Double the trouble
Also: DIII tourneys get rolling; Hockey East standings tight
When No. 6 Oregon visits No. 18 Cal State Fullerton for a three-game baseball series this weekend, fans might be seeing a sort of double vision. At least that’s what Ducks head coach George Horton is hoping.
Horton, who spent 17 years playing and coaching at Fullerton, left the Titans after the 2007 season to restart a dormant Oregon program in 2009.
“I’ve spent my time at Oregon trying to develop a culture that Cal State Fullerton had before I left, and had before I got there with [former CSF and current Texas head coach] Augie Garrido and has maintained with [former CSF and current Tennessee head coach] Dave Serrano and then [current CSF head coach] Rick Vanderhook,” Horton said. “Our program is striving to have the mental toughness and details that go into a quality baseball program. Hopefully, we’ve arrived at the point where the two programs mirror each other and it is hard for a spectator to tell the difference.”
Horton, who guided Fullerton to six College World Series appearances and the 2004 NCAA title, is well on his way to building a similar tradition at Oregon. In only the program’s fourth season since its rebirth, Oregon finished third in the Pac-12 and hosted an NCAA Regional and Super Regional, falling one victory shy of advancing to the College World Series last year.
The Ducks return seven position starters and four starting pitchers from last year’s team that defeated Fullerton in NCAA Regional play.
While the two squads have met twice in the last three years (they also met in the 2010 opener and Oregon won), this will be the first time the pair will compete in a three-game series. Fullerton (8-0) is off to its best start since 2003, which includes a three-game sweep of then-No. 22 TCU.
The Titans’ skipper, Vanderhook, played for Horton when he was the head coach at Cerritos College, and then spent several years as his assistant at Fullerton.
“I can tell you that I love all those people down there, and it was hard for me to leave that program,” Horton said. “The program is great hands with Rick Vanderhook, and I’m excited to see our product versus their product. It will be a good barometer for our team.”
Oregon has also had a solid start, posting a 7-1 record early in the season. While Horton believes his offense is more balanced and experienced than in the past, pitching and defense have shined for the Ducks. The five Oregon pitchers who have started games this season have combined for a 1.97 ERA, while allowing just 10 earned runs in 45.2 innings pitched, and the defense has posted a .993 fielding percentage.
“It’s kind of like teaching your kid to play piano and now it’s time to perform in front of the biggest crowd of their life,” Horton said. “You certainly want your child to make you proud.”
• If you’re going to watch one college basketball game this week, this is the one I’d suggest you watch – Miami at Duke on Saturday. The No. 3 Blue Devils will be looking to avenge an earlier season 27-point loss to the No. 5 Hurricanes, while Miami will be seeking to clinch their first Atlantic Coast Conference basketball championship with a win against Duke.
When Duke visited Miami on Jan. 23, the Hurricanes knocked the No. 1 Blue Devils off their pedestal with a 90-63 defeat. Last year, when the two teams met at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Miami walked away with a 78-74 victory. However, the Blue Devils are 13-0 at home this year and will certainly be trying to keep that mark intact.
With a 14-1 league mark, Miami holds a 2 1/2 game advantage against Duke in the ACC standings after beating Virginia Tech 76-58 on Wednesday. Duke plays at Virginia on Thursday to warm up for the Hurricanes. The Duke-Miami contest will air live on ESPN on Saturday at 6 p.m.
• The No. 8 Tennessee women’s basketball team hosts No. 13 Texas A&M on Thursday as the Lady Vols look to claim the outright Southeastern Conference regular season title. The game will be broadcast live on CSS and ESPN3 at 7 p.m. ET. The Lady Vols, who own a 13-1 SEC record, already clinched a share of the title with last Sunday’s victory against Arkansas and losses by Kentucky and Texas A&M. Tennessee sits two games ahead of A&M, Kentucky and Georgia, who are in a three-way tie for second-place. UT is seeking its 17th regular season title, and third in the past four years. Tennessee’s Meighan Simmons is tied for the SEC lead in scoring with 17.8 points per game, while A&M’s Kelsey Bone tops the conference with 9.9 rebounds per game. After concluding their home slate on Thursday, the Lady Vols head to No. 10 Kentucky to close out the regular season on Sunday for a game that will air live on ESPNU at 3:30 p.m. ET.
• The No. 3 Western Washington men’s basketball team will finish up the regular season with a nationally-televised contest against Simon Fraser in a Great Northwest Athletic matchup on Saturday. The game will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network at 4 p.m. ET. The defending NCAA champions were the owners of a school-record 30-game winning streak until last week when the Vikings fell to Alaska Fairbanks, but are 25-1 on the year and ranked No. 1 in the Division II West Region. The game will conclude the regular season for the Vikings, who have already clinched a first-round bye in the GNAC tournament. It will be the Vikings’ third appearance on national television in less than a year. Last season, the NCAA semifinal game was televised on the CBS Sports Network and the championship game was shown on CBS.
• The Division III Men’s Basketball Championship tips off on Saturday as 62 teams begin their quest for the trophy. UW-Whitewater – the defending national champions – earned the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference automatic berth last weekend, and will host Dubuque in first-round action. The Warhawks are one of seven teams that have combined to win the last 10 national titles. Of the seven, six are hosting first-round games this year, while Amherst received a bye. Mary Hardin-Baylor also received one of the two first-round byes.
• After going unbeaten in the regular season, the No. 1 DePauw women’s basketball team will compete in its 10th consecutive NCAA Division III tournament when the Tigers host La Roche College in first-round action on Friday. In the other first-round game at DePauw, Otterbein will face Maryville (Tenn.). Otterbein is making its’ first NCAA tournament appearance after receiving one of 21 at-large berths. The winners will advance to the second round, and play Saturday. DePauw is seeking the program’s second NCAA title, and first since 2007.
• The top-ranked Penn State men’s gymnastics team will visit defending NCAA champion and seventh-ranked Illinois for a Big Ten showdown on Saturday. The Illini are coming off their highest team score of the season – a 438.600-438.000 victory against No. 5 Ohio State led by senior captain Vince Smurro, who won his first career individual event title with a career-high score of 15.900 on floor exercise. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions are looking to stay at the top of the rankings in four of six events – high bar, pommel horse, still rings and vault. Junior Wasef Burbar’s most recent performance on the high bar against Springfield last week set a school record with a 16.000 – the fourth highest score in NCAA history.
• When the No. 7 Georgia women’s gymnastics team visits No. 5 LSU on Friday in the Southeastern Conference regular season finale, it will be a very familiar meeting. Before joining Georgia’s staff as an assistant under Danna Durante last summer, assistant coach Philip Ogletree served as an assistant at LSU for 12 seasons. In addition, LSU associate head coach Jay Clark was Georgia’s head coach between 2010-12 and has served as an assistant coach for the Gym Dogs for 17 years previously. The two teams will meet for the 85th time this weekend with the Gymdogs holding a 66-16-2 lead in the series.
• With two weeks remaining in the regular season, there is a bottleneck at the top of the Hockey East men’s standings as Boston College, UMass-Lowell, New Hampshire and Providence are knotted in a four-way tie for first place. Two of the teams will face off this weekend when No. 4 Boston College and No. 20 Providence play a home-and-home series beginning Friday. Providence hosts the Eagles at 7 p.m. ET on Friday, and the game can be viewed on Cox Sports on OSN, while Boston College welcomes the Friars on Saturday. The game will be broadcast on NESN at 4 p.m. ET. Providence is 3-0-4 in its last seven Hockey East game, while Boston College looks to bounce back from Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to No. 10 UMass-Lowell. The Eagles are 1-2-1 in their last four league contests.
• The No. 5 Bowdoin men’s hockey team will be vying for its first New England Small College Athletic Conference title when the Polar Bears host the league championship beginning Saturday. The top-seeded Polar Bears will meet fifth-seeded Middlebury, the defending conference champions, in the semifinals. Bowdoin is riding a 13-game unbeaten streak entering the weekend and has reached the 20-win mark for the first time since 1989, but is 0-5 against Middlebury in the NESCAC Championship, including a 6-3 loss to the Panthers in last year’s semifinals.
• The Division III wrestling regionals get underway this weekend, and there is a new format for the qualification to the Division III championships. There will be six regionals with the top-three finishers in each weight class advancing to the championships in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on March 15-16. This year, a total of 180 wrestlers will compete at championships, 10 more than the old format that consisted of seven automatic-qualifying conferences and two NCAA-sponsored regionals that advanced 170 wrestlers to the championship round.
Regional hosts this weekend will be: Central - Loras (Iowa); East - The College of New Jersey; Mideast - Ohio Northern; Midwest - Elmhurst (Ill.); Northeast - Worcester (Mass.) Polytechnic Institute; and West - Augsburg (Minn.).
Wartburg, the No. 1 team in the nation, will compete in the Central Region, while No. 2 Elmhurst will host the Midwest Region. Wartburg has won the last two national team titles.
• The No. 3 Arizona State women’s softball team will look to eclipse the program’s best start to a season this weekend when the Sun Devils try to improve upon their 16-0 mark. ASU will host North Dakota on Thursday, before putting on the Wilson/DeMarini Invitational beginning Friday. The Sun Devils will play five contests, capped off by a tilt with No. 22 Baylor, in their third home tournament of the season. Head coach Clint Myers led the Sun Devils to a school-record 19-0 start in 2006 in his first season with the program, and is now eyeing the 400-win mark. Myers has collected 393 career victories at ASU, and is on his way to becoming the third coach in school history to reach the 400-win milestone.
• One of the longest collegiate baseball rivalries will be renewed in the Palmetto State this weekend when South Carolina and Clemson tangle in a three-game series. The two squads have met 300 times with the Tigers holding a 169-129-2 advantage in the series that dates back to the 1899 season.
However, the Gamecocks have gotten the best of Tigers in recent history. South Carolina is 8-2 against Clemson in the last 10 meetings of the series, which include a perfect mark for the Gamecocks in four NCAA postseason meetings (2011 CWS and 2012 Columbia Regional).
In 2010, the rivalry moved to the three-game format for the first time with games at each team’s home field bookending a neutral-site affair.
This year’s series begins at Clemson’s Doug Kingsmore Stadium on Friday at 6 p.m. ET, and then the “Reedy River Rivarly” moves to Fluor Field in Greenville, S.C., for a 2 p.m. ET tilt. The series concludes at the Gamecocks’ Carolina Stadium on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.
Follow Amy Farnum on Twitter: @NCAA_Amy