For the rest of the week, I’m going to blog from the Conference USA tournament in Greenville, N.C., with an eye on what’s going on nationally as well. But first, here’s my quick take on some of the more significant developments in Wednesday’s conference tournaments:
In the SEC, Vanderbilt put itself behind the eight ball in its efforts to secure the No. 1 national seed by losing its opener against Tennessee. Texas and Rice both won their tournament openers in convincing fashion, and those teams probably have the inside track at the top seed now. Give credit to Tennessee lefty James Adkins, who carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the mighty Commodores–very impressive stuff. The Volunteers have probably done enough to get an at-large regional bid now, even if they lose their next two games. Vandy, meanwhile, can still get that top seed if it makes a run in the tournament, and it’s certainly capable of doing that. It will have to begin today against Mississippi State, which needs to make a run if it wants any chance to host a regional. Today’s Florida-Alabama game is also huge; if the Gators lose, they will finish two games below .500 and won’t be eligible for the NCAA tournament. If Alabama loses, it might find itself sliding toward the wrong side of the bubble. I still think the Crimson Tide can get in even with a loss, but it could get hairy.
Vandy wasn’t the only powerhouse to be upset Wednesday, as Georgia Tech scored four runs in the seventh inning to beat North Carolina, and Missouri and Oklahoma State were both upset in the Big 12 by Oklahoma and Baylor, respectively. All three of those winning teams are fighting for their NCAA tournament lives, and Wednesday’s wins are a very encouraging. In the Missouri Valley Conference, top-seeded Wichita State was toppled by sixth-seeded Missouri State even though Ross Detwiler lasted just three innings. That’s a pretty significant upset, considering the only reason the last-place Bears qualified for the MVC tournament was because they are hosting the event. Wichita State ace Travis Banwart continues to struggle down the stretch, allowing five runs over 5 1/3 innings in Wednesday’s loss; with Aaron Shafer banged up, Banwart’s poor stretch run has to be a major concern for the Shockers.
The two favorites in the Southern Conference tournament were both upset. Retiring coach Wofford coach Steve Traylor’s farewell tour continued to roll along, as the Terriers crushed top-seeded College of Charleston, 19-6. And host The Citadel beat second-seeded Western Carolina 7-2. Either the Cougars or the Catamounts must now run the table and win the tournament, or else one of them is likely to get squeezed out of regionals, because the SoCon is probably not going to be a three-bid league.
Finally, in regular season play, Arizona State clinched the Pac-10 title with an 8-5 win over rival Arizona on Wednesday. That should assure the Sun Devils of a national seed in the NCAA tournament.