UCLA, Vanderbilt Are the Teams to Beat
OMAHA, Neb. — Pac-12 champion UCLA won each of its series for the first time in program history, didn’t lose a midweek game and ended the regular season on a 10-game winning streak.
The Bruins (47-8) were rewarded for their remarkable consistency Monday with the No. 1 national seed in the NCAA Tournament.
“We have a terrific conference. We believe it’s the No. 1 conference in the country from top to bottom,” UCLA coach John Savage said. “The competitiveness they were challenged with all season, we stepped up, and we definitely feel we’re prepared for the next part of the season.”
The 64-team tournament opens Friday in 16 regionals. Winners advance to eight best-of-three super regionals. Those winners move on to the College World Series in Omaha.
The No. 2 seed is Vanderbilt (49-10), which has won 22 of its last 23 games and is the first team to sweep the Southeastern Conference regular-season and tournament championships since it did so in 2007.
Vanderbilt’s team includes two local products, junior left-handed pitcher Jackson Gillis of Wilmington, and freshman infielder Dominic Keegan of Methuen and Central Catholic.
Behind UCLA and Vanderbilt are Georgia Tech (41-17), Georgia (44-15), Arkansas (41-17), Mississippi State (46-13), Louisville (43-15) and Texas Tech (39-17).
The top eight seeds play at home for super regionals if they win their regionals.
Seeds nine through 16 are Oklahoma State (36-18), East Carolina (43-15), Stanford (41-11), Mississippi (37-25), LSU (37-24), North Carolina (42-17), West Virginia (37-20) and defending national champion Oregon State (36-18-1).
The selection committee sprung two surprises, picking Georgia Tech as the No. 3 national seed even though the Yellow Jackets didn’t win the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season or tournament titles and giving TCU an at-large bid even though the Horned Frogs are No. 59 in the RPI and finished below .500 in Big 12 play.
Selection committee chairman Ray Tanner, South Carolina’s athletic director, pointed out that Tech won 22 conference games in the regular season and ACC Tournament, won its division, won nine of 10 series and made it to the ACC title game.
“Their metrics were really good — strength of schedule, nonconference strength of schedule,” Tanner said. “They also won a series against Georgia. Maybe they were overlooked a little bit, even going into the selection. The merit jumped out as Georgia Tech being a top seed.”