If Texas wins the regional, it probably will face off vs. Florida State, the nation's top-ranked squad and the No. 1 national seed, in Tallahassee. Although the NCAA only seeds the No. 1s from one to eight (FSU, LSU, Georgia Tech, Auburn, Rice, Stanford, Cal-Fullerton and Miami), the selection committee effectively slotted UT as the No. 16 national seed by placing it in the bracket with the Seminoles, making the Horns' possible road to Omaha an extremely tough one.
But before Texas thinks about hitting the road for a possible Florida showdown, it must take care of business just across I-35 from the Forty Acres. Friday's regional opener for the Horns at the Disch will come against Patriot League champ Bucknell (27-14 overall, 15-5 in league play).
"This will be a great opportunity for our team to face the 2002 national champions," said Bison head coach Gene Depew. "Our upperclassmen have played against top-notch competition in Florida and California, and this will be a new and exciting experience for them. Texas has a rich baseball tradition, and we look forward to the challenge."
Bucknell enters the tourney winners in seven of nine but has surrendered 46 runs over its last four contests. The Bison pitching staff sports an ERA of 4.23 but features the Patriot League Pitcher of the Year in Kevin Miller (8-1, 3.18 ERA), who is the likely starter Friday vs. the Horns. Bucknell also has a solid stopper in Patriot League Rookie of the Year Phil Futrick (0-1, 11 saves, 2.51 ERA).
The Bison bat a pedestrian .280 as a team (the Horns hit a .309 clip), but three regulars average over .300, led by shortstop Ben Stoll (.376, nine doubles, 15 RBI, 28 runs, 15-19 SBs). OF Brian Hirschberg is the team's top power source (six triples, five HRs, 26 RBI).
Arkansas started 30-7 but won only four of its final 17 games, including two one-run losses in the Southeastern Conference Tournament. Southland Conference regular season champ Lamar, ranked 22nd by Collegiate Baseball, received an at-large bid despite dropping two straight in its league tournament. Before their Southland Tournament losses, the Cardinals had won 11 of 13, including a 9-5 win over Rice (their second win over the Owls on the season), which earned the No. 5 overall national seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinals participated in last season's regional at the Disch, losing to Baylor and then eliminating Central Connecticut before being eliminated by the Bears.
Friday's losers will meet at 11 a.m. on Saturday with the opening round winners slated to meet Saturday at 3 p.m.
Note: Big 12 regular season champ Nebraska, like Texas, also received a seeding snub from the NCAA, earning a No. 1 seed and a hosting slot but not a national top eight seed. Texas A&M and Baylor also landed No. 1s (but no top eight), with the Ags hosting a regional and the Bears traveling to No. 2 seed and host Southern Miss. Missouri also earned an at-large bid with a No. 3 seed. Two SEC squads (LSU and Auburn) grabbed top eight national seeds while eight teams from the conference received bids, including Florida, which didn't even qualify for its eight-team league tournament. The ACC also nabbed two top eight national seeds (FSU and Georgia Tech). FYI, the selection committee included former LSU coach and current Tigers AD Skip Bertman. Florida State's AD chaired the committee. The Big 12 did not have a representative. And it showed in the results.