After Baylor's sweep of A&M, we've reached the point in the college baseball season where bracket projections actually mean something. Baylor will win the Big 12 Regular Season Championship with any combination of 2 wins or 2 UT losses. I don't believe that Baylor Baseball will go 1-5 for the last six games of their Conference schedule, and I don't believe that UT will go undefeated for their last six games, specifically the three they have to play against Baylor. That leaves Baylor with their own Regional and a top eight national seed in the Tournament. Both good things.
Today, I've read two separate bracket projections for the first round, and they were interesting in their similarity. I must say that I had some mixed emotions when I first read them. It's not that I believe Baylor Baseball should fear any other college team at this point. They shouldn't. Other teams should fear the Bears. However, in the format of the NCAA Tournament first round - four teams competing in a two-loss elimination round robin - anything can and will happen. I want the other teams in the bracket to be as weak as possible. So let's look at two different brackets from ESPN and PerfectGame and discuss.
The ESPN bracket that I took a look at had Baylor as the #3 overall seed in the tournament, hosting a Regional with Texas Christian, Dallas Baptist, and Monmouth.
The PerfectGame bracket also had Baylor as the #3 seed with Texas Christian, Dallas Baptist, and Manhattan visiting for the Regional.
The difference between these two brackets is very slim. Monmouth and Manhattan are interchangeable as small conference schools with low strength of schedule and RPI ratings. They should be giveaway games. It's the two schools that these brackets agree on that worry me.
In my mind, Dallas Baptist is very similar to Oral Roberts in the college baseball world. It's a small mid-major school that just happens to play consistently good baseball. In 2011, Dallas Baptist didn't just make it into the NCAA Tournament, they lost in the Super Regional to California, the same team that beat Baylor in the Regional. This year, they are 27-12, 7-10 on the road. They're ranked in the high-thirties, low-forties in RPI and the Coaches Poll. They're scoring 6.9 Runs/Game and only giving up 4.2. They have had trouble against major baseball schools, being swept by Rice in three games and losing to OSU, UT, and Texas Tech. However, they did beat TCU earlier in the season.
If someone had told me earlier in the season that Baylor would get stuck in a Regional with TCU, I would have been really disappointed. TCU was supposed to be great this season. They were ranked 15th in the Baseball America preseason poll, but along the way, they lost series to Cal State Fullerton, Texas State, and New Mexico and dropped out of the rankings completely. They only score 5 runs/game and give up 3.9. Not a very large margin.
Even so, there is reason to be nervous about facing TCU in the Regional. They're 23-14 with a not-too-bad 8-8 road record. They've taken series from Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, and they're 1-1 against Baylor. At present, they've won nine of their last ten games.
Personally, I like this Regional less than the PerfectGame projection from early April. That one had us taking on New Mexico, Mississippi State, and a now-struggling Texas State team. Mark mentioned that he thought Baylor would torch that Regional, and I agree. This new Regional with DBU and TCU is less favorable even though Baylor has a higher ranking. What does everyone think? Should the steamrolling Bears be concerned about these teams? Does it even matter who the Bears face since a sweep is inevitable?