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May 22, 2012
Some people really want to host
Some people really love to host.
They put on their snazzy cocktail dress, wipe the top layer of dust off the furniture, and whip up that quiche everyone pretends to like. People always seem to love their parties because the hostess really loves to entertain.
Folks, Mississippi State fans really want to host a party next week. They have the ribs in the fridge, the ice chest stocked, and the Maroon pom-poms ready. All they need is the NCAA to send them the guest list.
The Bulldogs have closed strong winning 14 of their last 19 games counting the SEC opening 9-1 win over Arkansas Tuesday. Mississippi State is looking to recapture the postseason magic from 2011 where they won the Atlanta Regional and pushed Florida to the cusp in the SuperRegional.
"We have a group of older guys, especially on our pitching staff, that went on that postseason run last year and really want to experience that again," said Mississippi State coach John Cohen. They looked poised for one Tuesday.
This time, there is hope there will be another game at Dudy Noble Stadium.
Within minutes of the victory over Arkansas Tuesday, the twitterverse was littered with questions regarding the Bulldogs' status as a host squad.
So can they host? What has to happen? And who are they competing with?
Slow down, slow down. First things first.
Let's look at the hosting situation. Some teams will play at home next week regardless of their performance this week. By my count these teams can already get the card table out of the attic and get babysitter lined up. Company is coming.
LSU, Florida, and South Carolina from the SEC, Florida State, North Carolina, and NC State from the ACC, Baylor and Texas A&M from the Big XII, Oregon, UCLA, and Stanford from the Pac 12, and Rice from Conference USA are locked and loaded. Those are 12 teams who could lose all their games to Coppin State this week and still not need a suitcase next weekend.
That leaves four spots.
Most people feel there are four contenders that are well ahead of the rest of the field.
Purdue has enjoyed a remarkable season and with the shortage of viable Northern options, the Boilermakers are a strong bet to host even without a suitable home ballpark. They are expected to host in Gary at US Steel Yard Ballpark. It is hard to imagine a scenario where Purdue's historic season is not rewarded with a host site.
Arizona is second in the Pac 12 heading into this weekend finale versus Arizona State. If the Wildcats struggle, they could play their way out opening the door for Cal State Fullerton to take a fourth west coast spot. However, what if both Arizona and Cal State Fullerton (the Titans face Long Beach State) struggle this weekend. Would the committee only award three host spots west of Texas and look elsewhere for a venue?
Virginia has played well late and many feel they will host. In the ACC Tournament pool play format, the Cavaliers face Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Florida State. Should they struggle this week, the door could open for a team like Mississippi State. They might be the most likely victim of a Bulldog bite.
Kentucky is the team most likely mentioned by fans as the Bulldogs' target to pass. The Wildcats led the SEC much of the season and were in a position to win the regular season on the final day. That goal eluded them as part of their losing sweep in Starkville. Despite the 0-3 mark against MSU, the Wildcats did finish a full two games ahead of Mississippi State in the standings.
While each committee is different, prior editions have not jumped a team that far ahead in the conference pecking order for a host spot. A half game, sure, but not two games.
There is always a 'but' and I wonder what would happen if Mississippi State would defeat LSU Wednesday, beat Kentucky Thursday, and then defeat the Wildcats again Saturday. That would mean the Bulldogs went 5-0 against Kentucky. That kind of dominance might resonate enough to send some teams to Starkville next week and put the Wildcats on the road to Gary.
Of course all of this is moot unless Mississippi State continues their hot streak. They face SEC regular season champ LSU Wednesday and even with SEC Pitcher of the Year Chris Stratton on the mound, will have a tough chore with the Tigers.
The Bulldogs will also have to look over the shoulders to make sure teams like Central Florida, Cal State Fullerton, Miami, and Arkansas don't make a run and pass them in the host progression.
For the Bulldogs and our friends in the Leftfield Lounge, they are happy to be in this discussion. If a few breaks (OK, a LOT of breaks) go their way on the field and with the scoreboard watching, they might be even happier. They could be preparing for guests.