Seven of nine teams from the Big 12 Conference will compete in the NCAA baseball regionals this weekend.
This gives the Big 12 Conference, by far, the highest percentage of teams to be selected into the NCAA baseball regionals. Nearly 78 percent of the Big 12 teams were selected to participate in the field of 64. All nine teams finished the season in the top 100 for RPI (Ratings Percentage Index, for those new to the NCAA sports scene). Despite having an atrocious pre-conference season, the youthful lineup Kansas placed on the field day in and day out, had a chance to score an at large bid entering the final weekend of the regular season.
The Big 12 is a baseball conference. As strong as it is in basketball and football, this conference has overtaken the SEC as the best baseball conference in the nation. It’s not even close. Over 22 percent of the teams in the Big 12 are a national seed. The conference beat itself up so much, the four teams who were on the bubble for a hosting bid had to settle for two seeds.
In two of the past three seasons, three Big 12 teams have advanced to the College World Series. TCU has advanced to the College World Series in each of the past three seasons. Texas Tech has made two appearances in the past three years. Texas and Oklahoma State have also appeared. Let’s not forget about the astonishing display Texas Tech’s Eric Gutierrez put on in the 2014 College Home Run Derby. He belted 52 total home runs before conceding to Tres Barrera of Texas, who blasted 25 in the final round alone.
While the Big 12 Conference has the highest percentage of teams, it cannot claim the title for the most teams. That belongs to the SEC, who placed in eight of 14 teams. Sure, the SEC got in the second highest percentage of teams, but just 57 percent. Also, let’s consider the NCAA selection committee as generous towards their conference. Both Texas A&M and Auburn entered Sunday below Connecticut, Miami (FL) and McNeese State in the RPI. None of these teams played Sunday. Another stout baseball conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference, tied the Big 12 with seven teams. However, the ACC fields 14 baseball teams, so only 50 percent of their conference made the field. Other notable conferences include the Big Ten Conference (5 of 13 for 38.5 percent) and the Pac 12 (4 of 11 for 36.4 percent). Two non-power five conferences held notable percentages as well. The American Athletic Conference placed in three of eight teams, including regional host Houston. This was good enough for a 37.5 percentage rating. It would have been higher had A) East Carolina upset Houston Sunday or B) Connecticut didn’t get snubbed for an SEC team. The Big East, whose most southern team is Georgetown, placed in three of its seven teams for an astonishing 42.9 percent. Geography is important here because northern teams usually struggle to get practices, and sometimes even games, going due to cooler climates. Many feel Joe Nathan was an integral part in Stony Brook’s run to the 2012 College World Series because he donated an all-turf facility to the program.
Now for the actual tournament itself. Below we show you who was sent where, and give a brief statement about the regional. More in-depth analysis will be provided throughout the week through Periscope, Twitter and right here at HeartlandCollegeSports.com
Paired with the Tallahassee Regional
1.Texas Tech (National Seed #5)
3.Sam Houston State
The NCAA loves starting up old rivalries. Texas Tech used to run the Border Conference before it moved to the Southwest Conference. Arizona seemed like Tech’s little brother in the conference. It was a strong rivalry for the two schools. Some of the older Tech fans would love to see the rivalry renewed.
Sam Houston State was thrown here for punishment instead of being sent to Houston or Fort Worth. The Bearkats had to win the automatic bid in a conference that had high RPI ratings for Southeastern Louisiana and a snubbed McNeese State team.
Fort Worth Regional
Paired with the Fayetteville Regional
1.TCU (National Seed #6)
4.Central Connecticut State
This regional is where controversy was stirred up. Many felt were stunned to see Clemson picked as a regional host over Virginia. To make matters worse, Virginia was sent to the central time zone and placed into a regional with a national seed.
Dallas Baptist was tossed in here specifically to ignite a D/FW metroplex rivalry. It’s not a heated rivalry, but the Patriots boast a program that has earned the respect of college baseball fans all over the nation.
Paired with the Fort Worth Regional
This is the definition of a true regional. Every team comes from a state bordering Arkansas. Oklahoma State and Missouri State are about equal distance from Fayetteville. Tulsa, where Oral Roberts is located, is the closest. All of these teams featured top 100 RPIs. Missouri State received an at-large bid from the Missouri Valley Conference.
Long Beach Regional
Paired with the Stanford Regional
1.Long Beach State
4.San Diego State
It’s no surprise Texas wound up being placed in California. The Longhorns have a history of traveling west during the regular season. It’s a valuable program that can draw a crowd in the state too. The most excited Texas fan of all may be Matthew McConaughey. Texas finally found a way to win at places not named UFCU Disch Faulk Field this past week at the Big 12 Tournament.
Paired with the Lexington Regional
1.Louisville (National Seed #7)
If the Big 12 Conference added Louisville over West Virginia, it would actually make the strongest conference even stronger. The Cardinals have a College World Series history, not to mention the city is the home of Louisville Slugger headquarters. As much love as the basketball team receives, it’s a baseball town.
Paired with the Gainesville Regional
The Nomads hope their season does not end in the same state where it began. West Virginia started the year 1-2 after a road trip to Charlotte. However, they bounced back the following week by going undefeated in the state of South Carolina. With a 20-16 record outside of the comforts of their home ballpark, I like West Virginia’s chances here. They’re proven road warriors.
Paired with the Chapel Hill Regional
As I mentioned above, the NCAA loves to recreate rivalries. You might as well call this the Southwest Conference Tournament. Three of the old foes are in this tournament. There is going to be some good ol’ fashioned hate in the stands. Iowa is the obvious elephant in the room. Believe it or not, there are some Hawkeyes fans in the Houston area. I used to work with one of Hayden Fry’s old players when I covered high school sports in the area.
You can find the NCAA baseball regionals full bracket and follow along with live scoring updates here.
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