5/24/2011 10:40:05 AM
As always in the conference tournaments, motivation is a big factor in these games. In 2010 Texas was swept in the round robin style tournament and still was a top-8 national seed. Pitching matchups play a key factor as well and some coaches throw their aces on short rest in game one and some choose to save them until later in the tournament. This Big 12 tournament should be a great one with a few teams battling for their postseason lives. The tournament format is changing this year to a double elimination format, so it should make for some interesting games. If a team was to lose game one and win the championship, they would have to win five straight games over the course of four days, so obviously pitching depth will play a large role.
In Division One, Texas is the obvious favorite after sharing the regular season Big 12 title with Texas A&M. The Horns only lost one weekend series all season long and have been one of the most consistent teams all season. Their pitching staff is one of the elite in the country and their have the depth to last in this tournament. Will they be motivated? The Horns have already locked up a national seed and could go 0-2 and still host all the way to Omaha. Baylor has played great baseball lately (beating Nebraska, OSU, and Oklahoma the past three weekends) and have Logan Verrett leading their pitching staff on Wednesday against Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State has really struggled down the stretch (losers of 8 of their last 11 games) but have the quality arms to last in this tournament.
Prediction: In Bracket One, everything comes down to game one Texas vs Missouri. Texas is throwing a true freshman in Nathan Thornhill and while Texas and Missouri are miles apart in terms of talent, I could see Missouri pulling the one game upset with their ace Stites on the mound. If the Horns win game one, this bracket is all but done because Texas would have a HUGE pitching advantage in every game left. Logan Verrett and Mike Strong should give fans a great first game to the tournament, but both teams would be burning their aces in game one and would be a HUGE underdog against future first rounder Taylor Jungmann in game two. Missouri has been playing well down the stretch and would have to win the tournament to get a bid next week, so I could very well see them pulling the upset in game one over Texas and throwing this entire bracket into a frenzie. I'll still take the small-ball Longhorns to win a very close game against Missouri and then blow the doors down in the rest of the games to win Bracket One.
Division Two is completely wide open. Texas A&M is the favorite, but Oklahoma and Kansas State pose big threats in this division. The Aggies have one of the best pitching staff's in the country and have most likely locked up a national seed, so will they be motivated? Oklahoma has been inconsistent all season long and actually lost weekend series to Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Baylor this season. The Sooners have the pitching staff to stack up well in a long-tournament like this, so their bats will need to come alive. Kansas State is most likely the most motivated of any team in the tournament, as a 0-2 showing might put them on the outside of the regional selections next week.
Prediction: Texas A&M should be able to take care of Texas Tech in game one no matter who they throw, and Kyle Hunter (KSU) against Michael Rocha (OU) should be a great matchup at 7:30 on Wednesday. Hunter beat Rocha earlier this season 2-0, but I like Oklahoma to get revenge and rise to the occasion at Brick Town. A lot in this division will depend on how the Aggies setup their pitching rotation this week, but with Burch Smith going in game two for Oklahoma, I like their chances. Everything in this bracket IMO comes down to game #8 (thursday @ 7:30), as the two winners will square off. I expect this to be A&M vs Oklahoma, with the winner setting up perfectly for a run at the championship and the loser needing to rattle off three straight wins just to win the bracket. Stilson (if he throws there) could win that game and push A&M into national seed lock, but I still think Oklahoma wins this bracket. They have the best offense in the Big 12 and have a deep starting pitching staff, so I like Oklahoma to advance.
Championship Game: Oklahoma in a close one. Texas would most likely have the pitching advantage in this game, but I have a feeling Oklahoma's bats surge this weekend and show why they were considered the team to beat in the Big 12 in the preseason. Either way, I like both Texas and Oklahoma to get to Omaha this season with Texas being a serious national title contender.
edited by TW on 5/24/2011
edited by TW on 5/24/2011