The Tigers open the NCAA Tournament looking for a third straight trip to Oklahoma City this afternoon against East Tennessee State. Auburn is the 7th overall seed, and, of course, the highest seed in this Regional. That's going to be very important in a few minutes when we get to the strange and interesting part.
The other teams in the regional - aside from East Tennessee State - are California and Notre Dame. The Golden Bears and Fighting Irish will face off in the first game at 1:00 pm Central. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2. Auburn and ETSU will follow at 3:30 pm Central or 30 minutes following the end of Game 1 and that game will be on ESPNU. Which games are televised on what channels after that will depend on what happens here and all over the country.
After that, who plays who and when is a bit up in the air. Here is a handy picture of the bracket from the NCAA's website.
There are no times listed there, which is a bit strange to me. I would think they would at least have those settled, already. It is a double-elimination tournament, though, so one loss isn't the end. Auburn has managed to get through its hosted regionals with few issues (though definitely with some excitement and close calls) the last two years.
Auburn (46-10): The Tigers finished 2nd in the SEC in the regular season, but lost in the semi-finals of the SEC Tournament. They're looking to make a third straight run to the Women's College World Series.
California (30-22): Cal struggled a bit in the PAC12 this year with a 6-17 conference record. Still, though, the PAC12 is one of the toughest conferences in Softball, so that's not exactly what it seems. They were second from the bottom of the conference, though, so there's that.
Notre Dame (33-21): The Fighting Irish play in the ACC for Softball and all other sports than football (though the ACC got a deal out of that in making them play their football teams, too). They finished with a 13-11 conference record. That was middle-of-the-road in a conference that Florida State dominated by going undefeated.
East Tennessee State (29-24): The Buccaneers finished the season with a win in the Southern Conference Tournament. They were 10-7 in their conference during the regular season. They were 3rd in the regular season behind Furman and North Carolina at Greensboro.
The Interesting Part:
So, here's where things get interesting, though. Weather is an issue. There is a really good chance of rain Saturday. Sunday is going to be nasty all day long. So, there's a chance that some of the Saturday games are affected or Sunday's final games. What happens if there are rain issues? Well, this is what the NCAA says...
0 games: Highest seed advances.
1 game: Highest seed advances.
2 games: Highest undefeated seed.
3 games: Highest undefeated seed.
4 games: Highest seed.
5 games: Highest undefeated seed.
6 games: Winner of Game 6 unless each team has one loss, therefore the teams are tied, then head-to-head competition is the first tiebreaker and highest seed the second.
No, I don't understand it, either. Auburn could conceivably win one game in this Regional and still advance. Every game obviously counts in the NCAA Tournament, but this weekend that is even more true than normal. The Tigers need to stay undefeated so that they advance no matter the circumstance.
I hate to go off on a tangent, but you know who this really stinks for? Minnesota. They've already been shafted by the tournament committee and this could hurt them even more so if the weather in Tuscaloosa is similar to that predicted in Auburn.
A win in the Regional and Auburn will likely face off against last year's College World Series foe Oklahoma whose Regional is paired with Auburn's. That would sure make for an interesting matchup.
The road back to Oklahoma City begins today. Go get 'em, Tigers!