Eight for OKC: Can top seeds take advantage of home field in NCAA softball tournament?
The bracket is out and the path to the Women’s College World Series is much clearer now.
The pairings brought some intriguing possible regional matchups of major-conference opponents with WCWS history, like Alabama and Arizona State, or Arizona and Auburn, or Texas and Texas A&M.
Of the 64 teams in the field, eight are guaranteed home-field advantage if they win their regional, giving them an edge in getting to Oklahoma City.
Let’s take a look at the top eight seeds in the NCAA softball tournament in this week’s edition of Eight for OKC:
Conference: Big 12
Regional opponents: Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Maryland-Baltimore County
Potential super-regional opponent: Northwestern
The Sooners are hotter than anybody around, and despite the unnatural fear UMBC might represent — its men’s basketball team became the first No. 16 seed to upset a No. 1 in the NCAA Tournament when it routed Virginia last year — there’s no reason to expect OU to have any trouble in its regional.
Regional opponents: Missouri, Cal State Fullerton, Weber State
Potential super-regional opponent: Michigan
The Bruins dropped two of three to Arizona in the final week of the regular season, meaning three of their five losses have come in the last six games. Rachel Garcia, with a 0.98 earned-run average and 207 strikeouts in 136 ⅓ innings, anchors a strong pitching staff.
Regional opponents: Mississippi State, Seattle, Fordham
Potential super-regional opponent: Kentucky
Washington is coming in strong, with back-to-back sweeps of Arizona and Stanford in which the Huskies’ pitching staff allowed eight runs in six games. Leadoff-hitting shortstop Sis Bates continues to be the heart and soul of the lineup.
4. Florida State
Regional opponents: South Carolina, South Florida, Bethune-Cookman
Potential super-regional opponent: Oklahoma State
Florida State didn’t allow a run while plowing through the ACC tournament, stretching its winning streak to 13 games — dating back to an April 17 matchup with Florida.
Regional opponents: Stanford, Boise State, Boston
Potential super-regional opponent: Tennessee
Florida made a move up the rankings with its charge through the SEC tournament that included a 4-0 record against NCAA tournament teams South Carolina, LSU, Auburn and Alabama.
Regional opponents: Auburn, Colorado State, Harvard
Potential super-regional opponent: Ole Miss
Another team that helped its cause in the last week, Arizona took two of three from UCLA to strengthen its seeding as coach Mike Candrea tries to get his team back to the WCWS for the first time since 2010.
Conference: Big Ten
Regional opponents: Georgia, Drake, North Dakota State
Potential super-regional opponent: LSU
Minnesota’s seeding drew some criticism after its loss to Michigan in the finals of the Big Ten tournament, especially considering Michigan was also the conference’s regular-season champion. But the loss was only Minnesota’s second since April 6.
Regional opponents: Arizona State, Lipscomb, Alabama State
Potential super-regional opponent: Texas
The Crimson Tide reached the SEC title game, losing to Florida, and faced some ups and downs during the conference season. But if the Tide can advance, it could get a super-regional against a Texas team that goes into the NCAA tournament coming off two tough losses.