Where Will the Aggies Go?

The TExas A&M baseball team will learn its fate today at 11:30 as the NCAA will unveil its field of 64 for this year's NCAA Baseball Tournament. While the Aggies will surely have their name called, Aggie Websider's Lanny Hayes takes a look at where the Aggies will be traveling for next week's regional

The Texas A&M baseball team will receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament this morning, but much discussion surrounds where the team will end up once brackets are announced.

First, to understand where, it's probably important to understand who the committee sees A&M as. It's common knowledge that not all one-seeds are created equal, and while geography is a primary concern for where to send lower seeds, the NCAA traditionally tries to avoid placing "high #2 seeds" with nationally seeded squads. Naturally, this is to protect those coveted top eight teams.

There's absolutely no doubt that A&M would be classified as one of those clubs. A&M's final resume featured the #15 RPI in the country, the #9 non-conference RPI, and all of this against the sixth hardest schedule in the country. Four of A&M's weekend non-conference opponents will be in the NCAAs after winning their league's automatic bid; including Wright State, UC-Irvine, Rice, and Utah. The Aggies went 8-2 against that group.

With A&M established as a very high #2 seed, we can discuss where they can be sent. First, by rule, A&M cannot be sent to Austin or Norman – the league protects conference teams from each other during the opening round.

Next, the league will consider geography. Unless rules have changed and the memo missed my eyes, the NCAA has a 450 mile rule that delineates the "ride the bus" teams from the "catch a flight" teams. Obviously, since the NCAA is paying the tab, they certainly prefer to keep the flying to a minimum. Only three sites fit that profile; Rice, TCU and LSU.

Louisiana State has had a tremendous season, winning both the SEC regular season and tournament championships. Most analysts see the Tigers as one of the top three seeds in the entire tournament. While A&M being shipped to LSU is certainly a possibility, and the Tigers (on paper) should defeat the Aggies, it would certainly provide a much more difficult draw to a team that has, in theory, earned a somewhat easier path to the Super Regional round.

A&M and Rice have effectively become true rivals on the diamond, and the only thing that would keep the NCAA from matching the two up, frankly, is their own creative ability. Every single year that A&M has made the NCAA tournament this decade, they were paired with the Owls somewhere before Omaha. All of A&M's #1 seeds (2003, 2007, 2008) were paired with the Owls, while A&M's other #2 seed (2004) saw them shipped to (and winning) the Rice Regional. If the NCAA really doesn't care that A&M and Rice seemingly always cross paths in this part of the season, you'll probably see the Ags at Reckling Park this weekend. However, it's really become old hat and even the NCAA is probably getting bored with the pairing. I'd call this situation unlikely unless the committee really has nowhere else to send A&M.

That leaves TCU as the most likely location for the Aggies, and it fits on nearly every level. The Horned Frogs boast a Top 8 RPI and were the regular season champions from the Mountain West Conference, but stumbled in their league tournament and have an 8-9 record against Top 50 RPI opponents. Their profile suggests that they'll be a #1 seed, but not a serious contender for a national seed. Matching them with a high #2 like A&M is sensible.

Next, the geography is all right. The trip from Fort Worth to College Station, even by bus, is just a few hours long. Toss in the fact that the NCAA likes to provide revenue generating opportunities for host schools, and A&M fans would likely turn the TCU campus into Olsen Field North, and the suggestions keep adding up. In perhaps a minor tip-off, TCU is advertising all-session passes at $60 and single game tickets at $20 each. There's only one college fan base in America that's used to paying that kind of exorbitant prices to watch a baseball game.

If it is TCU and A&M as the top two seeds in Fort Worth, expect Dallas Baptist to be the third seed. The fourth seed will likely come from the northeast, as many of those schools will have to fly anyway and DFW is an incredibly easy airport to connect to.

When all is said and done, the odds heavily favor A&M traveling to Fort Worth. If not Fort Worth, put Houston or Baton Rouge at about even odds. If, for some reason, the committee doesn't keep A&M within the busing distance, don't expect them to be anywhere close to College Station. There's plenty of teams playing baseball in the south, so if a plane trip comes, expect a flight to one of the coasts (ASU, Irvine, Clemson, ECU, UF are potential suitors).

The NCAA selection show will be televised on ESPN at 11:30, central. Aggie Websider will have news, notes, and discussion once the field is revealed.


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