Thursday Thoughts - It's Christmas Day for Stitch-head Nation

Okay, enough of the bitchin' and crabbin', the NCAA selection committee made its mistakes and we have to live with them.

Sure, we could sit here and complain about
- N.C. State getting a host site and Georgia Tech not getting one... wait, what was that Larry Templeton said about "spreading the regionals around" again?
- Also, Tech, a No. 7 RPI, has to travel to No. 17 Georgia, despite beating the Dawgs twice this season.
- Miami getting Bethune-Cookman as a No. 4 while LSU gets Texas Southern.
- Rice getting dangerous Sam Houston as a No. 4 and Texas as a viable No. 2 instead of A&M, who gets Illinois-Chicago and 29 RPI Dallas Baptist.
- Did I read that right? UCLA is a No. 45 RPI as a 2-seed and Virginia is a 3-seed with an RPI at No. 22?
- Arkansas getting in as a 9th place team and going just 1-6 in its most important non-conference games.
- Alabama playing tomato cans in pre-conference and still getting a dance card.
- And I know we ALL know this is a rip... Oklahoma gets in and Oregon State doesn't. Really now.

OSU-OUcompare.jpg
(Hey committee, not that OSU belonged in the Big Dance. But OU? Hmmm, not good boys)

Here's more quick hit, I've-thought-more-about-it thoughts on the field of 64 before tomorrow's games get kicked off.

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TOUGHEST REGIONAL---
*Long Beach State
Okay, I know I said Miami's regional was the toughest in my knee-jerk reaction column on Monday, but that WAS a knee-jerk reaction. Looking at it closer, we see that Ole Miss and Missouri have great potential, but haven't played up to snuff this season. And both cases befuddle me so. But at Blair Field, we're going to have the most balanced regional in the field, with RPI teams No. 23, 27 and 28. And as a 4-seed, Fresno, even without injured Tanner Scheppers, is still dangerous.

Runner-Up: Miami
Again, great potential in the UM's, and B-CU is one of the better No. 4s out there.


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EASIEST REGIONAL---
* LSU
A team this hot? Hell, it may not matter who they played anyway, they're going to win. But Southern Miss will have to throw Barry Bowden in game one against New Orleans. Beyond him, it becomes Arena Ball at the Box. UNO beat LSU twice this season, both before the streak and in mid-week games. And as I mentioned on Monday, how the Tigers got the easiest No. 4 seed in the tourney field, I don't know. You'd think Skip Bertman is back on the selection committee again.

Runner-Up: North Carolina
They'll breeze this weekend... and next weekend, now that I look at it. Cruise control until The O.


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NO. 1 SEED THAT COULD GO 0-2---
Texas A&M.
I've got three words for you: Tired arms syndrome.
As you all should realize, a frosh pitcher can have all the talent in the world, but his first college season is a long season. Most of the times, young arms hit a wall in May and June. That's what seems to have afflicted Texas A&M during its late-season swoon.

Other possibility: Stanford
Their No. 4 seed, UC Davis, has already beaten the Cardinal twice this year. There won't be a fear factor whatsoever.


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MOST DANGEROUS 4-SEED---
Bethune-Cookman.
Don't snicker. It's true. One of the things that struck me about the Wildcats when I saw them play UCLA at the Urban Invitational in Compton earlier this season was that starting pitcher Joe "Guido" Gautier more than held his own against the Bruins, giving up just two hits in 7.0 innings. Luckily for UCLA, Tim Murphy threw a slightly better game and beat B-C. But with Hiram Burgo (9-1, 1.20) and No. 2 starter Eric Thomas (9-0, 2.16), the 'Cats have some arms to give the Hurricane fans heart attacks.

GautierB-CC.jpg
(Joe Gautier and the BCU arm staff could give some UM's the heeby-jeebies)

Runner-Up: UC Davis
Post-season inexperience may be their downfall, but as stated above, they've beaten Stanford a couple of times and aren't going to be afraid of Pepperdine or Arkansas.


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BEST CHANCE FOR A THREE-SEED TO WIN A REGIONAL---
Houston.
I almost picked Louisville here because they did it last year as a three-seed, have been on a roll lately (22-5 since tax day) and have a rather chilly Georgia team as a No. 1. But if the Coogs can get by Jordan Meaker and the Patriots in game one, not-so-hot Texas A&M could be vulnerable. But will they be vulnerable twice?

Runner-Up: Oral Roberts
Hey, the Eagles did it in '06, it can be done again. Though UCI and Nebraska will be tougher to get through than Okie State and Arkansas were back then.


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BEST CHANCE FOR A SUPER REGIONAL TO BE HELD AT SOME PO-DUNK STADIUM---
Pepperdine vs. UCLA.
Let's suppose these two No. 2 seeds finally start to play up to their potential. You know, like if the Waves could pitch better than the 22 runs they gave up against San Diego in the WCC playoffs and if the Bruins could hit better than their .275 average. If that happened, Stanford and Cal State Fullerton could finally find themselves losing in the regional round at home for the first time this decade.


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OKAY, MY QUICK-HIT PICKS---
At the risk of losing all legitimacy, here are the 16 teams I see pulling through this weekend. Starting from the upper left portion of the bracket.

- Coral Gables: Miami.
Despite all the talk about how tough of a draw they got, you have to keep in mind that the Canes have the scarier lineup and play better defense (.975). And Ole Miss and Mizzou just haven't played well this season.

- Ann Arbor: Michigan.
I've seen Arizona play really well and rather awful at times this year. And besides, don't you figure the home team has been waiting for this moment for a long time? Oh, and this is the first time that a Pac 10 or SEC team has ever spent a weekend at Fisher Stadium. Terrible, people. Just terrible.

- Raleigh: South Carolina.
The thing I like about the Gamecocks? Bash power, of course, and also they can glove it pretty damn well too (2nd in NCAA with .978). Those two things are huge in the post-season when arms staffs get thin on Sunday and Monday.

- Athens: Louisville.
Yes, I'm calling my second mid-major shock shot here. The Ville has some legit arms with post-season experience in Justin Marks, Zach Pitts and Gavin Logsdon. B.J. Rosenburg's re-emergence (5-4, 9svs) has been the biggest story this season.

- Fullerton: Cal State Fullerton.
Have you noticed how many people are echoing the fact that the Titans own UCLA lately? Well, it's true. But keep in mind that UCLA's numerous injuries and cold bats may be healing in time. This is a shaky pic. Oh, and Virginia is just 5-10 in road games.

- Palo Alto: Stanford.
I know I said to watch out for the Aggies in this regional, but after all is said and done at 10pm West coast time on Monday, it'll be the Trees still standing. You don't win weekends against Nebraska, Fullerton and Arizona State with luck.

- Stillwater: Wichita State.
I love the arms corps of the Shockers enough to pull this one out at Allie Reynolds Stadium. The biggest key will be if they can beat TCU's Tyler Lockwood in game one. Another big factor: Does OSU burn ace Andrew Oliver in game one vs. Western Kentucky? Hmmmm.

- Tallahassee: Florida State.
No, I really don't see the Noles gagging at home again in the post-season. Well, at least not this week. But it will be interesting to see how Mike Martin's boys fare once they face some teams outside of their region.

- Cary: North Carolina.
Lay out the welcome mat here. I'll walk from L.A. to Chapel Hill, backward, if UNC fails to make it out of this one.

- Conway: East Carolina.
I know they've been inconsistent down the stretch (swept at home by Tulane), but the Pirates will put it together here. And then will enjoy it for five days before UNC crushes them.

- Lincoln: UC Irvine.
The Anteaters invade Huskerland and it will probably come down to those two teams. Very similar styles as NU has taken on a small ball approach this year, just like UCI plays. Only UCI plays that role better. Oh and don't sleep on Oral Roberts either. Seeing them in the championship round wouldn't be a shock.

- Baton Rouge: LSU
Easier than North Carolina's road? Maybe. Then again, if the Tigers don't get to wear those gold jerseys this weekend?...

Damn NCAA rules. What's Ron Polk's cell number?

- Houston: Rice
It will be awash in orange, sure, but Reckling Park will come in handy for the Owls. No missteps here, I've got Rice railroaded to Omaha. Then again, the Longhorns are on an uptick lately (sweep of Texas A&M), especially with the return to form of Kenn Kasparek. That ole post-season Augie magic could be back. But St. John's could be dangerous too, especially in game one with underrated George Brown on the mound.

- College Station: Texas A&M
Lots of chuck-holes in the Aggies road here. This pick defies all logic, I know. With the way the Ags have been playing and the surprise factor I'm giving to Dallas Baptist and all. Still, the home field and high stakes have to favor A&M in the end. But it'll be a 7-game dogfight.

- Long Beach: San Diego
Matusz, Romanski, Griffin. It's still hard to bet against this pitching staff. It's also still hard to believe the Toreros were not a No. 1 seed. Just goes to show you how shot-to-hell your RPI can get when playing seven games against Hawaii-Hilo and Harvard. Otherwise, we'd be seeing USD possibly hosting a regional again. Despite my pick for this regional, it's anybody's ballgame, to be honest.

- Tempe: Arizona State.
I don't figure anyone has a problem with this pick, right? Okay, let's just go ahead and move on then. Well, wait... let's say this, of all the No. 1 seeds, the one team that can ill-afford to fall into the loser's bracket is the Sun Devils. File that away for now.


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BEST WRONG PREDICTION I HAVE SEEN FROM A COACH---
According to the Tulsa World and Aaron Fitt at Baseball America, Oklahoma coach Sunny Galloway said after his team's loss to Texas last Saturday in the Big 12 tournament, "We will reload and look to next year. We have young arms and a bright future in the Oklahoma program."

Man, not only does it sound like Coach Galloway had thrown in the towel on the Sooners' post-season chances, it also sounds like he was defending his job too. No need coach, when you make the field of 64 you don't generally have to state your case about the job you've done with the program. Now, can OU do something about this added gift?


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WHILE WE'RE ON THE SUBJECT, HERE'S THE BEST "GUESS OUR SEASON IS OVER" STORY I CAN RECALL---
Back in 1992, Virginia Commonwealth was a new member of the Metro Conference and surprisingly won the Metro regular season title. But after going 0-2 in the conference tourney to finish the season 31-20, Coach Guzzo gave his team the old "Well, we got a nice trophy for winning the conference. We had a good season." With that, Coach Guzzo then had his team turn in their gear and released them for the summer.

Only problem was, when the NCAA selection show came on, the committee had included the Rams in the field of 64. So Coach Guzzo had to go and call all the players back. In fact, if I remember right, it was either rocket-gunned right fielder Jamie Brewington or 2B Kevin Jersey who was supposedly catching rays on a beach with some fellow VCU coeds when he got the call to return to campus as soon as possible to pack up for the trip to Austin.

As fate would have it, VCU was a 6th-seed (the lowest in the eight, 6-team regionals back then) and was beaten in game one by Texas 12-6. But the Rams rebounded - huge - to beat Southwestern Louisiana, Creighton, Long Beach State, then got revenge by beating Texas, forcing a deciding second championship game. The gutty Rams ran out of gas and fell in that game by a 13-2 count, sending the Longhorns to the CWS. But what a ride that '92 VCU team went on. Unreal.


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QUICK NOTE ABOUT THAT 1992 CENTRAL REGIONAL---
Check out some of the talent I saw on the Disch-Falk carpet that week:
Texas:
Tim Harkrider, Calvin Murray, Brooks Kieschnick, Stephen Larkin
Long Beach:
Jason Giambi, Gabe "The Blade" Gonzales, Chris Gomez
Creighton:
Kimera Bartee, Alan Benes, Brian O'Connor (now UVa coach)
Southwestern Louisiana:
Javi Dejesus (nation-best 18 wins)
Texas-Arlington:
Clay Gould (the late college baseball coach at UTA who succumbed to cancer after following the legendary Butch McBroom)
VCU:
Eric Sauve.


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TWO MORE THINGS ABOUT THAT 1992 CENTRAL REGIONAL---
- It was nearly 100 freakin' degrees each day.
- Had to drive north to the town of Temple, an hour-and-a-half away, to find a hotel to crash in because it was graduation weekend in Austin. Damn lack of hotels.


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HOW WE KNOW THE NCAA STILL LIKES ITS BIG-MONEY REGIONALS---
The lie that was the Oklahoma State-going-to-Arkansas Regionals assignment in 2006.
Remember that year? That was when Larry Templeton and the NCAA selection committee made OSU a No. 1 seed at Arkansas and not in Stillwater because they had to audacity to say "with the women's CWS going on in Oklahoma City, we didn't think there would be enough hotel rooms to have a regional in Stillwater."

(I can distinctly remember saying "poppycock" to Greg Amsinger while on the air when we discussed the OSU situation. I haven't used the word poppycock since that day.)

Guess what guys? Arkansas gets about 6,000 more fans through the gates than OSU does. THAT'S the real reason. See, the women's CWS is STILL in Oklahoma City. Nothing has changed there. So why did you guys give Okie State a home regional this year? What makes 2008 any different from 2006? I hate when men in suits lie like that.


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WILL WE SEE THE SPIRIT OF '04 AGAIN?
Remember the first round upsets that year? Texas Southern used the right arm of Issac Daniels to shock the college baseball world by beating Philip Humber and Rice 4-3. And Western Kentucky used Grady Hinchman to stun homestanding Ole Miss. Also, another below-.500 team pulled off a shocker when Pepperdine obliterated No. 1 seed Arizona State 15-5.

TSU may not be given a snowball's chance in hell at LSU (then again, they didn't have that vs. Rice in '04 either), but coach Candy Robinson was quick to point out that his team "had a lead on Texas until the 7th inning, so we aren't afraid of those bigger teams." Also, WKU will send out ace Matt Ridings (10-2, 3.63) in game one, so Okie State better not leave their fate to a No. 3 weekend starter.


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SPEAKING OF THE LOVABLE LOSERS---
There are a total of five sub-500 teams in the field this year.
- Eastern Michigan (25-32)
- Mount St. Mary's (21-32)
- Columbia (22-28)
- Eastern Illinois (27-28)
- Texas Southern (16-32)
These are the five teams that should be playing National Seeds Nos. 1-through-5. The selection committee tripped on this one. And by the way, isn't this the most losers we've had in the history of the NCAA baseball tournament? I'll try to get back to you on that.


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AHHHH, LAMBERT. YOU 'DA MAN!---
Check out the legendary Rosenblatt keyboardist - and personal hero of mine - in this short feature on the 100th anniversary of song "Take Me Out To The Ballgame":

http://www.cwsomaha.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=58381&phpMyAdmin=2573818938d4378ae74b2ed304c28d93


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JUST IN CASE YOU WERE EVER WONDERING WHAT IT LOOKED LIKE---
Whenever you see ESPN go to a single shot of John Clayton on camera with the Seattle skyline behind him or when Kurt Vonnegut is on that big screen TV on Bill Maher with the backdrop of downtown Boston behind him, do you ever wonder what exactly is going on there? (World record run-on sentence there).

Well, I did another one of those remotes from a studio in Los Angeles back on Sunday for CBS College Sports. I was on with Greg Amsinger who was in the New York studios. In these situations, Greg can see me, but I can't see him. I'm squashed into a tiny room with a huge camera and sitting in a chair staring at the piece of paper just below the camera eye that says, "Look here." Behind me, see that big, giant green screen? It's there so that the studio peeps can put up an image of the L.A. skyline so it looks like I'm sitting on top of a building with downtown Smogland behind me.

EricShow-greenscreen.jpg
(Getting fitted with an ear piece so I can hear Greg Amsinger and the show producer while on camera)

And here's what the finished product looks like.

MeOnRemote2.jpg
(Yes I know, I could use a tanning bed)


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WHATEVER HAPPENED TO...---
Rick Lawes?
This week is the one week of the season I always made sure to run to my nearest magazine stand as early as I could on a Wednesday, buy the Baseball Weekly and rip through this guys regional capsules leading up to Friday's first games.

BBW-RickLawes.jpg
(Looking more like a high school guidance counselor, Rick Lawes, the former national voice of college baseball)

Back in the pre-internet days, Lawes was THE national voice of college baseball. Dare I say, the ONLY voice of college baseball. I couldn't find any coverage of our beloved sport anywhere else. In 1997, he must've flown the coop, 'coz that was the year that Dana Heiss Grodin took over and continued his work. Then again, unfortunately for Dana and the rest of us, Baseball Weekly also started cutting their coverage of college baseball to less and less space. From two pages, to one, to 3/4s page, to just the Top 25 coaches poll, to - ghastly enough - nothing.

BBW-DanaHeissGrodin.jpg
(Dana Heiss Grodin, back before Baseball Weekly dropped our beloved sport. The idiots.)

Baseball Weekly eventually became "Sports Weekly" and stopped college baseball coverage altogether, picking up, amongst other things, Nascar. Freakin' Nascar for chrissakes! Blasphemy.

So getting back to the top, if anyone has any info on the whereabouts of Mr. Lawes, let us know... And ask him why the hell he abandoned our sport to begin with?


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A CLOSING NOTE---
Wanna know my goal in life? One of these days I'm hoping to become the answer to the "18 across" clue in the New York Times Friday Crossword puzzle. The clue would be, "Loser bald guy who made college baseball his addiction in life." That would satiate my existence.

And finally...

"10 down. Clue: Three letter acronym for 'worthless'?"
Answer: RPI.

Christmas Day starts in 10 hours. Bitchin'.

G'night.

Comments

NC State has been snuffed before on the regionals. They dominated conference play all year and Georgia Tech struggled. NC State clearly deserved the regional this year. It was long overdue.

Eric,

You are the baseball version of a gym rat, you are a "Diamond Rat" and that is a great thing,. Some guys have gambling problems, some have other addictions that make their lives (and the others around them) hell.
Yours is a worthy and fine profession - you are a journalist who spends his days observing the greatest game on Earth. Don't forget that Hemingway, Faulkner, George S. Kaufman and Proust were all journalists - it is a noble profession.
Your columns are brave, brutal and honest. Your time on national TV/radio/newspaper will come but for now enjoy these halcyon days when your car is your Bucephalus, your computer is your quill pen and baseball is your muse.
From one Diamond Rat to another, thanks.

Mac,

In my unannounced Comment of the Year competition, you may have locked up the No. 1 seed. I've never heard a "rat" reference used in such a noble way.

That's like, wicked-good. Thanks fellow rat.

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