UC(Davis)LA Bruins – Chances of Winning it All: 15%, My rooting interest: 55%
In what has been a year to forget in the Big West, I’m going to really reach to find something to hang my Dirtbags hat on. Rex Peters, who ironically enough left the Big West (as Head Coach of UC Davis) for a job made available by Rick Vanderhook’s re-joining of the Big West (as Head Coach of Cal State Fullerton), has been key in turning around the Bruins offense and getting them back to Omaha. After returning most of last year’s lineup UCLA saw a significant bump in it’s on-base percentage, slugging, and a large drop in strikeouts. Therefore I’m going to take it upon myself to say “you’re welcome” to the Bruins for giving you a Big West guy as your new assistant coach and miracle worker with the bats. Jeff Gelalich is now on his way to becoming a millionaire. Five other Bruins regulars hit above .305. I won’t forget about the pitching. Four solid starters, lead by Adam Plutko, and three ace relievers (Scott Griggs, David Berg, Ryan Deeter) are enough to get me to stick to my pre-regionals pick of a Bruins team in the championship round, although overall bracket 1 is a toss up (with a four sided coin, I suppose).
They’re also a west coast school and my brother’s a student there. I know that’s not really relevant to any of you but, screw it, let's go Bruins.
Kent State I-guess-we-like-you-toos – Chances of Winning it all: 3%, My rooting interest: 50%
The Golden Flashes were beat to the punch by those upstart Seawolves for the “Darlings of Omaha” title, and while they’ll still be a fan favorite at the College World Series they go in drawing a field of Arkansas (scary but not much worse than what Stony Brook will face), Florida, and South Carolina (holy crap). David Starn gives them something more than a chance against maybe the SEC’s best pitching staff in Game 3 versus Arkansas. If they can get past that game they’ll have a leg up on half of the GatorCock two-headed monster. Ryan Bores (16 walks in 104.1 innings) will keep Kent State from beating themselves, but UF or USC should be able to do the job without too much trouble.
While they’ve had a good pos-season run, including (barely) winning twice against the SEC’s Kentucky, they have the worst pitching staff in their bracket making it hard to see them getting to the championship round. Stony Brook may be getting all the media attention, but a deep run by the Golden Flashes would be the biggest upset in Omaha this year. Good luck guys, I’ll be pulling for ya…
Stony Brook Seawolves of Omaha – Chances of Winning it all: 10%, My rooting interest: 40%
Somebody should tell ESPN that being a 4 seed in the regionals is sorta like being a 13 seed in the basketball tournament. Or that Stony Brook was a division III team at one point. Or that Joe Nathan went there. Despite the Mothership’s best efforts, I’m not yet annoyed enough with the Seawolves to stop caring. Plus, at least they've stopped calling it the AmericaN East Conference.
Really, though, but there’s not a lot left to say about the Seawolves, except that it’s probably naive to think they’ll just take their token trip to Omaha and head right back to New York. Bracket 1 is winnable, and though their pitching may look a bit top heavy for a deep tournament run, the offense is loaded (oh, that reminds me, ESPN should mention that Travis Jankowski was drafted by the Padres in the supplemental first round) and they can beat you on both sides of the running game (93 steals, a 73% CS% from catcher Pat Cantwell).
A Game 1 win is key if they don’t want to rely too heavily on the post-Tyler Johnson/Brandon McNitt rotation. Since they’ll be facing UCLA, depending on who wins that Game 1 match-up I’ll either be content or somewhat happy. Now that’s a rabid baseball fan. :-|
Florida State Bridesmaids – Chances of Winning it all: 10%, My rooting interest: 15%
I was on the Seminoles bandwagon about this time a month ago. Then peer pressure from just about everyone forced me off. Although they don’t have the pitching of the SEC schools, I still like the ‘Noles and somewhere in my gut I still feel this could finally be “next year” (that shellacking of Stanford might’ve helped that feeling). They might actually have the worst offense in their bracket (which says a lot about the bracket) but they’re lead by the best player in the nation and Kermit the Frog impersonator James Ramsey.
Now that I’ve put them side-by-side I’m not really seeing it. Maybe I’m thinking of Jamey Carroll...
There it is.
Going 0-3 versus Florida doesn’t bode well for their championship round hopes, but crushing the left coast’s best in Mark Appel gives them a solid chance in their bracket, and maybe they’ll luck out and play Kent State in the finals. (Who would be the Cinderella team in that scenario?)
Arizona Wildcats (sorry, I got nothing) – Chances of winning it all: 15%, My rooting interest: 10%
Getting the quadruple-whammy of being the first team to secure their Omaha bid (seems like a month ago, now), being on the west coast, playing a bunch of teams nobody really cared about, and now being buried in the coverage by Kent State, Stony Brook, and the SEC, the Wildcats have turned into probably the most ignored team going into Omaha (having suffered from serious “middle child syndrome” I can relate).
Hopefully everyone remembers how the Wildcats pretty easily cruised their way through the post-season, and that was preceded by a series win versus the rival Sun Devils that clinched a share of the Pac-12 title. They have arguably the best lineup in the field (only the AmEast Seawolves have a better average or slugging percentage), and while their pitching staff (post-Kurt Heyer) doesn’t jump out at you, they have a solid bullpen and Wade Konner and James Farris both had complete game wins over a loaded Stanford lineup (not that Florida State cares).
Pretty much anyone out of this bracket I’ll be rooting for in the championship (unless they face Kent State), and I’ll give these guys a few bonus points for being from the Pac-12.
Arkansas Not Gators or Gamecocks – Chances of winning it all: 7% (they got the leftovers from Kent State’s odd number), My rooting interest: 0%
I shouldn’t dismiss their chances too quickly. They won two of three from the Gators in the regular season, boast Omaha’s best pitching staff (which has so far carried them in the post-season), and Ryne Stanek and DJ Baxendale give them a legitimate shot at starting out 2-0. But still, this is Omaha, and the worst team in their bracket will be throwing David Starn in their first game. Despite having some awesome names like Dominic Ficociello, Bo Bigham, and ….. I don’t know, Matt Reynolds I guess, their lineup is in the bottom half of Omaha teams.
I wouldn’t mind a Razorbacks championship, if only because it would mean the Gators and Cocks came up short, but if we can’t have a MAC or AmEast team win the championship, I’d at least like to see a non-SEC team take it.
Florida Gators (AA Affiliate – Boston Red Sox) – Chances of winning it all: 20%*, My rootig interest: -70%
While I’m growing a little tired of the SEC dominance in the game, I’m mainly starting to hate the Gators thanks to ESPN. Each year their post-season coverage is blatantly presented as nothing more than an exhibition for MLB draft prospects and the Gators feed right into that. Eight players taken inside the top nine rounds, then you add Jonathan Crawford, Karsten Whitson, Greg Larson, Casey Turgeon and probably about 12 other players I forgot, and Florida has become the Darlings of Bristol.
It would be great to see Kent State reach the finals (and if they played Stony Brook? Wow.) and Arkansas does have a great pitching staff, but most likely Bracket 2 is going to come down to the defending Eastern League Champion Gators and….
South Carolina Not Agains – Chances of winning it all: 20%*, My rooting interest: -100%
Two words: Michael Roth. The way the bracket shakes out, the Gamecocks will go head-to-head in the opening round (Game 4) with a Gator team that has had some struggles versus leftys (their only loss to the Gamecocks this season was a game that Roth started). With all the talk about how much parity we have in college baseball this year, an opening round win for the Cocks would give them the inside track to the championship series. A championship series with Michael Roth pitching Game 1. And Matt Price waiting in the bullpen. SOB. That’s just what the college baseball cyber world needs, a fanbase boasting about 3 in a row. Although it would be funny to see Keith Law once again be perplexed as to how a team with “less talent” could win in Omaha.
*Automatically add/subtract 10% with a game 4 win/loss.
Sorry I didn’t have much on the SEC teams but it’s not like it’s hard to find coverage on them anywhere else.