College : : Story
Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Postseason overview

Kendall Rogers        

The NCAA Selection Committee announced the postseason field of 64 on Monday, and it's now time to start breaking down the overall field and individual NCAA Regionals.


Our postseason coverage begins with an in-depth overview of the field.

Toughest regionals

1. Starkville: Despite putting together an impressive run at the SEC tournament, the NCAA certainly didn't do the Bulldogs any favors when it comes to their NCAA Regional draw. Mississippi State must face Central Arkansas, a team that should be a No. 3 seed, in the first game. It also should be noted UCA actually took two of three from the Bulldogs on the road earlier this season. Meanwhile, both South Alabama and Mercer have impressive offensive lineups with just enough pitching to make some noise.

2. Blacksburg: Oklahoma hasn't played a great brand of baseball for much of the season, but did play very well in last week's Big 12 tournament. That should be reason enough for concern if you're Virginia Tech and others. The Sooners, if they hit, are an elite type of team with starting pitchers Jonathan Gray and Dillon Overton leading the charge. That's only the tip of the iceberg in this NCAA Regional, as Coastal Carolina has the pitching and offense to make noise, and Connecticut is one of the nation's hottest teams after winning the Big East tournament.

3. Columbia: I'm not sure if this NCAA Regional is quite as tough as the others, but it's always challenging when you must face an arch-rival in the NCAA postseason. For the second-straight season, Clemson heads to South Carolina, and certainly will give the Gamecocks some stiff competition. Meanwhile, Liberty is a very solid club and has an elite reliever in Ashton Perritt, among other quality arms, while Saint Louis is a very tough No. 4 seed with some quality wins this spring.

4. Los Angeles: This will be a very challenging, but exciting NCAA Regional for all the teams involved. UCLA has a very solid weekend rotation, while San Diego State has the potential to be a scary No. 4 seed with pitchers such as Michael Cederoth, Philip Walby and others leading the charge. Meanwhile, we all know what hard-hitting third baseman Kris Bryant and San Diego are capable of, while Cal Poly is a very solid club with Joey Wagman and Matt Imhof, among others, leading the way. Anyone could come out of this NCAA Regional.

5. Manhattan: This is one of the more balanced NCAA Regionals out there with Kansas State, Wichita State, Arkansas and Bryant involved. The Wildcats have an impressive offensive lineup, WSU has the talent to beat anyone, Arkansas is the favorite with starting pitchers Ryne Stanek and Barrett Astin leading the charge, and Bryant is a scary club with ace pitcher Peter Kelich as the headliner. Host K-State will have a tough time escaping this NCAA Regional.

Easiest regionals

1. Chapel Hill: Never say never, but it would be a shocker if the Tar Heels didn't escape from this NCAA Regional. UNC will play Canisius in the opening game, and should get through Florida Atlantic despite the fact the Owls are one of the hottest teams in the country. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels also have a relatively easy draw as a No. 3 seed with Towson, which enters the postseason with an RPI of 90.

2. Charlottesville: The Cavaliers certainly wouldn't admit this, but it would be a huge surprise if they didn't advance to an NCAA Super Regional. The Cavaliers draw Army in the second game, and if they win, will either play UNC Wilmington or Elon in the second game. UNCW is a dangerous club with Mat Batts leading the way on the mound, while Elon is in the postseason after getting hot in the SoCon tournament.

3. Baton Rouge: We wouldn't call the Tigers' draw an absolute cakewalk, but it's certainly very favorable. The Tigers open postseason play against weak Jackson State before facing either Louisiana-Lafayette and Sam Houston State. ULL has a very solid offensive lineup, but likely will throw ace pitcher Austin Robichaux in the opening game, while SHSU could provide somewhat of a threat with a solid rotation including pitchers Cody Dickson, Tyler Eppler and Caleb Smith.

4. Bloomington: Critics of the Big Ten will say Indiana is overrated, but we disagree. The Hoosiers are a very solid club and could very well end up in the College World Series. The Hoosiers have a solid draw in the first game in Valparaiso, who got hot in the Horizon League tournament, while Austin Peay is sizzling but. The big question with Austin Peay is how will it compete in the postseason environment after successfully doing it in the past, while for Florida, it'll be interesting  to see which team shows up. The Gators have a lot of upside, but haven't always clicked on all cylinders.

5. Eugene: The Ducks are very solid at home, and get a favorable set of teams at P.K Park this weekend. Rice is playing a solid brand of baseball, winning last week's Conference USA tournament, but still doesn't possess an offensive lineup that will overwhelm you. However, do keep an eye on the Rice pitching staff, which has a trio of solid starting pitchers, and a stud reliever in Zech Lemond. Meanwhile, San Francisco is a solid club, but isn't expected to pose a significant threat to the host Ducks.

Four seeds to watch

1. Central Arkansas: Considering the Bears hit the road earlier this season and took two of three from Mississippi State on the road, it's safe to say this is a team to watch in this weekend's Starkville Regional, especially that opening round rematch with the Bulldogs. UCA has a pair of solid starting pitchers in Caleb McClanahan and Bryce Biggerstaff, while Forrestt Allday is a spark plug atop the offensive lineup.

2. San Diego State: The Aztecs got over a huge hump over the weekend by winning the Mountain West tournament over New Mexico. Well, they might just be a team to watch this weekend in the Los Angeles Regional. SDSU has a trio of solid starting pitchers in Ryan Doran, Philip Walby and Michael Cederoth, while at the plate, Tyler France (.313/5/35) had a huge showing at the MWC tournament.

3. Connecticut: Though the Huskies didn't do particularly well in Big East play, they're playing a solid brand of baseball entering the NCAA tournament. UCONN has one of the nation's elite players to watch in second baseman LJ Mazzilli, who's hitting .364 with six homers and 49 RBIs, while starting pitcher Carson Cross can beat anyone, entering the postseason with a 2.50 ERA in 104 1/3 innings.

4. Wichita State: The Shockers used a strong run in the Missouri Valley tournament to make the NCAA postseason. Despite being a No. 4 seed, as usual, this is a very quality club entering the Manhattan Regional. Wichita State has a very good ace pitcher in Cale Elam that will give K-State fits in the opening game. Elam has a 2.60 ERA in 93 1/3 innings, along with 74 strikeouts and 29 walks.

5. Saint Louis: This isn't your typical weak No. 4 seed. The Billikens are an experienced and solid club, and they've been incredibly consistent this spring. Saint Louis has a pair of solid weekend starting pitchers in Alex Alemann and Clay Smith, while Alex Kelly is worth watching at the plate, hitting an impressive .340 with 11 homers and 60 RBIs.

Best potential super regional matchups

1. South Carolina vs. North Carolina: There's already not much love lost between the Gamecocks and Tar Heels over that whole "Carolina" debate. Throw in former UNC assistant Chad Holbrook returning to Chapel Hill, N.C., as an opposing head coach, and this is a very intriguing potential NCAA Super Regional.

2. Vanderbilt vs. Louisville: Though the Cardinals didn't get a national seed, they're elite and likely would've been in the mix if not for a poor showing in the Bg East tournament. The two teams are very familiar with each other, and each possesses an elite pitching staff. 

3. Cal State Fullerton vs. UCLA: This potential NCAA Super Regional might not grab the attention of some on the national stage, but this would be an outstanding series. Fullerton certainly is the better team at this point in the season with more balance, but both teams possess impressive pitching staffs with Thomas Eshelman and Justin Garza for the Titans and Adam Plutko and Nick Vander Tuig for the Bruins.

4. Virginia vs. Mississippi State: The Cavaliers have been incredibly consistent this spring and a series against the Bulldogs would be outstanding. The Cavaliers are more offense oriented this season, while the Bulldogs tend to rely on their deep pitching staff to get the job done, though, the offense isn't bad. This would be a fantastic three-game series.

5. Florida State vs. Indiana: FSU head coach Mike Martin has done one his best coaching jobs this season, and a matchup against Indiana would be a dandy. The Hoosiers have one of the nation's elite offensive lineups with Sam Travis, Kyle Schwarber and Dustin DeMuth leading the charge, while FSU is very balanced.

Hottest teams to watch

1. Florida Atlantic: The Owls already were a safe bet to make the NCAA postseason before the Sun Belt tournament, but only helped their position with a strong run through the tourney, winning the Sun Belt tourney title. FAU is in the midst of an 11-game winning streak and hopes to give top-seeded UNC some growing pains this weekend.

2. Austin Peay State: Folks aren't talking about the Governors, but this is a very solid club that's in the midst of a 15-game winning streak. The Governors have plenty of players to watch, but keep close tabs on sluggers Craig Massoni and Jordan Hankins, who have 16 and 11 homers, respectively.

3. Cal State Fullerton: It's really difficult to be more consistent than the Titans have been this season. Eshelman and Garza have been fantastic on the mound, but two-way star Michael Lorenzen is having a strong campaign, while first baseman Carlos Lopez has a tendency to get big hits. Rick Vanderhook's club is playing at an extremely high level entering the postseason.

4. Virginia Tech: The Hokies earned plenty of recognition earlier this season for capturing huge series win over Virginia and Florida, among others. But they're finally coming together both offensively and on the mound, and that's a development that should scare some teams in this weekend's Blacksburg Regional.

5. Rice: Remember the perennial power Owls? The Owls haven't done enough to warrant a ton of headliners this spring, but they've played well the past couple of weeks, storming through the Conference USA tournament on the way to the C-USA automatic berth into the postseason. Rice has a solid weekend rotation with John Simms, Jordan Stephens and Austin Kubitza leading the way, while reliever Zech Lemond is a power arm that I absolutely love going into the postseason.

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