Saturday Night Fever
Here’s a quick roundup of some of the developments from Saturday’s late games:
- It’s impossible to say enough good things about Vanderbilt. Everyone knows how talented the Commodores are, but it’s easy to forget how tough and resilient they are. After dropping their SEC tournament opener to Tennessee, Vandy has won four straight to advance to the championship game, first edging Mississippi State (3-2), then walloping the Volunteers (15-2) and Mississippi (13-1), then winning a thrilling 7-6 rematch with the Rebels last night. The ‘Dores trailed 3-2 heading into the ninth before tying it up to force extra innings. Ole Miss answered with three runs in the top of the 10th, thanks in large part to a throwing error by Vandy catcher Shea Robin. But Robin redeemed himself in the bottom of the frame, delivering a walk-off two-run single to cap Vandy’s four-run outburst. The Commodores deserve the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament regardless of what happens today, and they must be considered the favorite to win the national title, because their grit and determination is every bit as impressive as their elite talent. Let’s stop with the caveats about how Vanderbilt has never been to Omaha and how difficult it is for first-timers to win it all. This team is as well-coached as any in the nation, and Tim Corbin and his staff will make sure the ‘Dores are mentally ready for all of Omaha’s challenges.
- Baylor and Wake Forest advanced to the championship games of the Big 12 and ACC tournaments, respectively, and I think each team has done enough to earn an at-large bid regardless of what happens today. Oklahoma finishes pool play at 2-1 and is right on the bubble.
- San Diego evened the best-of-three West Coast Conference championship series at one game apiece. The Toreros will play Gonzaga today for the championship.
- Staying out West, Oregon State might have played its way back into a regional by winning the first two games of their series at UCLA. If the Beavers can close out the sweep today, I think they’re in for sure, but they might be OK anyway thanks to a solid RPI (29). UCLA is sliding toward the wrong side of the bubble, but you have to give the Bruins the edge over California because of their superior RPI (44 vs. 62) and their series victory over the Bears.
- UC Riverside beat UC Irvine to claim its first Big West championship–congratulations to the Highlanders. Hard to figure where UCR will end up in regionals–it submitted a bid to host, but with a mediocre RPI (52) and not the best facilities, the Highlanders could get shipped elsewhere. Maybe to San Diego or Arizona State, unless they earn a No. 1 seed at a regional in Missouri or Louisiana-Lafayette.