Baseball’s NCAA Division I Regionals were announced Monday and, as usual, will have a strong Magnolia State flavor in the 64-team field.
Mississippi State earned a No. 7 national seed and will host the Starkville Regional beginning Friday. Ole Miss earned a No. 12 national seed and will host the Oxford Regional beginning Friday. Among the teams playing at Oxford is Southern Miss.
The first day matchups: At Starkville, top-seeded Mississippi State will play No. 4 seed Samford at 2 p.m., while 2-seed Virginia Commonwealth, entering with the nation’s longest winning streak, will play 3-seed Campbell at 7 p.m. At Oxford, 3-seed Florida State will play 2-seed Southern Miss at 2 p.m., followed by top-seed Ole Miss vs. 4-seed Southeast Missouri State at 7 p.m.
There were no huge surprises where the Mississippi teams were concerned. What became clear when the brackets were announced Monday morning was that Southern Miss lost out on its chance to host its own regional when the Eagles were defeated twice by Louisiana Tech in the Conference USA Tournament Saturday. Tech, not USM, will host an NCAA Regional at Ruston, La.
Both the Southeastern Conference and Conference USA will be well-represented. The SEC placed nine teams in the NCAA Tournament, including half of the eight top national seeds. Seven SEC teams will host NCAA regionals.
Conference USA placed a league-record four teams in the field, most of any non-power five conference. Both Tech and Old Dominion are No. 1 seeds, and both Southern Miss and Charlotte are No. 2.
Here’s what else you need to know about the Mississippi regionals:
- The bracket matches the Oxford Regional winner against the Tucson Regional winner. Arizona, the No. 5 national seed, would be odds-on favorite over Oklahoma State, Cal-Santa Barbara and Grand Canyon to win and host the Super Regional. The Starkville Regional winner will be matched against the South Bend Regional, hosted by Notre Dame. Michigan, Connecticut and Eastern Michigan round out the South Bend Regional.
- Florida State will be making its 43rd consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament, extending the longest active streak. Although the Seminoles experienced a subpar 30-22 season, they boast the Atlantic Coast Conference Pitcher of the Year in left-hander Parker Messick, the expected starter against Southern Miss Friday. The Seminoles are led by ACC Player of the Year, catcher Matheu Nelson, considered a leading candidate for national player of the year.
- Although Southeast Missouri won’t strike fear in the hearts of Ole Miss fans, SEMO ace pitcher Dylan Dodd should. Dodd, a right-hander, won nine of 10 decisions and posted a 2.78 earned run average with 113 strikeouts, compared to just 14 walks for the Ohio Valley Conference champions. Against top-ranked Arkansas, Dodd struck out 10 batters over six innings and allowed only three hits and two runs in a game Arkansas eventually came from behind and won in extra innings.
- Samford, State’s first-day opponent, won the Southern Conference championship and is no stranger to the MSU Bulldogs or Southeastern Conference fans. Samford lost a 10-2 midweek decision to State on March 16. That was one of 10 games Samford played against SEC teams. Samford lost nine of those, but was competitive in several and defeated Auburn 6-1 late in the season when Samford won 11 of its last 14 games, including three straight in the league tournament.
- Samford is not the only hot team coming to Starkville. Atlantic 10 Conference champion VCU brings a 21-game winning streak, the nation’s longest, to Dudy Noble. VCU swept two games from Virginia and split two with Virginia Tech and two more with CUSA champion Old Dominion during the regular season. Campbell University, the 3-seed, won the Big South Conference regular season championship and won 12 of its last 14 games.