Southern University Jaguars
Record: 30-15 (17-6)
Offense: Actually, SU can hit. They hit 313/418/508 as a team and average 7.8 runs per game. Eight different Jaguar regulars hit at least 300 and seven have an OBP of at least 400. It's not often that LSU runs into a team that can reasonably argue it is a better offensive club, but this might be the one. Probably not when you account for the difference in quality of competition, but Southern can boast a pretty stout lineup. There are no easy outs.
Defense: See all the positive things I said about the hitting? The pitching does not exactly stink, but it does not scare you. The defense is cover-your-eyes awful, as SU committed 85 errors on the season, almost 2 per game. They allowed 52 unearned runs on the season. The rotation is fairly nondescript and the bullpen almost non-existent.
Why They Can Win: SU has two things going for them: a deep lineup and a lack of fear of LSU. SU is used to coming into the Box and surely won't be awed by the rowdy atmosphere. They can score runs in bunches and are never out of any game.
Why They Won't Win: They are 0-4 versus the RPI top 50. They can score a lot of runs, but they are going to need to because they lack a frontline starter or a bullpen ace. This team gives up runs in bunches. And, to start a theme for the whole region: they lack the one thing you need to beat LSU, a left-handed pitcher.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Record: 38-17 (17-6)
Offense: Derek McCallum. Derek Friggin' McCallum. 404/482/737. 6 stolen bases, 17 home runs, and 79 RBI. The guy is arguably the best player in the region and certainly the best hitter. He's the man. Minnesota is a small ball team which loves to run (76 on 101 attempts) and bunt (35 sacs). It all sets up for McCallum who hit about a third of the team's homers and scored or drove in about a quarter of the team's runs. It's all about shutting one guy down, but one hell of a guy.
Defense: Buske (3.36), Rosin (4.08), and Handran (4.30) form a pretty good rotation. Unfortunately for the Gophers, they are all righties. See the trend? Scott Matyas (14 saves, 40 K, 7 BB) is a pretty stout reliever. One of the keys to postseason success is a good pen, and the Gophers have that. Once again, a righty.
Why They Can Win: McCallum can win a game by himself. Small ball does have the virtue of putting pressure on the defense to make plays. Minnesota will try and give you outs, but you have to take them. The Gophers are a solid, well-coached team who will not beat themselves.
Why They Won't: McCallum is just one man. The rotation is solid, but they don't have a guy who can take over the game. And I think my views on small ball are well-documented.
Record: 29-24 (10-16)
Offense: Baylor has a trio of terrific hitters: Dickerson (381/437/595), Hansen (333/393/633), and Miller (328/430/581). They have 38 HR, 143 R, and 144 RBI between them. Baylor hits 301/379/481 as a team, but they struggle to score runs, at least comparatively speaking. They do everything decently, but excel at nothing.
Defense: Baylor has about six different starters, mainly because not one of them has an ERA below 4.50. And what do you think I'm going to say next? That's right, they are almost all righties. Only Miller is a lefty, and he boasts a 5.48 ERA. It's a team that never found its identity.
Why They Can Win: They have tons of talent, and were a trendy preseason pick. It never quite happened that way, but it's not like this team is devoid of talent. On a personal note, I went to law school there, so I have a soft spot for the Bears. They'll probably win just to spite me and my undergrad alma mater.
Why They Won't: They are suddenly going to put it together now? They were the eighth best team in the Big 12 over the course of the season. This team is probably going to continue to underachieve. And even at their peak, are they as good as LSU? Or Minnesota? And sports don't exist solely to spite me, it just seems that way.
Ed. note: Open thread to appear at noon.