any luck, I won't pick my nose or inadvertently slip in a cuss word while I'm there.

To be honest, it's always a lot of fun to work with Greg Amsinger, the studio guru. The part I love is how fired up he gets over watching the tournament games. As for being a college baseball fan, he is totally legit, not just a talking head reading a script off a teleprompter. He and I watched games all weekend long last year and then sat in our studio seats to talk about them. It was freakin' awesome! Should be more of the same this year.

OnCSTVsetSm.jpg

Another thing about doing the studio stuff with Mr. Amsinger - he works his ass off. He's constantly watching highlights and writing his scripts out and doing his show-hosting duties. In other words, he has the hard part. My part is easy, just sit there and talk about college baseball and make a quick quip or two while he does his thing.

Apparently, I'll also be working with Penn Holderness behind the desk this weekend. He's an experienced sports anchor for ABC sports and ESPN who has worked at CSTV in the past.

Since I'll be in-studio this weekend, I'm not sure how much stuff I'll contribute to the Touching The Bases or at the Extra Innings sites. We'll see. But I'll be sure to be watching all the action I can. And after the Regionals are over, I'll get the red pen out and hand out the Regional grades for each team.

To be honest, I still wish I was at a ballpark somewhere, but instead I get to wear makeup. Yay! (Now let's hope they also give me a bitchin' hair piece too.)

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Before I get to the pre-Regionals notes and necessaries, a short story concerning the selection committee's much-improved work.

Three years later, but I finally got the answer I wanted---
In 2004, after the 64-team field was revealed,I (angrily) asked the NCAA Selection Committee during the post-announcement media call, "What are you guys doing to dissuade major conference teams from loading up on a bunch of home games against weak competition in the non-conference?"

(long pause)

Then committee chairman Wally Groff uttered, "Well, that's what the committee tries to do here every year."

(Are you as confused by that answer as I am? Thanks a lot Wally.)

Once again, I was left with that empty feeling. Not just by Mr. Groff's answer but by the number of big-money conference teams getting seven, eight, even nine teams into the field and all of the national seeds playing tin-cans in the pre-conference schedule. Yep, no satisfaction.

Fast forward to this year. I am completely satisfied in hearing the words I never thought I'd here, "they didn't make it in because they didn't play enough good teams in the non-conference."

Yes! Finally!

This year's committee chairman, Mississippi State Athletic Director Larry Templeton, repeated that phrase time and time again during Monday's post-announcement conference call, finally signaling a change in philosophy from the selection committee.

Hopefully... hopefully, this will be a sounding board for change in scheduling philosophy in the years to come. Or as Wayne Graham of Rice told me earlier this year in an interview, "Playing weak competition is boring!"

Now, it's also costly.

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Here are some more thoughts on the field.


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Committee done good---
As mentioned above, emphasis on non-conference schedules.
Again, here's to hoping it causes big time change in cupcakeville for the big money teams.

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Committee done bad---
Rewarding the wrong mid-majors.
As you stitch-heads know from my Mid-Major list each week, I'm all for the smaller conferences getting their due, but I thought College of Charleston and Gonzaga deserved bids more than Troy and Memphis. Just my opinion, though it is shared by a lot of people from what I've seen.

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Who got gypped---
Gonzaga.
I saw the Zags hand Oregon State its first loss of the season at the Surprise Classic down in Arizona. When you consider they also beat Pepperdine (2-of-3), San Diego (3-of-6), UC Riverside and BYU, this geographically isolated team needs some benefit of the doubt. Especially considering the perennial lack-of-respect the WCC seems to get and the lack of Division I teams to play near Spokane.

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The Missouri State Memorial Highest Seed Sitting at Home Award---
Oklahoma, No. 23.
I feel bad for OU for many reasons. First of all, they were the most exciting team I'd seen all season after watching them make a pair of manic comebacks in the Big 12 tournament last weekend in Oklahoma City. But there was also this 8-day stretch in early March where the Sooners beat UC Riverside (3), Creighton (2), San Diego State and San Diego. It's hard to believe these guys got left off the invited list.

(by the way, the Missouri State reference pertains to its basketball team getting shafted the last two seasons, despite No. 21 and No.33 RPIs)

OUGalloway.jpg
OU's Sunny Galloway just before getting tossed at the Big 12 Tourney.


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Toughest Regional---
Arizona State
For Pat Murphy being on the selection committee now and all, he sure didn't do himself a lot of favors here. UCR is easily one of the most impressive "under the radar" teams in the country (then again, how much "under the radar" can they be, winning the Big West and all?). Nebraska is place as a 3-seed, but at times this year, they've played like a Top 10 team. Tony Watson and Johnny Dorn have clamp-down potential. But ASU's improved pitching tells me they'll still pull through.

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Easiest Regional---
Florida State
With a team ERA that just now finally came down under 5.00, I've felt all along that Mississippi State was an over-rated team this year. I wouldn't be surprised to see them go 0-2 as a 2-seed. And after Stetson throws Corey Klueber in game one, their quality of arms takes a dip. So FSU should win out without a problem. Hell, maybe even by double-digits with the way that offense hits.

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Most balanced Regional---
Long Beach.
The trio of Long Beach State, UCLA and Pepperdine is pretty much a crapshoot. Just put their names in a hat and pick a winner. These three local rivals all know each other so well and have pretty even amounts of talent. UCLA's youngin's grew up as the season went along, Pepperdine had some valleys but is still capable and Long Beach played hard-nosed all season and over its head part of it. This Regional should go to Monday night.

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Best chance for a No. 4 to upset a No. 1---
LeMoyne over Texas A&M.
I know, I know, any prediction like this is going to sound freakin' nuts. But consider that the Dolphins play in the same conference (the MAAC) as last year's big No. 4 over No. 1 upset (Manhattan over Nebraska). Also, Dolphin starter Bobby Blevins (9-2, 2.77) was on my Player of the Year ballot for a while last year and quietly had another good season this year.

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Best chance for a No. 1 seed to go 0-2---
Missouri.
I hate to put a team that has played so well the last two post-seasons in this category. And I think Tim Jamieson is a wicked-good coach too. But I will say two things, the MAC always plays better than they're rated - be it basketball OR baseball - and Kent State has some potential to throw this regional into turmoil. I suppose another factor is that Mizzou has a solid, but not dominant pitching staff. I have been on the Tiger bandwagon all season, especially after I saw them beat Arizona State in February, but they could be in trouble here.

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Under-the-radar trend to watch for---
Teams that under-acheived, but are tournament experienced.
Here are my top three to watch in that category:
1- Cal State Fullerton.
This team has the horse on the mound (Wes Roemer), the championship caliber coach (George Horton) and the winning tradition to give the upstart Toreros all kinds of problems.
2- Oregon State.
Like North Carolina, the Beavers lost some stud arms from last year, but have a whole mess of talent left over to make another CWS run. Watch out Wahoos.
3- Nebraska.
The Huskers showed flashes of an Omaha-type of team, just not often enough. But here is where the Cornhuskers could be dangerous, especially considering how they want to make amends for the early crap-out last year.


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Other NCAA tournament field quirks---

- Did you notice that the Rice home Regional is almost a spitting image of last year?
Only this time, TCU gets the No. 2 seed, not Arizona State. So does that mean we'll see Prairie View give Rice fits again this year in game one? I just remember how much fun that was to watch. Let's hope for another great game.

- In a tit-for-tat, Oregon State gets sent to Virginia's Regional.
This reverses the committee sending the Cavs to Corvallis two years ago, where UVa went 0-2 with close losses to St. John's and Ohio State.

- As Boyd Nation noted, Texas got jobbed by the committee for the 4th consecutive year.
(Go here... http://www.boydsworld.com/breadcrumbs/regionals2007.html). UC Irvine is a tough, tough No. 2 seed there in Round Rock and Wichita State and Arizona are rigorous potential Super Regional match-ups.

- While we're on the Wichita Regional, can I go ahead and say it? Arizona should be the No. 1 seed here. Not Wichita. But with a home field advantage as fierce as the Shocker's have (including that bizarre lack of a batter's eye I hear about), this should be a highly-competitive regional.

- Most people didn't like the choice of Wichita getting a home regional over UL-Lafayette, but I do like the fact that the Cajuns will be a No. 2 seed going to play at a 5th-place conference finisher (Texas A&M). With a pitching staff that has 463 strikeouts against just 128 walks and an offense that hits .312 with 73 bombs, I'll give them a puncher's chance against the Aggies.

- Between you and me, Minnesota didn't want any part of going out West.
Last time The U made the NCAAs out in Long Beach (2004) Gopher SID Steve Geller told me at the time, "The only thing Coach Anderson didn't want was to be sent out West once again." Lo and behold, the Gophers had that exact fate again this year (to San Diego). What is it about being sent out West that makes them feel hopeless? Geller told me back then, "Coach knows the West has the best teams." Hmmmm.

- The committee seems intent on giving the East a chance at the title.
The national title has been awarded to a team West of the Mississippi for five straight years now. With the way the committee laid out the field, all the Western teams are on the left side of the bracket and the right side of the bracket is dominated by Eastern teams. Arkansas, Rice, Missouri and Texas A&M appear to be the only legit contenders on that side of the bracket that are West of the Mighty Miss'sip. Should've shown more diverse mix in placement, selection committee.

- Watch the non-national No. 1 seeds.
The last three years in a row the national seeds have failed to win the national championship, including Oregon State last year, Texas in 2005 and in 2004, it was a No. 2 seeded Cal State Fullerton.


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Other quick mentionables---

- This one goes out to Keats, a college baseball fan from Dallas who sent me a video clip the other day. Knowing that I enjoy all different forms of rock-n-roll, be it new, old or different, Keats (related to the 18th century English poet?) sent me this video clip to check out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBjTEy5PKhs

It's of a band I've known of for a long time called Jason & The Scorchers, something you might want to categorize as "country punk". These guys freakin' rock. It's from a performance on Conan O'Brien a little while ago. Hope you dig it. They've got about 1,000 CCs of adrenaline... yet, with one foot in the honky-tonk too. Dig it.

- The five relievers up for the Stopper of the Year Award have been announced by the NCBWA. They are:
Luke Prihoba, Sam Houston State
Andrew Carignan, North Carolina
Matt German, Northern Illinois
Andy Masten, Creighton
Casey Weathers, Vanderbilt
Odd thing about this list of finalists is that four of them are Seniors. Only Carignan is a Junior.

- I know you didn't ask, but here are my four locks for the College World Series:
Texas
Rice
Vanderbilt
Arizona State
Elsewhere, look for a lot of upsets and mid-majors to make a move. Even moreso than last year when we saw Oral Roberts and Coastal Carolina make the Super Regional round. In other words, good luck with your brackets.

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Alright. I'm sending this in a little bit earlier than normal because it's about time for me to get to the airport. Hope you all have a great weekend of college baseball Regionals. Or as I like to call this weekend... Christmas.

G'day.

Comments

I like the mentions of Nebraska as an underdog but a potential sleeper. They have underperformed this year beyond all expectations. They start out top 10 and never kept their head above water. However, I do expect a fight out of my beloved Huskers and yes mark it down, we will upend Pat Murphy and take a 3-1 series lead against the Devils (assuming we play them twice.

Greg Amsinger rocks, plain and simple.

Eric, glad to hear you graduated from podcast to TV. Troy and Memphis just echoed reasoning for Gonzaga to have gotten in, with how they played today.

If Louisville beats Mizzou will OSU host the sub-regional?

If Louisville beats Mizzou will OSU host the super regional?

Casey - I agree. Gonzaga deserved it. Troy and Memphis really crapped out bad. Not a good showing.

And yes Matt -Now that the 'Ville has beaten Mizzou (wow), look for them to make the trek to Okie State for the Supers. And you have to like the Big East making an appearance in the Supers. That's pretty cool. UofL has much better pitching that OSU too. Should be fun.

E.

A quick question on the sites for the Super Regionals. I noticed Clemson is heading away to play Mississippi St. How is it that in every poll before the Regionals were played Clemson is ranked and Miss. St. isn't, they go undefeated in their Regional and wind up being sent away to play a lower seeded team? Does that seem fair?

Who will win the baseball College World final?

Rice or who

Hey Steve in Scottsdale...

Both were No. 2 seeds, so I'm not shocked this one went to MSU. Hell, they'll get upwards of 10,000 in that joint. The NCAA lovvvvvvves money, and that's what they'll deliver. But MY money is on Clemson. I think they'll put a serious hurtin' on MSU's swiss cheese pitching staff.

And Jay, my pick to win it all (Texas) is headed west of the Pecos now that the Anteaters' zot-ted them. So I'm going with Arizona State or Rice. That's my pick.

E.

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Eric Sorenson Eric Sorenson
Eric Sorenson is CSTV.com's National Baseball Columnist, and also appears on CSTV as a baseball expert