With just championship Sunday left between us and the 2014 NCAA Baseball Tournament, the picture of who will host and where other teams will go is beginning to come into focus. Even though only host sites will be announced today with the full regional announced tomorrow, Mississippi State fans will at least know this afternoon the options of where we will land for a regional this season. Before that happens though, let's do some prognosticating to see if we can guess where MSU is heading next weekend.
The first thing we'll need to take a stab at is who will be the 16 teams hosting regionals. According to Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game, the following teams look to be locks to host:
National Seed Candidates: Florida, Virginia, UL-Lafayette, Florida State, Oregon State, Indiana, Ole Miss, LSU, TCU, Oklahoma State
Other Host Candidates: Miami, Cal Poly, South Carolina, Rice, Washington, Vanderbilt, Texas, Louisville, Houston
According to what Rogers, Baseball America's Aaron Fitt and others are saying, the first six names listed as national seeds are locks for on of the top eight seeds while the other four teams will be fighting for two spots. I actually threw LSU in there myself as their fantastic finish to the season - including a run to today's SEC Tournament Championship Game - has to have them poised to steal a national seed from Ole Miss or another team. Either way, all ten of the teams listed in contention for a national seed should host, with the other six spots coming from that second tier of names.
Out of all 19 names, you can easily remove the SEC teams, as the committee that selects and decides the field and placement of the 64 teams wouldn't put Mississippi State with another SEC school. That takes off Florida, Ole Miss, LSU, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt. The committee also tends to group regionals by geography, at least as much as they can, so it's a fairly safe bet that Oregon State, Cal Poly, and Washington are out for the Bulldogs.
That leaves Virginia, UL-Lafayette, Florida State, Indiana, TCU, Oklahoma State, Miami, Rice, Texas, Louisville and Houston. It looks like Texas, Louisville and Houston may be out as far as hosting, so that narrows the list further. Basically, what we're left with is the Big 12, the ACC, UL-Lafayette and Rice. Indiana and Virginia is always a possibility, but I'd expect State to go to the midwest or state of Florida before Bloomington or Charlottesville.
So which regional will it be then? It feels like State has played well enough to stay away from playing with a national seed, but that hasn't been the case in the past. In 2012, the Bulldogs won the SEC Tournament and had a very outside shot of hosting only to get sent to the #3 overall seed Florida State. With that in mind, any regional is still possible from FSU to Rice. I feel like UL-Lafayette would be an almost too-good-to-be-true situation as that is the closest option out of all of them. State would no doubt take a large contingency of fans to Lafayette, so I almost wonder if the committee keeps us away from there.
to keep it fair for the Cajuns, crowd-wise at least. [edited: I clearly underestimated UL-Lafayette's ability to pack its home stadium. The Cajuns are top ten in attendance this year with just under 4,000 fans per game. My apologies.]
Here's where I think MSU ends up: Miami, Florida State, Rice, or TCU. The Bulldogs have a good bit of history playing in regionals with three of those teams, with TCU being the outlier. State played with Rice at Texas A&M in 1998, and the Bulldogs played at Miami in 2005 and Florida State in 2012. As a matter of fact, MSU has a history of being sent to ACC regionals, which seems to lean towards State going back to one of those Florida schools this year. The last six regionals MSU has attended that we did not host have been ACC regionals dating back to 2004's Atlanta Regional. Could Virginia be a possible destination as well? It's certainly possible given the ACC trend, and it would be a delicious bit of a storyline given that MSU went to Charlottesville and knocked the Cavaliers out in last year's super regional. With the ACC trend being identified and especially with State's history with Clemson, Florida State and Miami, it seems almost set that State will go back to either Coral Gables or Tallahassee.
The good news is that we won't have to wait too much longer to find out as the full regionals will be announced sometime tomorrow afternoon. If I had to guess right now, I'd say that we see our Bulldogs sent to Coral Gables and the Miami Regional. That seems to be a pretty good matchup for State, but we'll wait until the Bulldogs officially get sent there before we delve too deep in studying the Hurricanes.
And until that time I will still keep my fingers crossed for Lafayette.