The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Super Regional Predictions

College baseball’s Super Regionals will take place this weekend. As you may know, last week, I attempted to predict what would happen in the sixteen regionals that took place throughout the country. Before I get into my predictions and commentary on this weekend’s action, let’s review my hits and misses regarding last weekend’s action:

Complete Misses
No, I didn’t see Stanford or Rice being eliminated prior to the Super Regionals. In fact, I thought that both clubs would make it to College World Series, and I was particularly looking forward to the Rice – LSU Super Regional. Looks like I got a little ahead of myself though. While three Rice players were drafted in the top ten of this week’s Major League Baseball draft, their raw talent alone wasn’t enough to get them out of their regional, as Texas A&M fought against the odds and survived (the Aggies will go on to face the LSU Tigers in Baton Rogue this weekend).

Stanford’s elimination at the hands of Long Beach State was probably relatively more expected than Rice being eliminated. That said, I didn’t see it coming. Long Beach State appears to be back more towards their mid-season form, rather than the team we saw late in the season, which suffered sweeps at the hands of Cal State-Fullerton and Miami. LBSU does have two ace pitchers - as their top two starters were taken in the first two rounds of this week's draft - but Stanford is still Stanford, or at least we all thought they were going into the weekend. Stanford's loss in the regionals ends their stunning streak of consecutive College World Series appearances at five.

Foul Balls
There were a number of regionals where I was close to the mark, but still a little off. Possibly most notably was the Fullerton regional, where I felt that Arizona State would likely struggle, but still win the regional. It turned out that I was way off on that one (as was the selection committee in all likelihood), as the Sun Devils didn’t even make it to the final day of the regional.

Notre Dame’s demise was correctly predicted here last week, although I tabbed the wrong victor. Arizona did the eliminating, not the Cal-Irvine Anteaters. The same held true with Mississippi, who I didn’t think would survive the weekend. They didn’t, but Tulane did and not Washington, as I had predicted.

Like with Arizona State, I thought that Florida would struggle out in Oklahoma, but they didn’t really. They coasted and will face the Hurricanes in Coral Gables this weekend.

Right On
There were a few regionals where I was fairly well on the mark. Texas, Florida State, South Carolina, and Miami were nearly all gimmies. At least I got those right. I also correctly predicted Vanderbilt upsetting top seeded and host-team Virginia.

All in all, of the 16 teams that remain alive in College Baseball’s Post-season, I predicted twelve of them last week. If this were an office basketball pool, that would be a pretty good success rate. If I can predict 75% again this weekend, that would mean that I would be correct about 6 of the eight teams that advance to Omaha – a figure that I’d be pretty happy with, but I’d say that’s likely too optimistic. Anyways, here we go with my fearless forecast for the Super Regionals (ordered somewhat randomly):

Vanderbilt vs. Texas in Austin, TX
The Longhorns are the top seeded team in the tournament and most everyone’s pick to win the whole thing, particularly with Rice and Stanford out of the equation now. Vanderbilt is a tough team though – they nearly won the SEC tournament a few weeks back. I don’t think it will be enough though. Texas in three.

Florida State vs. Arkansas in Fayetteville, AR
Arkansas received a national seed, although the merits of the Razorbacks receiving it could be easily debated. One team that could argue they deserved the seed more than the Arkansas is Florida State. This weekend the Seminoles will get the chance to prove it. Seminoles in three.

Arizona vs. Long Beach State in Long Beach, CA
The Arizona Wildcats are a definite darkhorse (or Cinderalla) in this tournament. To think they could topple mighty Long Beach is a bit of a stretch. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jered Weaver quickly dispatch of the Cats on Friday and return out of the bullpen if necessary on Sunday. Long Beach State in two.

Georgia vs. Georgia Tech in Atlanta, GA
Sounds like a great matchup, doesn’t it? Although I don’t know too much about the specifics of these two clubs, I would imagine that many of the players know each other, played against each other in high school, etc. That always makes for an interesting series. During the regular season these clubs met three times: each team lost once at the other’s stadium, and Georgia Tech won the rubber match at Turner Field, giving them a 2 – 1 series edge. Georgia Tech will be favored in this series, but Georgia could easily surprise. My gut feeling here is that this will be one of the best Super Regionals this weekend. Georgia in three games.

East Carolina vs. South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina
These are honestly the two teams that I know the least about, on every possible level. I don’t even know much about either school’s football program (although I was happy to see Miami defeat the ECU Pirates last season, though it still does nothing to wipe away the memories of the 1996 Pirates win at the Orange Bowl). Actually, I do know a little of one of these teams. I saw South Carolina defeat Vanderbilt for the SEC tournament championship (on television). Still, that does not make me any kind of an expert, so I’ll go with the easy pick here: South Carolina in three games.

Tulane vs. Cal State-Fullerton in Fullerton, CA
I would love to think that the Green Wave of Tulane (hey – apparently this another color of wave other than blue, I apologize to the Florida Atlantic faithful) could go into Fullerton and take two of three from the Titans. But I gave up hope in the tooth fairy and other such fanciful things a long time ago. Fullerton in two.

Texas A&M vs. Louisiana State in Baton Rogue, LA
That last part – vs. Louisiana State in Baton Rogue, LA – strikes fear into the heart of most every college baseball fan. Of the pre-eminent powers in college baseball, LSU is always on the short list, with the Tigers having won five national titles since 1990 (including one on Warren Morris’s pinch hit home run in the 9th inning of the 1996 Championship game against Miami – I can still see Alex Cora collapsing onto the infield). Going into Alex Box Stadium and winning two of three games under any circumstances is a tall order. But for Texas A&M, going into Rice’s den and defeating the defending national champions and their deep arsenal of pitchers was no less challenging of a task, and the Aggies accomplished that without any harm. Texas A&M in three.

Florida vs. Miami in Coral Gables, FL
The Hurricanes and Gators are regular foes. Up until last year, they played six times annually during the regular season, three times at each team’s home field. Starting this year, they’ve reduced that to three games in one of the team’s parks. Miami took two of those three games this year. Last year, in the regionals, Miami and Florida split their two games, but by winning the second game, the Canes eliminated the Gators and advanced to the Super Regionals (and ultimately the College World Series).

Throw all that out the window though, because this is Gators and Canes. Regardless of the sport or extra-curricular activity, when you throw these two opponents against each other for much of anything you’re likely to get a long, drawn out grudge match. The Gators will bring the best player between the teams to the matchup in Justin Hoyman, and he will likely start the opener. Hoyman was the Gators pitcher in their lone win against the Canes this season, and he stifled the Canes offense. That was early in the year though. Before Jon Jay, Roger Tomas, Cesar Carillo, and others emerged for the Canes. The Gators matured and gelled as a team since that time too, so it’s nearly impossible to predict what will happen in this weekend’s matchup.

The Canes are the higher seeded and higher ranked team, and they’re playing at home. All signs point to the Canes winning this series, however it’s difficult for me to think that the Canes could sweep it. Miami in three.

To summarize, that leaves my College World Series predictions looking like this (ranked in a preliminary predicted order of finish):

Texas A&M
Florida State
Long Beach State
South Carolina


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