Boston College is back in the NCAA Tournament. Their first stop on the fabled "Road to Omaha" takes them to Oxford, Mississippi and the home of the Ole Miss Rebels. Here's your quick reference guide as to how the four teams made it to the Big Dance:
-Ole Miss is the site host, having been granted a host bid by the NCAA. The Rebels are not a national seed, however, having been granted the bracket that will play opposite the #3 overall seed in Coral Gables (Miami). This, in essence, makes this bracket the equivalent of a 5/12 and 4/13 matchup in the first round (since Miami would be a #1 seed in a bracket).
-That means the BC-Tulane game is the equivalent of a 5/12 matchup in the basketball tournament, meaning the Eagles are a 12-seed in their bracket of 16 teams.
-The rules are simple in the bracket: don't lose twice. It's a double elimination format, which means you're given a do-over if you lose once. It's a format designed to help the best team win, and it means there's going to be a ton of baseball going on this weekend.
-BC plays Tulane in the first game of the bracket at 4 PM on Friday, with Utah and Ole Miss playing in the nightcap. The winners advance while losers drop down into the Elimination Bracket.
-If a team makes the regional final with one loss, they would have to beat the winner's bracket winner twice. In essence, winning the first game only forces a second game later that day to create a doubleheader. The second game then becomes a winner-take-all event.
Here's a short snapshot of the teams competing in the Eagles' bracket:
1) Ole Miss Rebels
Conference Record: 18-12
Conf. Tournament Result: Eliminated in SEC Semifinals by Texas A&M, 12-8
Ole Miss earned one of the SEC's seven regional host bids by running roughshod through a brutal non-conference schedule. They opened the season losing one game before the SEC opener, and it came while they were taking two out of three games from Louisville - who wound up as the #2 national seed.
They struggled through the middle stretch of the season, getting swept by South Carolina and losing two out of three to Mississippi State, then lost two out of three to Alabama in mid-April. They picked up a huge resume boost by beating LSU at home, then swept Kentucky before losing two out of three to Texas A&M. After beating South Carolina and Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament, there were some who thought they could compete for a national seed, but they wound up falling into a regional bracket paired off with the #3 overall seed.
2) Tulane Green Wave
Conference Record: 15-7
Conf. Tournament Result: Eliminated by Houston in AAC Semifinals, 6-2
Tulane won the American's regular season championship by only a half of a game over East Carolina, but they ran into a sneaky-hot Houston team that made a late run at the NCAA Tournament. Houston, who won 36 games but finished fifth in the AAC, beat the Green Wave twice in the conference tournament, knocking them into elimination games in the second round before eliminating them in the semifinals.
Tulane's loss actually created problems for BC. Had the league tournament gone as expected, the Green Wave would've won and added an at-large bid on the back end. But by losing twice, it opened the door for Connecticut, who won the league tournament to earn an automatic bid. That set back a team like North Carolina, who had been hoping for everything to go as planned so they could sneak in, though it was originally thought BC would wind up in that bubble.
The Green Wave are one of those baseball schools that rears its head every now and then. This is their second straight tournament appearance after a layoff of seven years. Prior to that dip, Tulane went to 12 tournaments in 16 years, winning a couple of conference championships in Conference-USA. They've been to two College World Series, having made it in 2001 and 2005.
3) Boston College Eagles
Conf. Record: 13-15
Conf. Tournament Result: Lost in ACC First Round To Georgia Tech
We know all about these guys. The Eagles make the field of 64 for the first time since 2009 after winning barely 10 games three years ago. They made themselves a lock for the field by beating Georgia Tech on the final weekend of the regular season after a late-season run that saw them knock off nearly every nationally-respected big boy.
BC is going to be an interesting case study in the national tournament. They're the lone New England team in a power conference, and they've earned the right to play here by simply beating the teams in their league. They punched up above their weight class in order to do it, and a lot of people are going to be paying attention to them.
What separates BC from UConn or Bryant is their conference affiliation. Bryant earned a two seed, but if they lose two straight, the immediate response will be that they play in an inferior conference and simply did enough to be a power non-power conference team. UConn got in by winning at the right time. BC was gifted into the tournament over North Carolina, something that pretty much says, "Look guys - we gave you the spot. Now go show us something."
Giving Boston College a spot over North Carolina upsets the league's power structure, but it's a good chance to give them a national stage by which to display the abnormally large chip that's been on their shoulder all season.
4) Utah Utes
Conf. Record: 18-11
Conf. Tournament Result: Won Pac-12 Championship
Utah won the Pac-12 by beating Washington, two games to one, in their three-game series to end the season. By beating the Huskies, they finished the year with the best regular season conference record, earning them the automatic bid (The Pac-12 does not have a conference tournament).
That Utah wound up as the team winning the conference was a bad look for the Pac-12. The western leagues were far from elite this season, and a team with a sub-.500 record wound up winning one of the glamour baseball conferences. To put it into perspective, their overall record was third worst in the league, and if they hadn't won the league, there are several other options the committee would've liked over the Utes.
But they're in the dance, and they're being given a seed that requires them to come east and play in a completely different climate than what they're going to be used to in Utah. They did what they needed to do to get in, which gives them an equal part's shot as everyone else.