Tuesday Stuff - How Lucky Do You Feel?

The conference tournaments are here. And there aren't a whole lot of teams who feel good about their chances at making the NCAA tournament. And even those that are feeling good, are still trying to squirm into a national seed or a home regional. There aren't a lot comfy seats out there.

So if you're the coach of a team vying for a berth in the NCAA tournament, you've gotta ask yourself, "Do I feel lucky? Do I feel we're going to make the NCAAs even if we don't win our conference tournament?" Well, do ya' punk?


Good luck to everyone out there. I'm pulling for each and every one of you. No really, I am.

Let's start today's entry with how the hopes of so many dangle in the balance.

Last week we dissected the teams that were on that Don Ho "tiny bubbles" list for getting an at-large NCAA tournament bid. Let's start with a quick updating of the list, since it can change by the day.

First off, I'd take Kentucky and Alabama off the bubble list from last week with the help of their series wins over Ole Miss and Georgia respectively. I also think that Clemson may have just climbed onto the bubble with its modest five-game win streak. But teams like UC Davis and Washington State may have seen their bubble burst since then. So now here are the new nervous Nelly's:
- Clemson (30-25-1, RPI-24)
- Arkansas (34-22, RPI-29)
- Dallas Baptist (34-17, RPI-34)
- UCLA (29-23, RPI- 40)
- Baylor (30-24, RPI-41)
- Ole Miss (34-22, RPI-42)
- Elon (39-16, RPI-43)
- Houston (34-21, RPI-45)
- Oregon State (25-24, RPI- 50)
- Washington (31-20, RPI-85)

These seven teams hold the key to the hopes of all the bubble teams everywhere. If they win, the bubble teams win too. (The RPI's are according to my home boy Boyd Nation, because the NCAA was too lazy to post theirs today)

- St. John's (41-12, RPI-51)
The Red Storm go into the Big East tourney knowing their status for the NCAA tournament is pretty safe (they'll get the benefit of the doubt from the committee, I'm telling you). Of course, they're also possibly playing for a shot to host a post-season regional too. Only problem is...
Check out Game 1 of the Big East tournament from earlier today:
Villanova - 12
St. John's - 0
Talk about mailing it in! Hey Johnnies, you might wanna go ahead and win a game or two in the tournament now, just in case. Ya' dig?

- Michigan (42-12, RPI-37)
Ohio State didn't step up, Minnesota finished (gulp!) last and Purdue never could get the RPI up high enough. The Big 10 had a down year, and that was unexpected. Especially after last year's three-bid season. Now it will be totally unexpected if the Wolverines don't sweep the field here. Only malaise could stop them. Besides, they've got a host spot in the regionals to play for.

- Oral Roberts (43-12, RPI-38)
Is there EVER a year where the NCAA bubble teams aren't pulling for the Eagles? And conversely, has there ever been a year where they didn't come through? The answer to both is "no." ORU is heavily favored to win another conference tourney title in going-away fashion. Man, could you imagine if they ever actually lost here?

- Stanford (31-20, RPI-19)
The Cardinal travel up to Seattle to try to knock Washington down a few rungs in the Pac 10 standings. As of now, Udub is in a three-way tie for 5th place at 10-11 in conference play. The general feeling is that if they finish in the top four of the Pac, the Huskies will get a bid, despite their terrible RPI. So the rest of bubble nation is saying, "Go Trees!"

- UNC-Wilmington (41-13, RPI-20)
Far and away the best team in the Colonial, having won the conference by five games, while having gone 13-2 against the other five teams in the field. Good news to the bubbliers around the country is that the Seahawks are playing at home, so they have that going for them.

- Wichita State (41-15, RPI-35)
The Missouri Valley tourney has been a minefield the last few years, where the champion rarely wins the it. And though the Shockers are good and playing at home, this isn't your typical dominant WSU squad. Of all the teams on this list, I might even label them as the most L-prone.

- TCU (39-16, RPI-36)
People may be putting their fears to rest after this past weekend. In a showdown at then-co-No.-1 New Mexico, the Frogs swept in three straight games. Now, they return home to host the Mountain West tourney and should be able to sweep through with confidence. Well... as long as they can avoid having to face off with San Diego State's Stephen Strasburg.

Congrats to Texas Southern.
The Tigers are the very, very unlikely 2008 SWAC tournament champions after beating Prairie View 12-11 on Monday in Baton Rouge. TSU now enters the NCAA tournament with a record of 16-32. I'll have to check to see if that's the worst winning percentage of any team to make the Big Dance.

But the inclusion of TSU into the tournament brings back memories of their last entry - the 2004 outfit that upset No. 1 Rice in the first round of the Houston Regional at Reckling Park. As you might recall from my Top 5 Post-Season Upsets list, the Tigers got career games out of starting pitcher Issac Daniels and normal No. 2 weekend starter (but used as a reliever here) Brandon Strickland to go along with three 8th inning runs off of Rice's Phillip Humber to pull out a stunning 4-3 win.

I'm harsher than most people. Like I've stated before, I believe in the Dick Vitale philosophy when it comes to teams getting into the Big Dance, I think you HAVE to finish in the top five of your conference. Otherwise, sorry, you didn't prove your worthiness during the regular season to get a bid. And yes, I realize that means OSU wouldn't have gotten into last year's tournament if it was up to me.

But this season is turning out much worse for the Beavers than I ever thought it would. Here's a picture that tells a thousand words from Monday's game at Long Beach:

(The scoreboard says it all at Blair Field on Monday night. OSU is reeling.)

After seeing them drop the Sunday game at USC, I thought that the Beavers needed to beat Long Beach at Blair Field to help their case. But man! a 10-0 skunking was NOT what I was expecting. Even with a sweep of Pacific this weekend, the Beavers may be hard pressed to make the field of 64.

(Forgot to mention this during the weekend)
I've always been a big Jerry Kindall fan. The former Minnesota Gopher player and longtime former Arizona head coach is now a Hall of Famer and also a color commentator for college games on Fox Sports, the Big Ten Network and ESPNU. He was at last Friday's Washington State-UCLA game at Jackie Robinson Stadium scouting out the two teams for the following days telecast of the game.

So in-between innings, I decided to make my way to the press box and hand him my 1976 College World Series program for him to sign. He was, of course, more than happy to do that - he's a terribly nice man, probably too nice to be a baseball coach. He was also kind of freaked out that someone actually owned a 1976 program still. "Wow. You've been holding on to this one a long time." he remarked. (Now that I think of it, was he showing sympathy to me for not having a life?).

(Coach Kindall as he appeared in my '76 CWS program, now adorned with his signature)

Two quick things about Jerry Kindall you may not have known:

1- He was the last player to have hit for the cycle in a College World Series game, which he did in 1956 for Minnesota.

2- He is given credit for first coining the phrase "the friendly confines of Wrigley Field." He remarked that upon seeing the old ballyard back in his pro days.

Alright stitch-heads, 12 bells. Time to hit the rack.

More tomorrow from the world of conference tournament-land as the post-season starts to kick in a little bit more.



It's hard to imagine your memento closet, but your columns are on target. Keep it coming!

No one can foresee the injuries that have been so hard on UCLA pitching this year, but I wonder how long it will be before the myth of "Coach Savage is a genius" turns into the reality of "Coach Savage, the Recruiter, Pitching Coach and Head Coach is overmatched for the job". Examples: His two best hitters from last year, Cohen and Decker are hitting around .200 because other teams have learned that they pull everything and can't handle hard stuff away - Savage doesn't make them adjust. Savage over pitches a talented outfielder, Justin Uribe, (despite the fact that he had arm trouble in high school) which results in Tommy John surgery for Uribe. Savage recruits Dan Klein, Rob Rasmussen and Matt Grace and they have all proven to be below mediocre on the bump (This from a "pitching genius"?) Finally Savage has an Aflac All American, Brett Krill, on the bench and he never uses him. How do explain not using 6'4" stud when Dolan and Cohen are hitting at the Mendoza line? The fact that UCLA is not going to the NCAA's is sad but hopefully will wake up UCLA fans to the hard cold fact that Savage is a very good pitching coach but lousy head coach. Thoughts?

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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