A few things that jumped out to me while looking over the NCAA tournament brackets:
Probable Marquee Mound Showdowns:
1. Connecticut's Matt Barnes vs. Coastal Carolina's Anthony Meo: a tantalizing battle of two first-rounders-to-be, both from lower New England.
2. Texas State's Carson Smith vs. Kent State's Andrew Chafin: a pair of tenacious power arms with checkered medical histories go at it.
3. Creighton's Jonas Dufek vs. Georgia's Michael Palazzone: feel for pitching galore in this Corvallis regional matchup
4. Maine's Jeff Gibbs vs. North Carolina's Patrick Johnson: upset special? Gibbs can run his fastball up to 96 mph, and he beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill in his second career start last February. The fearless Johnson is the consummate winner (he's 11-1).
5. Arkansas' D.J. Baxendale vs. Charlotte's Andrew Smith: great matchup between competitive strike-throwers—the well-known Baxendale, already named to USA Baseball's college national roster for 2011, and the A-10 pitcher of the year in Smith.
Most Intriguing Potential Super Regional Pairings
1. Clemson at South Carolina: The Gamecocks have Clemson's number in Omaha, but the two bitter rivals have never met in a super regional, where the intensity would be magnified even more in an on-campus setting.
2. UCLA at Virginia: potentially the top three pitchers in the draft all in one spot (UCLA's Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer, Virginia's Danny Hultzen).
3. Arizona State at Texas: two traditional powers, who last met in a memorable Omaha game in 2009, when the Longhorns stormed back to beat Mike Leake.
Deja Vu All Over Again
1. St. John's is the No. 3 seed at the Charlottesville Regional for the second straight year.
2. Stanford is the No. 2 seed in the Fullerton Regional for the second straight year.
3. UC Irvine is the No. 3 seed in the Los Angeles Regional for the second straight year.
1. Georgia Southern: The nation's leading home run hitter (Victor Roache) leads the Eagles to Carolina Stadium, a home run park.
2. Austin Peay State: The Ohio Valley Conference champs are young but well rounded, and they could upset a few apple carts at the Atlanta Regional.
3. Bethune-Cookman: always a dangerous No. 4 seed, the Wildcats force Florida State to consider throwing ace Sean Gilmartin in the opener. If FSU does not, it could be in for a rude awakening.
Cinderella, Your Carriage Is Waiting
1. New Mexico: The Lobos carried a seven-game losing streak into the Mountain West Conference tournament—their fifth losing streak of five or more games in 2011. But they caught fire at the perfect time, beating juggernaut TCU twice en route to the MWC title. They head to regionals—for the second straight year, after a 48-year absence—with a 20-39 record.
2. Arkansas-Little Rock: After going 18-32 in the regular season, and 10-20 in the Sun Belt Conference, the Trojans beat SBC powers Troy, Western Kentucky, Florida Atlantic and Florida International to win the conference tournament and reach their first regional.
3. Belmont: The Bruins started A-Sun play just 3-8 and had to win back-to-back games at powerhouse Stetson in the final weekend just to make the conference tournament as the sixth and final seed. Four straight victories later, Belmont is headed to regionals for the first time.
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