Even though the Cavaliers had a rough time in Durham last week, they were able to ride their series victories over Duke and UNC to end the season to a 12th straight NCAA tournament appearance.
Unfortunately, for the first time since 2009, the Hoos won't be playing their first weekend of the tournament in Charlottesville. Instead, they'll be a three seed, for the first time since 2008, in the Lake Elsinore Regional with UC-Santa Barbara, Southern California, and San Diego State.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos
The Gauchos got into the NCAA Tournament by way of having an excellent regular season. Even though they finished three games behind Big West champion Cal State Fullerton, the Gauchos had 40 wins on the season which earned them their first ever home regional. The cool thing? Lake Elsinore is four hours away from Santa Barbara! Congrats Gauchos!
Santa Barbara has made their hay this season with their pitching. They're lead by Golden Spike Semifinalist and Second Team All-American Dillon Tate. Tate lead the Big West with 8 wins, a .187 batting average against, and 5.66 hits allowed per nine innings. Tate also lead Santa Barbara with 100 strikeouts in just 95.1 innings pitched and a 2.08 ERA. More impressive for the Gauchos are their two other starters in their rotation have nearly as impressive numbers as Tate. Shane Bieber and Justin Jacome have 8 wins and 7 wins respectively, and 2.26 and 2.53 ERAs.
Southern California Trojans
The Trojans are playing in their first NCAA tournament since 2005 thanks to a 37-19 overall record and 18-12 record in the Pac 12. Getting back to UC Santa Barbara actually hosting the regional, Lake Elsinore is actually closer to Southern Cal than the Gauchos. The NCAA does some dumb things sometimes.
The Trojans feature a pretty balanced team. They feature a .294 average at the plate, and are slugging .410 with a .373 on base percentage. Their pitching is almost as good with a 3.45 ERA and .259 batting average against. The team leader appears to be Garrett Stubbs who was recently named First Team All-Pac 12, Pac 12 Defensive Team, and was the Pac 12 Defensive Player of the year. Stubbs also has a .330 average and .415 slugging percentage. The good news is the Trojans have decided to hold their ace, Kyle Twomey, for Saturday, and start Kyle Davis in his stead.
San Diego State Aztecs
The Aztecs come into this weekend riding a 5 game winning streak thanks to the Mountain West Tournament. The Aztecs lost their first game in the tournament then rattled off five straight to win the whole thing. This weekend will also be the Aztecs third straight appearance, although they've gone 0-2 in the last two.
Their pitching isn't all that impressive with a 4.07 ERA and a .269 batting average against. If the Aztecs are going to make a splash this weekend they're going to have to do so with their bats. Fortunately, they've been pretty good, batting .292 as a team. Ty France and Steven Pallares are both batting over .340 and slugging over .480. Last week, the Aztecs got an added boost from Seby Zabala. The junior catcher batted .435 and hit five home runs in the conference tournament. It'll be interesting to see if the Aztecs can continue their hitting ways against some stiff competition.
The regional kicks off on Friday at 6 with UVa taking on USC.