Though Michigan's hopes for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA baseball tournament didn't come to fruition, the Wolverines were awarded the right to host their NCAA regional for the first time since 1986. Just goes to show you what winning your conference outright along with sinking a boatload of money into your facilities will do. Michigan is the only northern school to host a regional, one of a handful of northern schools in the tournament, and the only northern school in the top 25.
Michigan draws No. 1 Arizona (Nationally Ranked No. 23, 38-17, 4th in the Pac-10), No. 3 seeded Kentucky (No. 24, 42-17, 4th in the SEC), and No. 4 seeded Eastern Michigan (Not Ranked, 25-32, MAC tournament champ). The full Baseball America Rankings are here. It's arguable Arizona is the weakest No. 1 seed in the tournament, but they did split their season series with No. 4 in the nation Arizona State, including taking 2 of 3 from the Sun Devils during their last regular season series. The same Sun Devils that kicked the holy hell out of Michigan earlier in the year (though neither Putnam nor Fetter pitched). If you're curious, the full tournament bracket can be found here.
The four-team double-elimination tournament starts on Friday, with the first pitch between Arizona and Eastern Michigan scheduled for 2pm at the Fish. Michigan takes to the field for the nightcap with a 7pm start. Ticket information is here. Regardless of whether Michigan or Arizona got the No. 1 seed, the winner of this bracket will likely face No. 1 overall seed Miami in the round. Seeding be dammed. It don't get any easier. If you're wondering how all these selections get made, Corn Nation, whose Corn Huskers are a No. 1 seed themselves, breaks it down in detail from last years tournament.
Looking ahead to Michigan's first game, Kentucky finished the season 42-17, 4th in the SEC, and went 1-2 in the SEC tournament. Though they finished mid-pack in the SEC, this Kentucky team finished with the most wins in Wildcat history. They've got a guy named Sawyer Carroll who is batting .416 with 78 RBIs (21 more than his closest teammate). On the mound Greg Dombrowski will carry the load for the Cats. Rusin, statistically at least, is the better pitcher giving up only 25 earned in 82 plus innings. Dombrowski appears to be more of a power pitcher, gets more K's in fewer innings but gives up a lot of hits, walks and dingers (he's sitting on a 1.532 WHIP).
In terms of common opponents, Michigan and Kentucky played against Oakland, Eastern Michigan, and Purdue. The Oakland series we'll just ignore because the resulting thrashings, but Eastern's in the tournament and Purdue played Michigan tight in the Big Ten this year.
The Wildcats took two from Eastern Michigan earlier this year in convincing fashion and swept a 3 game series from Purdue. Looking at the results between the common opponents, Kentucky and Michigan are evenly matched. The 'Cats pulled a squeaker out on Eastern and thumped them during the second game.
Same for Michigan. The argument can be made Eastern's the weakest team in the tournament though Mt. St. Mary's 21-32 record might give them a run for that title. The Purdue games probably give you your best impression of how the teams will match up and based on the close results for both, I'm guessing this will probably be a 5-4, 6-5 type game. Michigan will role out Fetter or Putnam to start the tournament depending on who is the freshest.
In an effort to get everyone up to speed, A Sea of Blue, SB Nation's outstanding Kentucky blog, and I will be doing a Q&A on Kentucky as the week goes on. More details to follow as they become available. Go Blue!