Despite missing the ACC Baseball Tournament by virtue of losing a tiebreaker with Boston College, the Tar Heels found themselves offered their ninth straight bid to the NCAA tournament this week. UNC's strong finish and high RPI swayed just about everyone to their cause, with the notable exception of Wolfpack coach Elliot Avent, who's a little bitter the Heels got a week off. Carolina touched down in Norman, Oklahoma yesterday, where they'll be a three seed in the regional. What are their chances for surviving and starting a trip to their fifth consecutive CWS?
Pretty decent, actually. The Heels have an RPI only three spots behind regional host Oklahoma, and well ahead of California and Oral Roberts. Carolina's first opponent, the Golden Bears, may be the weakest two-seed in the tournament, having been swept in three of their last five weekend series. Neither their pitching nor their batting has put up particularly strong numbers, a good sign when facing a UNC team that like last year, is stronger on the mound than on the plate. Oral Roberts is greatly diminished from the team that nearly pulled off an upset in Tempe last year, having lost a large chunk of their rotation and their closer. They look to be a non-factor.
And that leaves the favorite Oklahoma. Like Carolina, the Sooners started slow but have turned it on down the stretch, winning nine of their last eleven. They've done it with their bats, led by third baseman Garrett Buechele. Their pitching is tough, but beatable. They're the biggest impediment to Carolina surviving the weekend, they'll be playing on their home turf, and be extremely tough to beat. But the Heels have as a good a chance as they could hope for in Norman, and could quite conceivably pull out the victory.
The Heels play California Friday at 8 pm Eastern, with Matt harvey getting the start for Carolina.