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College Baseball 2008 NCAA Tourney: Lincoln Regional Opponent Profile

Friday at 1:05 pm, our beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers begin play in the 2008 NCAA Baseball Tourney.

Below are profiles of each of the opponents in the Lincoln Regional, along with what to expect from the teams. The ISR listed below is Boyd’s World’s iterative strength rating. RPI’s don’t work really well in college baseball because teams tend to play other teams around them geographically. You also end up with a lot of good teams in weak conferences,  i.e. Coastal Carolina, so their RPI gets drug down. OTOH, you also have weak teams who play in strong conferences, i.e., Big 12 and their RPI gets pulled up. ISR is a way of looking at the strength of the team other than the RPI.

  • #1 Nebraska Cornhuskers

Location: Lincoln, Nebraska
RPI: 8
ISR: 10
Schedule Rank: 11

I won’t write a lot about Nebraska for the simple reason that it’s already here on the site. Nebraska plays one of the toughest schedules in the nation every year, and that tough schedule should benefit the Huskers as they move into the NCAA tourney. Young pitching needs to be tested and it was this season with the Husker’s schedule.

For fans of opposing teams - Nebraska isn’t a power hitting team. The strength of the team is it’s defense. Pitching is good, not great, although there is a lot of depth. Youth may play a big factor moving into postseason - if the young bullpen performs well, this team could make the CWS. If not, we won’t make it out of our own regional.

  • #2 UC Irvine Ant Eaters

Location: Irvine, California
RPI: 20
ISR (Boyd’s World): 6
Schedule Rank: 25

UC Irvine finished third in the Big West conference behind Long Beach State, Cal State Fullerton, and tied with UC-Santa Barbara with a 14-10 conference record. Three other teams from the Big West are in the tourney. Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton host their own regional, while UC Davis starts play against Stanford in their regional.

The Ant Eaters are no strangers to the NCAA tourney, having made the College World Series last year after begin Texas in the Austin regional then sweeping Wichita State in their Super Regional. 2008 is their third straight NCAA tourney and fourth overall.

Key Opponents:
CS Fullerton (host)- lost series 1-2
Tulane (Florida State regional) - won series 2-1
Long Beach State (host)- won series 2-1
San Diego (Arizona State regional)- lost one game 1-7
UC Davis (Stanford regional) - won series 2-1
UCLA  (Stanford regional) - series split 1-1
Kansas State (Big 12) - midweek - series split 1-1

  • #3 Oral Roberts Golden Eagles

Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma
RPI: 37
ISR: 25
Schedule Rank: 159

This is the Golden Eagles’ 11th-straight NCAA tourney appearance, which matches their 11th-straight Summit League conference title and their 11th-straight 40-win season. They’ve won their last 12 straight and 15 of their last 16 games. This isn’t shocking when you look at the last games they played were against Oakland, a mid-week game against Wichita State, four games against IPFW, Centenary, Western Illinois and Southern Utah. In other words, take the winning streak with a grain of salt.

Key Opponents:

Texas, midweek loss
Dallas Baptist (A&M Regional), split series 2-2
Wichita State (host), split series 1-1
Pepperdine (Oklahoma State Regional), lost series 1-2
Arkansas (Stanford Regional), sweep, 2-0

  • #4 - Eastern Illinois Panthers    

Location: Charleston, Illinois.
RPI: 187
ISR: 195
Schedule Rank: 205

Eastern Illinois made their way into the tournament by becoming the automatic qualifier when they won the Ohio Valley Conference. They finished the regular season fourth in conference with a 13-13 conference record, behind Jacksonville State, Samford, and Austin Peay. They are the only tournament team from the Ohio Valley.

Nebraska will face Eastern Illinois for the first time in school history on Friday. The Nebraska starter will be Dan Jennings, which was not lost on the Panthers’ head coach Jim Schmitz :

On Nebraska throwing a mid-week starter
"It’s their preference. For me, it’s kind of like any day, any team can come out and win with good baseball. If they want to go ahead and save their No. 1 and they get unlucky and we end up winning, it’s their fault.

Key Opponents:
Missouri - midweek loss, 6-8

It would be a great accomplishment if the Panthers could win a game in the regional.

  • What to Expect:

Nebraska may be the number one seed, but they shouldn’t be considered the favorite. The key for the Huskers will be the pitching. They had the chance to win the Big 12 regular season, but when the pressure was on the young bullpen melted in the heat at Mizzou, getting swept while giving up a ton of runs. Now that we’re in postseason such a meltdown will mean the end of the season. The good news is that Nebraska is at home where we have a 28-3-1 record.

UC Irvine plays the same type of baseball as Nebraska. They play tough defense, and work to get their runs with timely hitting. They’re not going to bash the ball out of the park and drive in a lot of runs. Their pitching is very good with an overall 2.87 ERA.

Oral Roberts shouldn’t be overlooked, but unless Irvine and Nebraska play bad baseball, they shouldn’t win this regional. What they can do is screw up the pitching rotation for one of the other teams, considering the initial regional action is double-elimination.

  • Coverage:

NET and CBS College Sports (CSTV) will provide live coverage of all Nebraska games this weekend. NET coverage will be on Time Warner Cable channel 12 in Lincoln. Satellite TV subscribers can see the games on Dish Network channel 152 and DirecTV channel 610.

Stay tuned on Corn Nation for news about online streaming availability.