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And Another Three

Publication Date: January 7, 2003

Who Were Those Guys?

There is, within the context of this column, a certain amount of annual repetition. To some extent, that's a function of seasonal sports; to another, it's a function of how I am -- there are certain subjects I like to touch on each year. (Oh, yeah, that reminds me; welcome back, and Happy New Year! But, anyway, ...) That can get a bit repetitious, and I try to fight that -- I haven't touched on park factors this off-season, for example, although I need to get out a list of them, at least -- but some of these annuals seem to be pretty popular, and, according to my server logs, my readership is more than doubling every year anyway, meaning that half of you weren't here last year, so I'm going to hit one of my more popular annual pieces. Each year, I try to point out three programs that a lot of fans aren't familiar with that I wouldn't be surprised to see in Omaha this year.

In 2001, the teams were Tulane, Nevada, and Central Florida, and Tulane made their first trip to the CWS. In 2002, the teams were Cal State Northridge, South Alabama, and Louisiana-Monroe. None of them made it to Omaha, but CSUN flirted with the top 15 for much of the year and might have made it with a more fair tournament layout, and USA was a #1 seed. So, who should you be watching this year?

And Another Three

How good is Fresno State? Well, the last three years they've been #21, #25, and #47 in the ISR's. The off-year in 2002 masks the fact that they should have been a high #2 seed the two years before, and that's exactly the type of team that can explode into Omaha with a good run at the end of the year. Based on past history, they can't really expect any favors from the selection committee (the latest word from the championship and competition cabinet is that the committee will not have to be as concerned about geography as they were last year, but they can still place two conference teams in a regional, and they're not going to seed anyone but the #1's; that's not final yet), but I'd say there's a reasonable chance of them repeating San Jose's run from 2000.

One of the rules I use to do these lists each year is that I don't actually look at the returning roster -- I'm just looking at program history. On the other hand, I know what I know, so I'm glad this next team popped out on the criteria I use -- Southwest Missouri State should be loaded this year. They've steadily improved each year up to #33 last year in the year-end ISR's, and I'd expect this to be the year they break through to some consistent success.

Finally, each year I pick one team based more on their being the probable best team in an improving conference. Those picks haven't particularly shone so far, but there's a chance this year may be different. Starting from essentially nothing (no bids at all their first year in existence), the Mountain West schools have gathered up some rather high-profile new coaches, and the league's overall quality has steadily risen. San Diego State has improved quite a bit the last couple of years and looks to be the best the league has to offer this year, so they're my third team to watch out for starting this year.

This topic always tends to generate a lot of suggestions from email, so I'll look forward to hearing your suggestions. Just remember, I'm looking for teams that are off most folk's radar, not for obvious top 10 choices. The season actually starts next Thursday with Arizona State at Hawaii-Hilo, so it's time to start getting excited or annoyed depending on how you feel about the spread out starting dates. Let me hear from you.

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Boyd's World-> Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha-> And Another Three About the author, Boyd Nation