Louisville Regional Preview
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Written By: Ben Malcomson (@malcomsonben)
With Friday’s showcase fast-approaching, let us take some time to get to know the matchups and the teams participating in the regional. Note: Their seeding is based on the regional seeding.
#2 Indiana (36-21) vs. #3 Illinois State (34-24) – 2 PM EDT on ESPN 3
#1 Louisville (43-15) vs. #4 University of Illinois-Chicago (29-21) – 6 PM EDT on ESPN 3
All four teams were impressive enough throughout the season to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament bracket. Although, it is fun to look back and review every game that led them to this point, let us choose to focus on the last five games for each program and go from there.
Last Five Games
#1 Louisville: 2-5
Review: The Cardinals have the #1 seed and home field advantage, but they are technically backing into the regional following losses in the ACC tournament against Boston College and Clemson, respectively. That hurts their momentum. But, they have proven to be a resilient bunch. The two victories in the last five came in the series to finish out the season over Florida State taking 2 of 3. The other three teams shouldn’t take Louisville lightly. They are one of the most impressive programs in the country and they will settle for nothing less than a trip to Omaha and a national championship.
#2 Indiana: 3-2
Review: The Hoosiers finished the season strong by sweeping Rutgers to win the B1G title outright as they edged Michigan in the process for the honor to stand alone. The B1G tournament, on the other hand, was not too kind to them as they drop back-to-back games against Iowa and Minnesota. IU is also backing into the tournament. Not how the team and the fans would prefer it, but you should not count the Hoosiers out. Jeff Mercer and company has been preparing this team for this very moment. If they can string together some solid performances and reach a Super Regional, the B1G conference losses will long be forgotten. Remember, we are talking about the outright conference champions here. Hoosier fans thirst for a team hell bent on making some serious noise on their road to head west,
#3 Illinois State: 3-2
Review: The Redbirds enter Friday’s game coming off losses to Dallas Baptist and Indiana State in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. ISU was able to make some noise early on with wins over Southern Illinois and the Sycamores, but Indiana State put them down for good in round two. Their other win in their last five was finishing the season by defeating the Evansville Aces. I have heard that this team is well-rounded and has no quit. The Hoosiers must come prepared if they are hoping to advance to face the winner of Louisville and Illinois-Chicago.
#4 University of Illinois-Chicago: 5-0
Review: Going by recent results, you are looking at the hottest team entering the regional in the Flames. Not only did they finish the season strong by taking 2 of 3 from Northern Kentucky, they were also able to capture the Horizon League Conference Tournament Championship by barreling through Wright State and Milwaukee (twice). They will be tested early as they will face Louisville Friday night. I feel they are a very underrated team. If they can top Louisville, that will send a message to the Hoosiers and Redbirds that they are ready for the challenge.
Bracket Outlook for the Hoosiers
Glass Half Full: IU may have fallen in the conference tournament, but the extra rest and preparation time could pay dividends if they are able to carry over what made them successful in most outings during the season. You have your best starting pitcher on the mound to face Illinois State. It is important to set the tone early and take care of business. I am predicting IU winning out over the Redbirds, but their road to Omaha will go through not just Louisville the city but Louisville the program.
Glass Half Empty: We are entering this contest with a fresh start without carry over momentum from the conference tournament. This could prove to be a bit of a mental challenge for this team if they come in with the previous two games still in the back of their minds. If they do, they will fall in consecutive games and be heading back home early. They were good enough to be crowned champions of the B1G. But, are they good enough to be called national champions? We will find out.