Posted at 6:56 PM on May 28, 2007
by Steve Rudolph
Instead of Gophers, Wolverines and Buckeyes; Big Ten baseball teams could have used Rodney Dangerfield for their mascot. In recent years, the NCAA has rarely shown any Northern team much respect.
That’s why I about fell off the couch when three teams (Minnesota, Michigan and Ohio State) were all announced on ESPN this morning. It’s the first time since 2000 that three Big Ten teams made the field of 64. It was also the right move by the NCAA.
The Gophers (40-16), who lost to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament's championship game, received the No. 3 seed in the San Diego regional and will face Cal State Fullerton, one of the more prolific programs in college baseball history and College World Series champions in 2004. Fortunately for the Gophers, this isn’t one of the better Fullerton teams. The Titans (33-23) finished fifth in the Big West and likely made the field because of some quality wins early in the year.
Even though the Titans are down, the Gophers will need some breaks or the only fun they might have in San Diego could be at Sea World. The Gophers don’t have a dominant starter, like past teams did, and will have to hope their young starters don’t melt in the warm California sun.
Should the Gophers slip past Fullerton, they’ll likely face the University of San Diego, ranked No. 4 in the latest Baseball America poll, in the double-elimination format. The Toreros play Fresno State on Friday night following the Gophers/Titans game.
It’s nice to see the NCAA reward Minnesota and Michigan for playing scheduling, and beating, quality opponents early in the season. One of the best ways for the NCAA to help the growth of Northern baseball is to take teams like Minnesota and Michigan ahead of middle-of-the-pack teams from the traditional power conferences.