COLUMBUS, GA – The NCAA has released the teams that will participate in the 2016 NCAA II tournament during its Selection Show on may 15, 2016. There are eight regions in the NCAA II, and the winner of each regional tournament will go on to the College World Series, in Cary, North Carolina.
For the Southeast Region Tournament, the seven teams that earned bids (either through winning their conference tournament/regular season or being selected by the NCAA committee) are (in order of seeding):
- Columbus State Cougars (40-12)
- Lander Bearcats (38-14)
- Belmont Abbey Crusaders (38-14-1)
- USC Aiken Pacers (37-16)
- Tusculum Pioneers (36-16)
- Catawba Indians (34-19)
- Mount Olive Trojans (30-19)
Okay, we are going to say it yet again. The Southeast Region is THE most difficult region in the country. We know there will be arguments out there about that. But no region has THREE major baseball conferences (Conference Carolinas, Peach Belt & South Atlantic) that turn out the types of teams this region does. It has been a brutal year yet again in conference play, as these teams went through the crucible of the regular season. Even the sub .500 teams were able to make noise and scare the teams you see here, at times. Look at the records of this field of seven teams…all of them with similar records. We said it at the beginning of the year, and we are still saying it…one of the two teams in the CWS championship game in Cary in two weeks (just like last year) WILL be from this region. You cannot go through the regular season fire of the Southeast Region, and then this regional tournament…and not be prepared to take on any team in the country.
The Columbus State Cougars had a great year, as evidenced by their 40 win season. While we had thought some of the other teams in the Peach Belt would rise to the top, we never wavered that the Cougars weren’t in the mix. They get the bye in the first round, which is a huge advantage on their pitching. And while voting against any #1 seed is risky, the Cougars will need to play error free baseball if they want to be in the CWS in two weeks.
One of the teams that impressed us all year in this region was the Lander Bearcats. Not that they were head and shoulders above the other teams in their conference, or even in this region tournament. What was evident, in every game we watched live…even the games they didn’t win, that there is some energy going on within that squad that isn’t measured in the statistical columns. It is that drive that may just be enough to push the Bearcats over top.
The Belmont Abbey Crusaders had a fantastic year, not only rising to the top of the Conference Carolinas, but also taking out several nationally ranked teams during the regular season. Looking at the bracket, we believe that if the Crusaders want to make it to Cary, they will need to beat Catawba and find a way to get through Lander. They have shown this year they are capable. It will now depend on execution.
It seems every year we talk about the USC Aiken Pacers‘ hitting. We are not sure where or how this team continues to get the hitting they do, but make no mistake…they will challenge every pitching staff they meet. Over 70 home runs by this squad and counting. If the Pacer pitching can hold the line, then the bats should be able to push them through. This is a dangerous team.
It seems like in the Southeast Region we talk about hitting all of the time. But this year, the Tusculum Pioneers bring to the table a pitching staff, led by Placido Torres, which may be the best in the country. And in this hit-happy region, having a staff that can not only pitch, but shut down opposing offenses, gives the Pioneers a huge advantage. Where they have struggled at times this year is getting the run production to help that staff, losing every extra inning game this year but one. If the offense can be even nominally productive, as we stated in the preseason, this is the sleeper team that may just end up in Cary.
Coach Gant and the Catawba Indians come off of the loss in the final game of the College World series last year. And especially with their pitching staff, they lost a lot. But what they return is STILL a very talented team, with a coaching staff that not only knows how to win, but has made it to the CWS two of the last four years. While they have struggled a little at times, this team is not to be taken lightly. Do not bet against the Indians.
It must be nice to say that you are a Mount Olive Trojan and our team is having an off year this year. An off year is a 30 win season and sitting in the regional tournament. Not bad. Mount Olive is an annual powerhouse and Coach Lancaster will have his team prepared to play. If anyone in this field takes the Trojans lightly, or doesn’t bring their “A” game…they will be sent home by this team.
This will be our first pick who is not a 1st seed. While as stated above, ANY of the teams in this region have the ability to win this…including Columbus State…we believe that if we have to pick one, it will be the Lander Bearcats. While all of these teams have the offense and pitching in place to win, there are some intangibles that leave us with this pick. We have followed the Bearcats all year, and it just seemed they were a team on a mission. So, since we have to make a call in THE most difficult region in the country….we are going with Lander.
Click HERE for all tournament brackets & schedules