Sunday, May 10, 2015

MW champ Fresno State to Eugene, runner-up Aztecs to UCLA

Mountain West champion Fresno State is headed to one of the most difficult regionals in the nation at No. 2 overall seed Oregon, while San Diego State earned an at-large bid and will travel the short distance to Los Angeles for a regional that features No. 7 overall seed UCLA.  (See the bracket).

The Mountain West learned it received two bids for the first time since the 2011 season when the NCAA Tournament bracket was revealed Sunday.  SDSU earned its eighth straight bid and 11th overall, while Fresno State picked up its 31st bid in 34 seasons.

This was almost universally believed to be the oddest NCAA Tournament bracket in recent history.

Among the oddities:  The selection committee chose to send the Mountain West champion to a regional with the Pac-12 champion, while sending the Mountain West runner-up to a regional with the Pac-12 runner-up.  Notre Dame, the third-place finisher in the ACC and a borderline Top 25 team all season, was given a No. 15 national seed and selected to host a regional.  Minnesota, a Top 15 team all season and one that was 15th in the RPI and in the top 10 for a portion of the season, was not only unseeded, but sent to face No. 12 national seed Arizona.

Pittsburgh, the sixth-place finisher in the ACC with an 11-13 conference record and RPI of 56, was given an at-large bid.  Kentucky, losers of 13 of its last 15 games and winners of just five of 24 conference games, was awarded an at-large bid as well.

All Fresno State and San Diego State games this week will be available online.  Fresno State will open the entire 2015 NCAA Tournament with a Thursday 2 p.m. game against North Dakota State.  The Bulldogs are in the only Thursday-Saturday regional in the country because BYU is there as well.  The Cougars face Oregon afterwards.  SDSU opens with Texas, a team that lost to Fresno State this season, at 3 p.m. Friday.  The second game in Los Angeles features host UCLA vs. Cal State Northridge (another team Fresno State beat this season) at 5:30.

Fresno State's first opponent -- North Dakota State -- lost this season to San Diego State in a game where the Bison out-hit the Aztecs seven to six but lost 6-1.  In that game, however, North Dakota State went with freshman pitcher Jacquelyn Sertic and did not use ace pitcher Krista Menke, who has been overpowering all season.  Menke, the Summit League Pitcher of the Year, is No. 2 in the nation in strikeouts with 362 on the season and is 32-4 overall.  Fresno State will counter with Jill Compton, the overwhelming favorite to win Mountain West Pitcher of the Year honors when the awards are revealed Tuesday.  The Bulldogs are 15-0 in Compton's last 15 starts.