For the second time in the Ritch Price era, Kansas (37-22) will be playing in the NCAA championship tournament. The Jayhawks will be sent to Chapel Hill to play in the regional, hosted by #4 national seed North Carolina (42-16, #3 RPI). Joining KU and UNC will be Coastal Carolina (46-14, #27 RPI) and Dartmouth (27-16, #146 RPI). UNC and KU are at-large bids, CCU won the Big South tournament and Dartmouth was the Ivy League champion. The regional will be a double elimination tournament, with the winner going on to face the winner of the Greensville regional hosted by East Carolina.
Kansas will face Coastal Carolina Friday afternoon, first pitch 1PM CST. No word yet on if there will be any television coverage open to Kansas viewers but KLWN AM 1320 will broadcast the game live.
At today’s press conference Kansas head coach Ritch Price called Coastal Carolina’s skipper, Gary Gilmore, “one of the best coaches in the country,” who has made the Chanticleers “one of the best teams in the country over the last five years.” When asked if he was nervous going into this afternoon Price said he was confident the Jayhawks would hear their name called. “When you have played your way [into the tournament] before the conference tournament you cannot play your way out once there.” Thankfully this rule of thumb was born out. Kansas went 0-3 at Bricktown. “It was the first bad week of baseball we’ve played in over a month.”
When asked about the team’s reaction to the day’s events Price said, “They are thrilled. They wanted to go to someplace special and hearing they were going to North Carolina was the icing on the cake.” The Chapel Hill regional promises to bring in big crowds.
What do the Hawks need to do this week to keep the dream season going? “We just have to be professional everyday. We pride ourselves on being a team that grinds. We do not have any prima donnas on the team.”
After the jump, more selection day news and KU baseball notes.
Eight teams from Big-12 make the tournament: A record 8 teams from the Big-12 made the tournament field. The two surprises were #8 Baylor (29-24) and #9 Oklahoma State (32-22). OSU did not even qualify for the Big-12 tournament held last weekend, yet still was extended an at-large bid, largely due to thier #26 RPI.
Price surprised to see a few teams left out: When asked what teams he was surprised to see left out of the tournament Ritch Price mentioned San Jose State (41-20, WAC regular season champions), San Diego (29-25, 5th in the WCC) and two Mountain West teams, New Mexico (37-20, 2nd place) and BYU (30-24, 4th place). Personally I was disappointed with a few other omissions. Six teams from outside the four "power conferences" made a good case this year but were not invited after failing to secure an automatic bid: Dallas Baptist (38-17, #36 RPI as an Independent), Rhode Island (37-20, #53 RPI in the A-10), Eastern Illinois (36-14, OVC regular season champions), Illinois (34-20), New Mexico State (44-17) and Missouri State (34-20, MVC regular season champions). Among the least deserving teams gifted into the field, Vanderbilt (34-25, 8th in the SEC) and two Big-12 teams, Baylor and Oklahoma State. There is a lot of national outrage going on right now regarding those three teams receiving bids and, Big-12 fan or not, I share in the frustration. I think few factors hold back the growth of NCAA baseball into a national sport moreso than does the management of the post-season championship tournament. The clear trend is to extend favors to programs that least need them, and to push aside programs trying to compete on an uneven playing field.
25 man roster: KU will have to leave a few players off their post-season roster who I am sure Ritch Price would like to have available on his bench. Teams are limited to a 25-man roster during the NCAA tournament, and KU currently has 28 healthy players on its 35-man roster.
Robby Price Injury: Robby aggravated his earlier shoulder injury in the 1st inning of the final tournament game while making a diving stop. Robby was in pain after the play and had to be helped off the field. Robby said he was doing much better and getting treatment several times a day. He expects to be ready on Friday for the first game.
Tom Keegan published a nice story on former KU baseball head coach Floyd Temple in today’s LJ World. It’s well worth reading. A few highlights:
Temple coached KU baseball for 28 seasons and proudly shares that he never had a full-time assistant coach and was ejected by an umpire only twice. In today’s world, a Big 12 baseball coach would choose among numerous assistants to take over for him. Temple had only one option: bus driver George Thomas, who was behind the wheel for 26 of Temple’s 28 years.
"We’re playing Baylor down there, and in those days there was a lot of home cooking with umpires," Temple said during a recent interview at a Lawrence coffee house. "We were getting homered pretty good, and I was getting a little testy. The guy thumbed me. So I walked by the bench, told George I needed the keys to the bus, and headed to the bus parked out by left field. I told George to take care of things for me. One inning goes by, and here comes George. He comes onto the bus, and I said, ‘George, you’re supposed to be looking after things.’ He said, ‘He thumbed me, too.’ I said, ‘What’d you say to him?’ He said, ‘Pretty much what you said.’ George Thomas was the only bus driver in the history of the world ever ejected from a college baseball game."
Temple, who also served as an assistant football coach at Kansas, didn’t recruit all the athletes who played for him. Sometimes, they were recruited by the football coach or the basketball coach. Hall of Fame football player John Riggins played left field for him. Dave Robisch, a professional basketball player for 13 seasons, pitched.
"John Riggins, you know how big he was, he went one solid year, and it wasn’t until the last game, playing Iowa State in Ames, he got his first extra-base hit," Temple said. "Can you imagine that, a guy that big? Everything he hit were ’tweenners he’d beat out. When he finally got one, a double, the whole team jumped up to applaud him like he had hit a grand slam."
Dugan Arnett published a profile of Brett Bochy and his father, Bruce, who is the manager of the San Diego Padres.