Congratulations UCLA. You have been awarded a home game in the NCAA baseball tournament. Your reward – the No. 6 national seed and a brutal opening round regional. The Bruins will welcome LSU and UC Irvine to LA this week with a trip to the Super Regional on the line.
The Los Angeles regional is the toughest of the draws with the defending champs coming across the country to begin its title defense. LSU has finished the year hot and is playing its best ball at the right time. With UC Irvine in the regional as well, there is a lot of Omaha experience in LA.
That is one of 16 regionals announced today as the start of the march to Omaha begins. The UCLA bracket will be a fun one to watch; unfortunately it was not picked up by ESPN. The two featured regionals will be the Coral Gables Regional and the Fullerton Regional.
The Coral Gables Regional will have Miami against Dartmouth and Texas A&M against Florida International. The story to watch in this regional will be FIU’s Garrett Wittles. He will bring a 54 game hitting streak into the regional, just four shy of the NCAA record. I watched Chris Andres finish the season with a 26-game hitting streak. These things are not easy, and the fact that he has a 54 game streak is amazing. While his chances of advancing are remote, I hope he gets four games and a chance to at least tie Robin Ventura’s record of 58.
The other televised regional I have virtually no interest in and probably won’t watch much of it.
I will of course be looking forward to the two Texas Regionals, but I am a bit bummed they are paired up against each other in the Super Regional.
Texas cost itself a shot at the No. 1 overall seed by dropping all three games in the Big 12 tournament and will host Louisiana-Lafayette and Rider to Austin along with perennial tournament power Rice. The Owls are down this year by Rice’s standards, but are no strangers to the tournament and won’t be fazed by the Longhorn crowd.
The Fort Worth Regional features this year’s lone Southland team, Lamar. The Cards made a great run in the Southland Tournament, but will probably be out in two here. Baylor got hot late and Arizona is kind of the surprise entry here. Two former SWC rivals will hook up for a trip to the Super Regional.
There are three other regionals that will be worth watching this weekend. The Charlottesville Regional, the Norwich Regional and the Norman Regional all have interesting stories that should be fun to follow.
In Virginia, the Cavaliers will welcome last year’s Super Regional partner Ole Miss. The two teams played a great three game series last season and will battle it out to get back there this season. Add in a 40-win St. John’s team and this will make for a good regional.
In Connecticut, we have the interesting situation where UConn is the host team despite not being the No. 1 seed in the regional. Florida State won the ACC Tournament and will have to make the trip up to Connecticut as the top seed. It is the second straight year the ACC Tournament champ has been sent on the road (Virginia).
The other intriguing regional is in Oklahoma. The Sooners get to play host to the other interesting ACC story. North Carolina makes it into the field despite not qualifying for the ACC Tournament. The Tar Heels advanced to Omaha the last four years and will try to make it five as the No. 3 seed in Norman.
I am looking forward to seeing it all play out as I, along with 64 teams start making plans for Omaha.