Tuesday, May 31, 2011

ESPN.com's Graham Hays is out with his preview of the Women's College World Series.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Here are the match-ups for the super-regionals, which begin tomorrow. I will update the table as the results come in (links are to game articles).

Teams Game 1 Game 2 Game 3
Texas A&M (16) at ASU (1) ASU ASU ---
Stanford (15) at Alabama (2) Stanford Alabama Alabama
Houston at Oklahoma St. Okla. St. Houston Okla. St.
Oregon (13) at Florida (4) Florida Florida ---
Washington (12) at Missouri (5) Missouri Missouri ---
Baylor (11) at Georgia (6) Baylor Georgia Baylor
Cal (7) at Kentucky Cal Kentucky Cal
Oklahoma (9) at Arizona (8) Oklahoma Oklahoma ---

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The table below tells the story heading into today's play -- who needs just one win to advance to the super-regionals, and who needs two. Numbers in parentheses refer to teams' seedings. If a team needing two wins gets its first win, I will put an asterisk (*) by that team. I am also adding links to articles about teams winning their regionals, in the far right column.

Regional Needs 1 win Needs 2 wins Champion
Tempe AZ Arizona State (1) San Diego State Arizona State
Tuscaloosa AL Alabama (2) Chattanooga Alabama
Austin TX Houston Louisiana-Lafayette Houston
Gainesville FL Florida (4) UCLA* Florida
Columbia MO DePaul Missouri (5)* Missouri
Athens GA Georgia (6) Florida State Georgia
Louisville KY California (7) Louisville California
Tucson AZ Arizona (8) Texas Tech Arizona
Norman OK Oklahoma (9) Tulsa* Oklahoma
Ann Arbor MI Kentucky Michigan (10) Kentucky
College Park MD Baylor (11) East Carolina Baylor
Seattle WA N/A N/A Washington (12)
State College PA Oregon (13) Penn State Oregon
Knoxville TN Oklahoma State Tennessee (14) Oklahoma State
Palo Alto CA Stanford (15) Nebraska Stanford
College Station TX Texas A&M (16) LSU Texas A&M

HTML Tables

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The seeded teams have been holding their own, for the most part, thus far. However, No. 10 seed Michigan has lost to Kentucky, 7-6, in early Saturday play. The Wolverines' furious comeback attempt from a 7-0 deficit, consisting of a run in the sixth and 5 in the seventh, fell just short. I'll be posting occasional updates throughout the weekend.

In other play early Saturday, UCLA jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead over No. 4 seed Florida, but the Gators came back for a 4-2 victory.

As Saturday's play unfolds, things are not going so well for the national seeds, after all. In addition to the Michigan loss...

Houston scored a run in the first against No. 3 seed Texas, and made it hold up in a 1-0 victory.

Oklahoma State has just spanked No. 14 Tennessee, 6-1.

DePaul has outlasted No. 5 Missouri, 2-1, in 11 innings.

As Saturday's play moved toward early evening, Michigan seemed virtually certain to be the first seeded team to be shown the door. Having already lost to Kentucky earlier in the day, the Wolverines trailed Notre Dame 8-3 after 5 1/2 innings. However, Michigan rallied for 6 runs in the bottom of the sixth and held off a Fighting Irish threat in the top of the seventh (runner on third with one out) to remain alive, 9-8. It's now Kentucky and Michigan for the regional championship on Sunday, with the Wildcats only needing to win once and the Wolverines, twice.

Now, it looks as if the dubious distinction of being the first seeded team to be eliminated may fall upon the University of Texas, as the Longhorns trail Louisiana-Lafayette 5-0. Update: Yep, Texas is gone, with a 5-3 loss to ULL.

No. 12 Washington, whose regional started a day before all the others, has become the first team to win a regional and advance to next weekend's super-regionals. The Huskies knocked off BYU today, 7-5.

LINK TO SATURDAY SCOREBOARD

Friday, May 20, 2011

As visitors to this site over the past month are probably aware, I ran a little non-scientific poll on who you all thought should be the favorite to win the Women's College World Series. With the bulk of the NCAA tournament getting underway today, it's time to look at the final poll results...


Arizona State, No. 1 in the NCAA seeding and in the media/coaches polls, came in first in our reader poll, garnering nearly 30% of the 175 votes cast. Second place was "Other," with nearly 20% of the vote. I have no way of knowing for sure which specific teams voters were thinking of when they selected "Other." Likely candidates would seem to be Missouri (No. 5 seed) and Cal (No. 7 seed). Michigan and Alabama were the only other teams to receive at least 10% of readers' votes.

The NCAA website's softball section has both a scoreboard and a brackets page available for following tournament action. Over at Lateral Sports, you can look up and connect to Internet coverage of your favorite team, whether it be by video, audio, or gametracker.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The NCAA tournament begins today, with the Seattle region (Washington, Portland State, Auburn, and BYU). This regional is starting a day earlier than the other 15, apparently to accommodate BYU's school policy of not competing on Sundays.

The host Huskies, a participant in the last two Women's College World Series and 2009 national champions, started off the 2011 season 20-0 and rose to as high as No. 4 in the national rankings. However, their non-conference schedule was not of the highest difficulty. U-Dub went on to compile a 9-12 record in the Pac 10, yielding a No. 12 seed for the NCAA tourney.

Auburn recently made some noise by upsetting highly ranked Florida in the SEC tournament. BYU played a number of nationally ranked teams during the season, going 5-8. The Cougars have won 26 of their last 28 games, playing against Mountain West Conference opponents and non-conference teams from the immediate region (e.g., Southern Utah, Utah Valley, Idaho State).

NOTES...

I wanted to pass along a message I received yesterday from Joe Bleymaier, co-founder of Lateral Sports. This free website allows fans of all college sports to look up -- and connect to -- whatever Internet coverage is available for their favorite teams on a given day, whether it be by video, audio, or gametracker. Here's a direct link to Lateral's softball page.

Michele Smith, a TV analyst for ESPN and a dominating pitcher in her day, joins with ESPN.com writer Dave Scheiber to evaluate this year's top collegiate pitchers.

[Updated early Thursday evening.]

Monday, May 16, 2011

Annual Geo-Spatial NCAA Tourney Travel Map

At roughly four hours post-announcement of the NCAA tournament brackets (which translates to 1:30 a.m. Central), this is one of my fastest turnarounds for posting my annual geo-spatial bracket! Unless you have some really fine eyesight, you are urged to click on the map to enlarge it.


Each clustering shows the teams playing in a given region, shaded in the color of the host school (the home team is also underlined). I would say 15 of the 16 regions are geographically compact, to one extent or another. Only one regional, which I am calling the "super-jumbled" regional, is really a grab-bag, sending No. 7-seeded Cal to Louisville, along with Illinois-Chicago and Jacksonville State (Alabama); these teams are seen as red blocks.

I would say the Alabama (No. 2 seed), Texas (No. 3), Missouri (No. 5), Georgia (No. 6), and (arguably) the Michigan (No. 10) regionals are extremely compact. There are several others, such as the Florida (No. 4) and Stanford (No. 15) regions, in which three of the schools are located pretty close to each other and the fourth is coming from great distance.

As a Michigan alum, let me state my beef with the seedings from the outset. The Wolverines were typically ranked at (or around) No. 2 in the national polls in the closing weeks of the regular season. Yet, the Maize and Blue ended up with a No. 10 seed! What do Arizona State (No. 1 seed) and Arizona (No. 8) have in common this season? They were both beaten by Michigan. OK, the Big 10 was down this year and the Wolverines had a few bad non-conference losses. But a 10 seed?

Also noteworthy (although not necessarily undeserved) is UCLA being completely unseeded, which I assume is the first time that's ever happened. With 24 appearances in the Women's College World Series and 11 NCAA national championships, it must be quite a shock for the Bruins to be considered almost as an afterthought by the commitee. We'll see if they can pull a surprise in the Florida regional.

[Credit: The map onto which I superimposed the softball teams is known as a cartogram, which adjusts the sizes of states or other jurisdictions from their usual sizes and boundaries to reflect other characteristics, such as population. I used this cartogram, which is based on each state's number of electoral votes in the 2008 presidential election.]

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Texas loses to Baylor, giving Missouri the outright Big 12 championship. Waiting for tonight's selection show!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Cal has beaten Arizona, 6-3, this afternoon to take two out of three in the series and finish in second place (15-6) in the Pac 10. Arizona State had clinched the conference title Thursday night.

Talking about clinching conference titles, Michigan (18-2) did the same in the Big 10, with Jordan Taylor pitching a run-rule-shortened no-hitter over intrastate rival Michigan State.

The Big 12 championship is up in the air, with Texas and Missouri tied with 14-3 records at the moment. Mizzou won the first game of a doubleheader today over Iowa State, and is leading the second game 6-0 after three innings. Texas hosts Baylor Sunday.

In the SEC, which is the only major conference to still decide its champion by tournament, Tennessee and Georgia square-off in the final (7:00 pm Central, ESPN and online at ESPN3).  UPDATE: Tennessee has won the SEC tourney, 6-5 in eight innings.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blogger.com, the hosting site for this blog, was down from late Thursday night to Friday afternoon, thus preventing me from doing updates Thursday night.

Suffice it to say that the major story of the SEC tournament's opening day on Thursday was Auburn's upset of Florida, which under the single-elimination format, eliminates the Gators from conference-championship contention. The other Thursday winners were Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. The SEC website's "Tournament Central" is available here, for following the remainder of the event.

Thursday night in the Pac 10, Arizona and Cal battled through 10 innings, with the host U of A prevailing, 2-1. The Wildcats' Kenzie Fowler and Golden Bears' Jolene Henderson both pitched complete games. Arizona needed a two-out, game-tying hit in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

There's a lot of action on America's college softball fields today through Saturday, with very few games on Sunday. Presumably, this schedule is meant to allow the NCAA selection committee to complete its Sunday work in advance of that night's announcement of the brackets, with minimal distraction from ongoing games.

The SEC tournament (which is the only tourney among major conferences) is already underway. Tennessee has eliminated Kentucky in the opener (with a single-elimination format), and Auburn came up with three early runs against Florida. SEC tournament action is receiving wall-to-wall coverage this weekend on the ESPN family of networks.

One of the more interesting series beginning tonight is a three-game set featuring No. 5/6 Cal at No. 10/10 Arizona. The Wildcats showed some signs of rebounding last weekend at UCLA from what had thus far been a disappointing season, with the return of pitcher Kenzie Fowler and some renewed offensive spark leading U of A to wins in two of three games against the Bruins. Against Cal, the Wildcats can show if their late-season improvement is for real. Also, here's a nice article on U of A's record-setting attendance  (discovered via Ultimate College Softball).

I'll be updating scores throughout the weekend, so please check back periodically!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

With the NCAA selections coming up Sunday night, a recent discussion thread on Ultimate College Softball reminded me of how the tournament seedings don't always match up with the media/coaches' poll rankings. I thus decided to make the following chart, which compares the past three years' final regular-season ESPN.com/USA Softball poll rankings (which I chose based on their nice archiving; see 2010, 2009, and 2008) and NCAA tournament seedings (2010, 2009, 2008). You can click on the chart to enlarge it.


As can be seen, I divided teams into three categories: comparably high in the poll rankings and NCAA seedings (+/- 1 of each other); seeded markedly higher than their poll rankings; and seeded markedly lower than their poll rankings. At the very top levels, the seedings and poll rankings tracked very well in 2008 and 2009, but much less so last year.

Though we obviously have a small sample, it seems that of the two, poll rankings may be a better indicator of likely tournament success than the seedings. Most notably, the 2008 Arizona State squad that won the Women's College World Series was ranked No. 2 in the poll, but only seeded sixth. That same year, Virginia Tech, which made a surprise appearance in the WCWS, had a poll ranking of 16th (potentially warranting a No. 16 seed), but was unseeded. Louisiana-Lafayette, another surprise 2008 WCWS participant, was ranked 17th, but unseeded.

Arizona, which made the final championship series last year against UCLA, had its finish better forecasted by its No. 6 poll ranking than its 10 seeding. The Wildcats were also seeded somewhat worse than their ranking in 2009.

One team, the University of Georgia, was seeded more favorably than its final regular-season poll position would warrant in all of the past three seasons.
 
Some have suggested that the RPI rankings, a computer-based system that takes into account teams' strength of schedule, have informed the NCAA seedings more strongly than the weekly polls (here supposedly are last year's RPI rankings).
 
I don't claim to know all that is going on. But, as you're watching the Selection Show, don't be surprised to see your favorite team seeded higher or lower than what you may have been expecting based on the polls!

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Florida completed a sweep today of Tennessee, closing out the series with a 7-2 victory. No. 1 Arizona State did the same to Washington. In other series we were looking at, two other teams had their brooms out today, but couldn't pull off the sweep.

Missouri managed a split with Texas, whereas UCLA salvaged one game out of three vs. Arizona. It was good to see U of A's Kenzie Fowlie back in the pitching circle after her concussion injury.

Elsewhere, Northwestern ended Indiana's 15-game winning streak (13 wins of which were in Big 10 play). Michigan (16-2) now clings to a one-game conference lead over the Hoosiers (15-3). The Wolverines conclude the regular season next weekend with a Friday-Saturday home-and-home series vs. Michigan State, whereas Indiana hosts Purdue in a doubleheader next Saturday.

Among the major conferences, only the SEC still has a conference tournament.

Friday, May 06, 2011

There appear to be two marquee series this weekend. In a three-game set beginning late this afternoon, Tennessee (No. 3/5 in the two national polls) visits Florida (4/6). The Saturday and Sunday games will be televised on the ESPN family of networks.

Over in Columbia, Missouri, No. 8/9 Mizzou hosts No. 3/4 Texas in a two-game series, Saturday and Sunday. The latter game will be on ESPN.

In most years, a three-game series between Arizona and UCLA would qualify as "marquee." This year, however, both teams have fallen out of the Top 10, so the Friday-through-Sunday series in Westwood can probably best be seen as an opportunity for one of the teams to jump-start its season.

Other Pac 10 series include: No.1 Arizona State at Washington, Cal at Oregon State, and Stanford at Oregon. All six of these teams, except Oregon State, are nationally ranked.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The latest column from ESPN.com's Graham Hays is primarily about the success of the Georgia Tech program. What I found more interesting, however, are the notes underneath the main column, in which Hays discusses several teams that either seem to be on the rise (Cal, Oregon, Auburn, Boise State, Oklahoma State, Long Beach State, and Indiana) or floundering (UCLA, Arizona, Georgia, and Baylor) as the NCAA tournament approaches.

Regarding Arizona, pitching ace Kenzie Fowler has been out since getting hit by a batted ball while in the dugout and suffering a concussion, a couple of Sundays ago. To some extent, the Wildcats' recent five-game losing streak -- three straight to Arizona State and two to Oregon, all in Tucson -- might be attributable to diminished pitching depth. However, U of A was shut out twice during the stretch, which of course cannot be blamed on the pitching staff.