For the 8th time in its 20 postseason trips, Auburn will start the NCAA Tournament in Tallahassee. For some reason, the committee just loves to put the Tigers in the Florida panhandle.
This year, they'll be joined by Florida State (of course, since they're the host), Central Florida, and Tennessee Tech. As the #3 seed, Auburn will play the #2 seed, UCF, in Game 1. That game starts at 11:00 am Central this morning. Game 2 between #1 seed FSU and #4 seed TTU will start at 5:00 pm Central.
Should Auburn win, their next game will be 6:00 pm Central Saturday night against the winner of FSU and TTU. Should they lose, they'll face the loser of FSU and TTU at 11:00 am Saturday morning. You can check out the interactive Regional bracket at the NCAA website.
This is a winnable region for Auburn if the Tigers' pitching is up to the level that it was at earlier in the season. Florida State was a bubble team at best not too long ago before running through the ACC Tournament and claiming the ACC auto-bid by winning the tournament. Of course, Auburn was once a lock to host and then fell off at the end of the year, so you're looking at two programs who are possibly on opposite trajectories.
UCF and TTU are also hardly juggernauts. UCF finished the season 40-20 overall and lost twice to East Carolina in the AAC Conference Tournament. They did have a blow-out win over Florida early in the season, though. TTU was 40-19 and won the OVC tournament.
The key for Auburn will be pitching in their first two games. If Keegan Thompson and Casey Mize can pitch deep into those two games and get wins while saving the bullpen, then Auburn will only need to win one more game and will have Davis Daniel on the mound to do it.
Of course, the pitchers can't do it in a vacuum. Luke Jarvis should be good to go this weekend, which will add some power to the bats. Jonah Todd, Conor Davis, Blake Logan, Josh Anthony, and the rest will need to give the pitchers run support, too.
The NCAA postseason is set up in a way that really benefits a team with a great pitching staff. Auburn definitely has that. If the bats come together with the pitching now at just the right time, then Auburn could make a run through the Regional. Win it, and they're likely headed to Lubbock, TX for a Super Regional.
First things first, though. The Tigers take on the Knights of UCF at 11:00 am on ESPN 2. Turn on the TV and cheer the Tigers on! War Eagle!