Thursday, June 4, 2009

Our Take on the Super Regionals

Andrew Carraway and his Cavalier teammates hope to be celebrating again this weekend

In case you missed it, last weekend was a great weekend for college baseball and it is shaping up to be one of the better fields in recent memory for the trip to Omaha next week. While we all love a good Cinderella story, when it comes to championships, I want the best to face the best and see who is left standing. With a record tying thirteen #1 seeds advancing out of Regional play, that’s just what we have shaping up. Personally, we only went 10-6 last week, but Vanderbilt and Oregon State came close to making us look like geniuses, so I’ll take it as we head into this weekend’s Super Regional Match-ups. Here is our take on a series by series basis.

Rice (43-16) at LSU (49-16)
Let’s kick things off with the best match-up of the weekend. LSU was the #3 seed entering the tournament, and they ended up with a matchup against a team that had a strong case for their own National Seed. If you look at most of the polls, you will find LSU to be the consensus #1 team in the country right now, as they enter this game riding an eight game winning streak, and the best record in the country against Top 50 opponents. It should be a great match-up, and without a doubt Anthony Ranaudo is the best pitcher that will be in Baton Rouge this weekend. But despite the fact that Super Regional Hosts win 66% of the time and everything else the Tigers have going for them, I think the Game #2 and Game #3 pitching matchups decidedly favor the Owls and look for them to pull off the upset.

Virginia (46-12) at Mississippi (43-18)
The Cavaliers have quickly become one of my personal favorites for persevering through what was easily the worst hand dealt to any team in this tournament. They were impressive in winning the Irvine Regional—clearly the Tournament’s toughest. They have to travel to Oxford this weekend, trying to become only the 9th team in twelve years to win both the Regional and Super Regional on the road—That’s pretty big odds. What they do have in their favor though is deep and talented starting pitching. Friday’s first game should be a great match-up, but the Cavaliers would hold the decided advantage in Games #2 and #3, so in another upset, I’ll take the Cavaliers to advance.

Louisville (47-16) at Cal State-Fullerton (45-14)
I didn’t pick Louisville to survive last weekend at home and certainly won’t be picking them against one of the Top 3 teams in the tourney on the road. This, to me, appears to be the biggest mismatch of this round, as I don’t find Louisville’s talent competitive in any facet of the game. I will be shocked if this goes more than two games.

Arkansas (37-22) at Florida State (45-16)
The Razorbacks took out a talented team in Norman, OK last weekend and it wouldn’t totally surprise me if they did the same in Tallahassee, but the Seminoles have been one of the hottest teams over the last six weeks, going 24-4 during that stretch. The game #1 pitching match-up looks to be about dead-even and game #2 has a decidedly Seminole slant. If the ‘noles can knock off Keuchel in game #1, I think they sweep. If they don’t and we get to a game #3, neither of these teams have much of a #3 starter. Based on the thumping the Seminoles put on the backend of Ohio State’s rotation last weekend, I’d still call them the favorite—but I am sure they’d rather not take their chances with a 3rd game.

TCU (39-16) at Texas (44-13)
It certainly looked like the Horned Frogs were going to a 4th game on Sunday night against Oregon State, but a late inning rally sealed the deal and they get to take on a Longhorn team that breezed through their Regional in Austin. I’d have a hard time seeing TCU winning either of the first two games, but even if they did manage to squeak one out, Texas holds a huge advantage among #3 starters. Expect the Tournament’s #1 seed to advance rather easily.

Southern Miss (38-24) at Florida (42-20)
You’ll hear me point out when I told you something surprising would happen and it does. Likewise, I’ll tell you when I miss something badly. Southern Miss was the one team that I thought really didn’t belong in the field when it was announced. Although they weren’t in the strongest Region, there were two teams (Georgia Tech and Elon) that were clearly better. Yet here we sit a week later looking at the Golden Eagles taking on the Gators in Gainesville. Make no mistake, I am not high on the Gators, as I think they were clearly the weakest of the National Seeds. I find their starting pitching frightening, and there are few teams of the remaining 16 that I would favor them against. But Southern Miss is still out of their league here, as even after last weekend’s Regional win, they are still just 7-10 on the year against Top 50 teams. Stranger things have happened, but I think the Golden Eagle run ends right here.

East Carolina (46-18) at North Carolina (45-16)
This Super Regional pits one of the Tournament’s most consistent/true to form teams, the Pirates, against probably the Tournament’s most inconsistent teams. With talents like Dustin Ackley, Alex White and Matt Harvey, North Carolina could beat anyone on any given day. But that rotation has been up and down more than an elevator. The two teams split their home and home series during the regular season, and Chapel Hill should be rocking this weekend, as only about 100 miles separate the two schools. I’ll take the talent in this matchup, but certainly won’t be shocked if the Pirates pull off an upset.

Clemson (44-20) at Arizona State (47-12)
Arizona State has been my favorite to win it all for over a month now, and their waltz through the Tempe Regional last weekend did nothing to dissuade me. While Chris Dwyer and Tony Delk give the Tigers a formidable 1-2 punch at the front of the rotation, one of them is going to have to go up against the Nation’s most consistent pitcher—not named Strasburg, in Mike Leake. Leake has become the closest thing to an automatic ‘W’ in the tournament and should handle his first round opponent. While Clemson could squeak out a win in game#2, I just don’t believe the Tigers have the pitching depth to win this in a game #3.

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