Monday, May 25, 2009

LSU Awarded #3 National Seed

LSU was awarded the #3 national seed for the NCAA Baseball Tournament. The Tigers will have to win their regional at Alex Box Stadium that includes Baylor, Minnesota, and Southern. LSU plays in the first game against Southern on Friday at 1:00 PM.

LSU's regional is paired with the Rice regional that also includes Kansas, Xavier, and Sam Houston State. The winner of that regional will come to Alex Box Stadium for a Super Regional if LSU can advance.

Let's take a quick look at Baylor and Minnesota, LSU's biggest competition in the regional.

Minnesota is the #2 seed in LSU's regional, and they are ranked #21 nationally in the latest Baseball America poll. Minnesota is 35-16 overall and has a very impressive 17-6 conference record. They also made it to the championship game of their conference tournament where they fell to Indiana. As a team, they bat .316 which is very good. A few of their hitters could present problems at the plate. First and foremost is 2B Derek McCallum who hit .404 with 17 HRs and 79 RBIs. They also have OF Michael Kvasnicka who hit an impressive .351 with 9 HRs and 62 RBIs. Lastly, DH Matt Nohelty could cause some trouble with a .339 average and 25 stolen bases on the year.

The Golden Gophers look to have a solid, but not spectacular, pitching staff. All 3 of their starters have ERAs under 4.50 and their records go 9-3, 7-1, and 7-3. None of their numbers really jump off the page however. All 3 of their starters are right handed pitchers, and LSU has lost just 3 games this season to an opponent when a right hander started the game.

You must also remember Minnesota's level of competition in the Big-10 is significantly inferior than what LSU faced in the SEC or what Baylor faced in the Big-12. Their team was a very mediocre 14-9 on the road and 3-3 at neutral sites. They didn't play anyone of quality out of conference except for TCU, who they beat 2 out of 3 times. The only common opponent with LSU was Illinois, and the Illini beat both LSU and Minnesota in 2 of 3 games.

Baylor finished 29-24 overall with a poor 10-16 conference record. Earlier in the season, Baylor was ranked as high as #7 nationally. However, they soon hit the teeth of their conference schedule and finished the season very, very poorly. Counting the Big-12 Tournament, Baylor has lost 12 of their last 14 conference games. Needless to say, they won't come to Baton Rouge with a ton of confidence.

Baylor can also bring some big sticks to the plate. As a team, they hit .301 on the year. Dustin Dickerson hit .381 with 10 HRs and 40 RBIs. They also have Shaver Hansen who hit .333 16 HRs and 57 RBIs. You also have to watch Aaron Miller at .328 12 HRs and 47 RBIs. Baylor does not steal bases very often or particularly well, and I don't expect them to test Micah Gibbs very much if they face LSU.

Their pitching staff looks to be a patchwork effort. The lowest ERA for any of their starting pitchers is 4.50. Righty Logan Verrett has a nice record at 7-1 but his ERA is a hefty 5.23. Verrett has only started 5 games on the season, so he is often used in long relief. Without ever having seen Baylor play this year, the numbers on their pitching staff don't impress me one bit.

It was a bit of a surprise that Rice did not receive a National Top 8 seed. It was therefore more of a surprise that their regional was paired with LSU's regional since LSU is the #3 national seed. In fact, it's totally both LSU and to Rice. Texas, the #1 overall seed, was "rewarded" with a weaker pairing, drawing the TCU regional. Cal State Fullerton, the #2 overall seed, was also rewarded being paired with the weaker Louisville regional. However, LSU draws the Rice regional where Rice is ranked as the #6 team in the nation. If the NCAA wanted to pair LSU with Rice, they should have just seeded the Tigers 7th or 8th.

I'll preview the Super Regional opponent after the Regional.


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