The Big 12 earned a record eight bids when the NCAA handed out baseball tournament bids yesterday, and smiles must've crept across the faces of any league fan.
What's probably going missed in that mix, however, is how well the Big 12 seeds turned out. Most were either given some sort of tactical advantage that should help through their regional and potential Super Regional matchups. Let's take a quick team-by-team look.
Texas – As predicted, Texas was the number one overall seed in the tournament. Their regional draw is about as good as they can ask for; they matchup with Patriot league champion Army in the first round, and then likely get the winner of upstart Boston College or local Texas State. Expect State to give Texas a run for their money in their first game, as the Bobcats can hit and many Disch-Falk season ticket holders sit spellbound on whether to root for their alma mater or not. Even if TSU miraculously wins that matchup, they're no match for Texas at the back end of their pitching staff…the Longhorns will advance from this one. Deloss Dodds should be salivating over an opportunity to host A&M in a potential super regional, and could probably put up 10,000 temporary seats at $100 each and sell them all out. Bill Byrne may be seen in the shadows, taking notes.
Oklahoma – The Sooners get an unlikely national seed (at least when drawing from the decision matrices of committees past), and don't have to spend significant time on the scouting report. OU played each team in their regional already this year, but without some great results; they lost their one game against Arkansas (8-7, in 10 innings), split with Washington State (in Pullman), and raked Wichita State twice. If OU can exorcise the demons of the earlier season matchups, they'll host the winner of the Florida State regional. FSU is known as a perennial power, and perennial postseason baseball choker, so that could work either way for the Sooners.
Missouri – Missouri and Ole Miss are the new Rice and Texas A&M, as they hooked up last year in precisely the same setting. Can this Missouri team, without Aaron Crow, get a leg up on Ole Miss (who is feeling cold after not getting a national seed)? It's possible, but the Tigers get a scrappy Western Kentucky squad in the first round. Will Tim Jamieseon hold back Kyle Gibson for a potential matchup with Ole Miss, and instead throw Ian Berger or the "new guy per inning" game? I would.
Kansas State – Did KSU get the best possible situation for a two-seed? First, the NCAA committee decides to seed Xavier as the three seed and Sam Houston State as the four in this Rice Regional. SHSU has about as much ownership of Rice baseball as Wayne Graham does, and many feel should've been the three seed instead of the Musketeers. KSU may, and probably should, roll the dice and hold A.J. Ramos for a potential winner's bracket game – a move that should pay off in getting KSU into a championship game situation.
Kansas – The Jayhawks were knee deep in sliding out of the tournament, but had to know they were in good shape when Oklahoma State's name was called early. Kansas should be happy with being in a regional, and with Coastal Carolina and North Carolina looming – at UNC – they're likely three-and-done. If they can capture that magic that swept Texas, though…
Texas A&M – Texas A&M may not win the Fort Worth Regional, but it's hard to not like their chances on paper. A&M went 5-0 against their regional field, but must first beat a program that knows how to win when it counts in Oregon State. If A&M can pound the Beavers, they'll get their shot against a TCU club that earned a Top 8 RPI but couldn't beat a Big 12 foe not named Texas Tech. A&M fans, accustomed to ridiculous ticket prices, will show up for the tournament in droves at $60 each, and turn Lupton Stadium into Olsen Field north. If A&M can get out of that regional, they'll get a chance to discover, firsthand, if 2009 Longhorn baseball bread can rise without Yeast.
Baylor – The Bears were the last at-large team announced into the field, but have a chance to make some noise against Minnesota. Can the Bears put it all together, for one weekend, and take LSU down? Possible, but not likely. That's a tough task to do anywhere, let alone at Alex Box Field…where it doesn't take an acrobatic slam dunk in junk-time to get empty bottles thrown at you.
Oklahoma State – The Cowboys, made the last team to get into the field, spent the last week practicing instead of counting daisies, and may have the best shot to win their regional of any number three seed. A&M saw firsthand how good Andy Oliver can be, and if Tyler Lyons is similarly on his game, someone will have to fight through them twice to get to the Super Regionals. Call me crazy, and you may after reading this column, but OSU has a great shot at playing in the Super Regionals.
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