2017 NCAA Tournament Baton Rouge Regional Preview

Eric Walker (Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

SEE ALSO: NCAA Regional Preview Podcast

1. Louisiana State (43-17, 21-9 in Southeastern Conference)

30th appearance (seventh straight), automatic, first place in SEC West, SEC Tournament champion

Top 200 Prospects: RHP Alex Lange (33), OF Greg Deichmann (86), 2B Cole Freeman (161)

Season in a sentence: The Tigers entered the season ranked No. 4 in the Top 25 and finished the regular season with the No. 4 national seed after closing the season with 11 straight wins, including four to win the SEC Tournament.

Player to Watch: Eric Walker, rhp. With veterans Alex Lange and Jared Poche’ ahead of him in the rotation, it will be interesting to see how Walker, a freshman, handles the pressure of his first NCAA Tournament appearance. He delivered for the Tigers in the SEC Tournament championship game, holding a red-hot Arkansas lineup to one run in 7.2 innings. Walker (7-1, 3.78), could be the key to a deep tournament run if he continues to succeed as the Tigers’ No. 3 starter.

Best Weekend: SEC Tournament, May 24-28. LSU made it look easy on its way to its 12th SEC Tournament title in program history. The Tigers outscored Missouri, Kentucky and South Carolina 31-3, including back-to-back run-rule shortened games against the Wildcats and Gamecocks, before beating Arkansas, 4-2, to win the championship.

Outlook: LSU is one of the hottest teams in the country entering regionals and also has plenty of postseason experience on its roster. Its combination of momentum and veteran presence should carry it through to super regionals.

2. Southeastern Louisiana (36-20, 20-10 in Southland)

Fifth appearance (second straight), at-large, second place in Southland

Top 200 Prospects: None

Season in a sentence: After a five-game losing streak in late March, the Lions never lost more than two games in a row the rest of the way in order to lock down their third NCAA Tournament appearance in four years.

Player to Watch: Taylor Schwaner, 3b. The Southland Conference player of the year hit .320/.444/.620, smacked 13 homers and led the conference with 68 RBIs. While Schwaner hit 30 extra-base hits this season, just one came in his last 13 games. The Lions will need their No. 3 hitter to get hot in order to win the regional.

Best Weekend: vs. Sam Houston State, May 5-7. In a matchup of the Southland’s two NCAA Tournament teams, the Lions took the first two games of the series against Sam Houston, including an 11-inning victory in the opener.

Outlook: Southeastern Louisiana’s season ended with a 15-0 loss to Rice in last year’s Baton Rouge Regional. The Lions will have a chance for redemption in their first game of this year’s tournament. The Lions took two of three from the Owls in February and will hope to continue that trend in Baton Rouge. The pitching staff will need to revamp its efforts after allowing seven or more runs in all three of their Southland Tournament games.

3. Rice (31-29, 16-14 in Conference USA)
23rd appearance (23rd straight), automatic, sixth place CUSA, CUSA Tournament champion

Top 200 Prospects: RHP Glenn Otto (174)

Season in a sentence: Rice rebounded from a 13-25 start to win 18 of its final 22 games and keep the nation’s third-longest active NCAA Tournament streak alive.

Player to Watch: Dominic DiCaprio, c. The sophomore backstop is the Owls’ leading hitter and comes into regionals batting .365/.441/.511 with six home runs. He made the all-Baton Rouge Regional team during the 2016 postseason. The Owls’ cleanup hitter will look to do damage with his bat as well as shut down a Southeastern Louisiana running attack that ranks No. 6 in the country in stolen bases.

Best Weekend: at Western Kentucky, April 21-22. The Owls were 4-11 in Conference USA before the sweep of the Hilltoppers started a late-season tear. Rice didn’t lose another conference series for the rest of the season.

Outlook: Rice is playing like a different team than the one that dropped two of three against Southeastern Louisiana in February and comes into the weekend nearly as hot as LSU. The Owls have proven they are capable of scratching out close wins, grabbing two one-run victories in the CUSA Tournament. Still, continuing their incredible run will likely mean beating the Tigers in Alex Box Stadium, which is never an easy task. If Rice is to advance to its first super regional since 2013, it will need a big upset.

4. Texas Southern (20-32, 14-10 in Southwestern Athletic Conference)

Fourth appearance (first since 2015), automatic, second place in SWAC West, SWAC Tournament champion

Top 200 Prospects
: None

Season in a sentence: Texas Southern lost nine straight to start the season and eight of its final nine to end the regular season, but a surprising run in the SWAC Tournament earned the Tigers a place in the regional.

Player to Watch: O.J. Oloruntimilehin, of. Oloruntimilehin was a second-team all-SWAC selection. He is hitting .253/.337/.455, but leads the Tigers with 10 home runs and 22 stolen bases. That combination of power and speed makes him a dangerous player in Texas Southern’s lineup.

Best Weekend: SWAC Tournament, May 17-21. The Tigers defeated Alabama A&M before picking up two wins against Jackson State, the SWAC regular-season champion, to advance to the conference championship game. Texas Southern outlasted Alabama State in 13 innings, in a rematch of last season’s title game. This year, however, the Tigers came out on top.

Outlook: Texas Southern comes into the tournament with the highest RPI at No. 267, while the other three teams in the regional all rank in the top 50. Getting to the tournament for the second time in three years is an accomplishment in itself for this team. Texas Southern has won one NCAA Tournament game ever (beating Rice in 2004). It would require a significant upset to repeat that feat, but the Tigers have already surprised this postseason with their run through the SWAC Tournament.

STAT PACK (National rank in parentheses)
Team Avg. Runs P/G HR SB ERA K/9 WHIP Field %
1. LSU .294 (44) 6.8 (40) 55 (57) 64 (73) 3.60 (27) 8.6 (38) 1.28 (32) .981 (7)
2. SE Louisiana .255 (249 6.5 (57) 55 (57) 110 (6) 4.09 (71) 7.3 (166) 1.29 (36) .971 (122)
3. Rice .289 (63) 5.9 (112) 48 (87) 38 (210) 5.07 (164) 8.3 (69) 1.58 (186) .967 (185)
4. Texas Southern .255 (246) 5.1 (213) 32 (186) 104 (9) 6.47 (261) 6.2 (264) 1.81 (272) .958 (259)

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