To my chagrin, there was a lot of mobility this week with several teams moving into and out of the top 8 and regional hosting spots. So let's sit down and talk about it.
The National Seeds
Texas A&M, UCLA, Arizona State, LSU, Illinois, USC, Florida State, Louisville
Texas A&M (33-3) retains the top spot with a series win over Mississippi State and looks to keep it this week over Arkansas, a team who is teetering on the bubble. In the same boat is UCLA (25-7) who extracted some revenge on USC this weekend for their earlier win at the Dodgertown Classic, taking 2 games from them and also playing another bubble team, Cal.
Arizona State (23-9) sits just a half game behind UCLA in the race for the PAC-12 regular season title, which is utterly meaningless in the long run. But the Sun Devils made their nest richer following a series win against rivals Arizona and two teams in front of them in the national seed pecking order sliding to the back of the line.
LSU (31-6) hit that magic 30 win mark that all but guarantees a ticket into the postseason for a power conference team, and it's looking very likely that the Tigers will once again clip that coveted 40 win mark. LSU ran into buzzsaw Keegan Thompson on Saturday but took the series against Auburn and will likely see yet another series sweep this weekend against Georgia, who after a hot start have completely fallen off. The Tigers really need to take this series seriously though, and can't get caught forward looking ahead to next week's BATTLE ROYALE.
*LSU pins NEB for the 1-2-3* *sees A&M at the top of the ramp for the next match* *points to Wrestlemaina sign*— Pod KATT (@valleyshook) March 8, 2015
Illinois (28-6) remains the team on fire, riding a 10 game win streak after sweeping Purdue. The IWWWWWWWWWWINI will face off this weekend against Indiana, who is used to being the big boy on the #B1G block and probably won't take kindly to somebody else playing baseball well in the conference. I mean, if the Hoosiers can deal with this, the more power to them.
USC (26-9) dropped the aforementioned series to UCLA and gets Oregon this week. The Trojans didn't get penalized too much because after it's all said and done, they lost a series to the #2 national seeds. It isn't too surprising to see that at all, really.
What WAS surprising was to see Florida State (26-12) get SWEPT by Notre Dame, a team previously on the bubble. The Seminoles were penalized for that pretty harshly, but were able to hang on to a national seed spot. Once again, The Noles will face off against Florida in the midweek in another huge matchup with a lot on the line, more so for the Gators.
Louisville (27-8) is the newcomer in the top 8, taking advantage of Vanderbilt sliding out (more on that in a second) and a series victory against Duke following a sleep on Virginia, who I will also touch on later. The Cardinals will continuing the most interesting midweek schedule of any team with a game against Ohio State Tuesday night before hosting Wake Forest.
Vanderbilt, UC Santa Barbara, TCU, Oklahoma State, Miami (FL), Florida, Rice, FAU
Ole Miss walked into Nashville and did exactly what I said they wouldn't do: steal a series from Vanderbilt (28-9). And make no mistake, they did steal that series with the help of a 16 inning contest on Friday and 5-4 win on Saturday to win the series. In the long run, that was a bigger negative for Vanderbilt than it was a positive for Ole Miss. The Commodores slid out of the national seed fraternity but in my mind I view them as the first team in the pecking order to get back in.
UC Santa Barbara (26-8) continued running roughshod over the West Coast. Notice I said "West Coast" and not "Big West Conference". The Gauchos knocked bubble team Cal State Northridge out of the field of 64 after taking the series which, oh by the way, they did after beating USC 2-1 in a midweek. UCSB is on an impressive 13-3 run over the past 16 games, which is very impressive when you consider that they did that in conference play, in a conference as good as the Big West no less.
TCU (26-8) snapped Kansas State's 7 straight Big 12 series losing streak and missed their chance to get back into the top 8. It all balances out for the Horned Frogs, because in addition to beating Abilene Christian, they beat Dallas Baptist in the midweek, and I will always respect a win that good. So in the end, the week was a wash for TCU, unless you count their new football uniforms.
UniSnob Side Note: TCU, you ruined the best "modern" uniform set in all of college football. Oklahoma State, that crown now lies on your head. Just get rid of all the Grey and you'd have an A+++ in my book.
Speaking of Oklahoma State, the Cowboys did the same damn thing, hell they even dropped a series to a Big 12 team in Kansas too. That came after they gave Bedlam rivals Oklahoma the ole #BEATEMDOWN in a 24-2 affair Tuesday so in the end it's just a push for the Pokes.
Miami University of Florida (FL) (28-9) went perfect on the week with a win against newly minted host FAU and sweep against Virginia Tech, a series they just dominated, outscoring the Hokies by a whopping 34-6. The Hurricanes have a stacked week looking at them with UCF (25-12), who is hungry to get back into a hosting spot upon reading WatsonTiger's Projections, and then going to Charlottesville to play Virginia, who are out to prove they belong in my rankings and have a desire to earn my respect back. I'm sure both teams are reading this with a huge chip on their shoulders, but with Miami's roster of biologically generated players, I don't see either team beating the Canes. I mean you have a better chance at beating ISIS by yourself.
Florida (28-9) had a perfect week over Stetson (who they murderfaced by the tune of 22-2) and South Carolina (stay tuned for their funeral) who they outscored 38-10. The week before that, in a series loss to Missouri, the Gators had to scramble to put up 9 runs. But Florida will need to continue their newly found offensive output this weekend, with their big showdown with Florida State Tuesday night and a trip to Starvegas looming. While the Bulldogs are on the outside of the bubble, they are very capable of putting down any team in the nation and needs a big old pelt to put on their wall.
Rice stayed put after dropping a midweek to A&M (which I won't penalize them for) and then a series to #FREEUAB, a team who is flying under every radar in North America. Rice mainly benefited from UCF and Maryland dropping out of hosting honors to stop their slide.
Finally, since I had an open spot, I decided to give the little guys a shot at hosting with FAU (28-8). The Owls have proven to me they're not a fluke team that skirted into the spotlight with some upsets and a sparkling record against nobodies. I believe FAU isn't a cheap little party trick, and I won't get too high on them since they're taking the spot of a team I once was sweet on.
The Rest Of The Field
Let's start the 2 glaring omissions.
I saw no redeemable reason to keep Virginia (21-14) in the field at all. The Cavaliers have dropped 4 series this year, 2 in a row in the ACC, and lost 6 of the last 8. Losing to llvll was understandable and Georgia Tech is a good team, but they absolutely had to win that series. And they won the first game with their offense sparking up 14 runs, but they just hit a wall the next two games. Going 7-11 in conference play is not how you get into the tournament. And to think this team was once the #2 national seed.
The other team that completely fell off the face of the Earth was South Carolina (23-14). There is just no stopping this slide, with the Gamecocks losing 4 (FOUR) straight SEC series since they swept Kentucky. And it's not going to get any easier with Vanderbilt this week and Texas A&M and LSU remaining. Again, this team was a National Seed at one point.
UCF (25-12) responded to losing a series to Cincinnati by dropping a series against Connecticut. Which, I mean, at least they lost to a better team? When I put the Knights as a national seed, I made it very clear that they needed to dominate their conference to stay into that consideration, and they have failed to do so. I am a man of morals after all.
Maryland (24-10) also dropped from the back 8 (again) with a series loss to Iowa (23-9) who almost made it into a hosting spot over FAU. Like, it nearly came down to a coin flip.
Speaking of FAU, their regional may look light, but I didn't want to put a team with a large traveling fanbase in it since their stadium is fairly small (2,000 capacity) and want to avoid a situation like LSU was in with UCLA. Georgia Tech's fanbase is relatively small, with most of it being alumni, and obviously Stony Brook and Coastal Carolina aren't going to take over the Boca Raton elderly community.
LSU gets stuck with the lovable Lions from Hammond, America once again, but get the opportunity for a 2013 Baton Rouge Super Regional rematch against Oklahoma. And Rider is there to be the punching bag. Then, should LSU advance, a rematch of the 96 CWS Final awaits which gives me a reason to post this.
Like I ever need a reason to post that.
The Regional Of Death Of The Week®, which is actually a national seed regional for once. Louisville plays host to West Virginia and Michigan State, two teams that are not exactly the favorites to win their conference but are definitely in the running and who can be trouble if they make the post season.
I'll leave you with some advice Virginia and South Carolina should have listened to: