Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tough as nails

Many on bubble in Big 12 before conference tourney



Missouri pitcher Aaron Crow delivers a pitch against KU on May 9 at Hoglund Ballpark. Crow, who's 11-0 this season, should make the Tigers a tough out in the Big 12 tournament.

The importance of the regular season, compared to the postseason, seems to vary within each sport.

With football, for instance, it can be argued no other sport places as much importance on the regular season. To even have a shot at a conference title and/or BCS berth, teams typically have a margin of error of one loss.

With basketball, less emphasis is placed on the regular season. Team X could lose every regular-season game, get its best player healthy in time to win the Big 12 tournament and receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Baseball falls somewhere in the middle. The Big 12 tournament will begin one week from today. The conference has 10 teams, but only the teams with the eight best Big 12 records will play in the tournament.

We're approaching college baseball's version of March Madness. In the interest of keeping true to alliteration, we'll call it May Madness:


1. Texas A&M;
Big 12 record: 19-5.
Road ahead: at UT, vs. UT, vs. UT.

Dr. Optimist says: The Aggies would have to drop two of three and Nebraska would have to sweep Missouri for A&M; to lose the No. 1 seed. The Aggies are 31-6 at home this season.

Dr. Pessimist says: Texas A&M; has lost its last three games.

2. Nebraska
Big 12 record: 17-6-1.
Road ahead: at MU, at MU, at MU

Dr. Optimist says: The Huskers have won 11 of 13, and in one of those losses, it took 16 innings to knock Nebraska out.

Dr. Pessimist says: Missouri is 20-5 at home this year. It's going to be tough to spot Texas A&M; two games, play three at Missouri to close the season and win the Big 12.

3. Oklahoma State
Big 12 record: 16-8.
Road ahead: vs. OU (in Tulsa), vs. OU (in Oklahoma City), vs. OU (in Oklahoma City).

Dr. Optimist says: There remains a good chance Oklahoma State, three games behind A&M;, will win its final three games against Oklahoma. A No. 1 seed at the Big 12 tournament is still within reach; No. 3 seed at worst.

Dr. Pessimist says: The Cowboys won 12 games in a row from April 16 to May 3. That was then. Their record since that time: 2-3.

4. Missouri
Big 12 record: 13-11.
Road ahead: vs. NU, vs. NU, vs. NU.

Dr. Optimist says: Not many teams in the Big 12 feature the 1-2 pitching punch of Aaron Crow (11-0, 2.82 ERA) and Kyle Gibson (8-1, 3.59 ERA). With each team being guaranteed three games in the Big 12 tournament, the Tigers will be a tough out if their rotation holds up.

Dr. Pessimist says: Behind the talented duo, nobody has more than three victories on the staff.

5. Texas
Big 12 record: 12-12.
Road ahead: vs. Alabama A&M; (2), vs. Texas A&M;, at Texas A&M;, at Texas A&M.;

Dr. Optimist says: Texas could steal a page out of the New York Giants book on winning the Super Bowl. About a month before they won it all in 2008, the Giants had their tune-up against the Patriots. Even though they lost, the Giants gave the Patriots their biggest test of the regular season and had a swagger about them heading into the playoffs.

To win the Big 12 tournament, teams will likely have to go through Texas A&M.; It's a great chance for Texas to boost its confidence before the tournament.

Dr. Pessimist says: The Longhorns have lost seven of their last 13.

On the Bubble

6. Baylor
Big 12 record: 10-14.
Road ahead: Stephen F. Austin, at TTU, at TTU, at TTU.

Dr. Optimist says: Texas Tech has the worst record (7-17) in the conference; nice way to boost the record.

Dr. Pessimist says: Facing TTU not the best way to prepare for Big 12 tournament.

7. Kansas
Big 12 record: 9-15.
Road ahead: vs. KSU, at KSU, at KSU.

Dr. Optimist says: If Kansas wins the weekend series against Kansas State, its spot is guaranteed in the Big 12 tournament.

Dr. Pessimist says: The Jayhawks are 3-13 away from Hoglund Ballpark this season.

8. Oklahoma
Big 12 record: 8-15-1.
Road ahead: vs. OSU (Tulsa), vs. OSU (Oklahoma City), vs. OSU(Okla. City).

Dr. Optimist says: The Sooners won their last series against K-State.

Dr. Pessimist says: Winning one game against OSU this weekend may not be enough.

9. Kansas State
Big 12 record: 8-16.
Road ahead: at KU, vs. KU, vs. KU.

Dr. Optimist says: The Wildcats must win two out of three against Kansas. K-State is 16-11 at home.

Dr. Pessimist says: K-State beat No. 3 Arizona State (41-9) earlier in the month, then lost two of three against OU.

10. Texas Tech
Big 12 record: 7-17.
Road ahead: vs. BU, vs. BU, vs. BU.

Dr. Optimist says: The Red Raiders must sweep Baylor at home for a chance.

Dr. Pessimist says: The Red Raiders haven't swept a Big 12 team at home all season.


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