The Virginia Cavaliers are the national No. 6 seed, as announced by the NCAA D1 baseball committee this afternoon. After years of feeling like the NCAA has been out to get the program in the postseason, I imagine many Cavalier baseball fans had a deep sigh of relief when they saw the regional participants coming to Charlottesville this year.
That's not to take anything away from Elon, UNC Wilmington, or Army because there are many reasons why all three are in the tournament, but they are not UC Irvine, Oklahoma, South Carolina, or Oklahoma (they play so damn well in Charlottesville I had to mention them twice). Let's take a quick look at the three visitors:
Army will come to town riding an eight game winning streak, including sweeping their way through the Patriot Conference Tournament against Navy and Holy Cross. The Black Knights compiled a 27-21 overall record while going 11-9 in conference. Unfortunately, that record came against the 280th ranked strength of schedule which probably has not prepared them very well for the NCAA tournament. Both Army and UVa played Yale and Liberty during the regular season. The Black Knights went 3-0 against Yale, but 0-2 against the Flames. UVa on the other hand swept their midweek series with Yale and won the lone game against Liberty 2-0. In all, Army has an RPI of 201, which doesn't bode well for fans of the Black Knights. I'd expect a quick 0-2 exit from Army.
The third seed this weekend in Charlottesville will be the 32-28 Elon Phoenix (not phoenixes, or is it phoeni?) from the SoCon. Elon played their way into the NCAA tournament by winning five straight games int he SoCon tournament last week after losing their opening round game against Furman. Very impressive, Phoenix. Elon played eight games against ACC opponents and put together a 2-6 record against the Cavaliers' conference foes (wins over VPISU and NC St). They likely were not going to receive an At-Large bid had they not won the SoCon tournament, but their 70th ranked RPI means they are a team to be reckoned with. Their five straight wins and 8-2 record in their last ten games tells me they are figuring it out at the right time and could give UNC-W a handful.
UNC Wilmington put together an impressive regular season by going 18-8 in the CAA and winning the regular season crown. They then proceeded to go 0-2 in their conference tournament. The Seahawks went 4-8 against the RPI top 50 which included a midweek win against UNC (the Tar Heels' only OOC loss of the season). Elon and UNC Wilmington played twice this season in midweek matchups with UNC Wilmington winning both, 7-3 and 8-5. I think Wilmington's showing at the CAA tournament was a bit of an anomaly, and I expect them to play much better this weekend.
Hope everyone else is as excited about the NCAA tournament as I am. Now that stick-net-goal ball has ended (granted, it's been over in Charlottesville for about a month now), everyone can focus on real sports. UVa could always add another NCAA title to the one that the tennis team got last week! More analysis and #hotsprotstakes to come from STL, so stay tuned.