March Madness has a Tigers Flavor
By John Parent
The NCAA Tournament gets underway tonight and you can bet that several members of the Tigers will be keeping close tabs. This will be especially true for a handful of guys on the 40-man roster.
When the field of 68 begins play in Dayton, Ohio, a pair of infielders will have an eye on their alma mater. Brandon Inge and Scott Sizemore both attended Virginia Commonwealth. The Rams will take on the USC Trojans tomorrow night in a first round matchup – or a play-in round game, whatever you want to call it. The selection of VCU as an at-large team from the Colonial Athletic Association has come under great fire by the talking heads at ESPN. The winner of the VCU/USC game earns the 11-seed in the Southwest Region of the Big Dance and will face Georgetown on Friday.
There are three CAA teams in this year’s field and the Tigers have two of them covered. In addition to the two VCU alums, ace right hander Justin Verlander also played ball in the CAA. The Tigers made him their first-round pick back in 2004 out of Old Dominion, whom beat VCU in the CAA title game last week to earn the conference’s automatic bid to the tournament. The ninth-seeded Monarchs take on last year’s runner-up Butler on Thursday.
If nothing else, Verlander carries some bragging rights around in the clubhouse, as his alma mater defeated six other teams that made the tournament. ODU also swept two games from William & Mary and Towson State, a fact that can’t make Will Rhymes and Casper Wells all that pleased.
One club that did knock off ODU was Missouri, an 11-seed in the West Region. Max Scherzer‘s alma mater takes on sixth-seed Cincinnati on Thursday night. Missouri beat ODU by 23 points when the two clubs played back in December. I wonder if that cost Verlander a dinner?
Ryan Strieby, a Kentucky product, will be watching when his Wildcats open play on Thursday against the winner of the UAB/Clemson game. Ryan Perry and Daniel Schlereth are also former Wildcats, but those guys attended Arizona, who reached the field as a five-seed in the West.
Missouri won 23 games this season and played to a .500 conference record, but when they played in Stillwater, the Scherzer’s club came up short to Oklahoma State; a result that no-doubt pleased a pair of Detroit Tigers in pitchers Andy Oliver and Robbie Weinhardt. Oklahoma State didn’t make the field this year despite 19 wins. Their 6-10 conference record was too much to overcome. Oliver and Weinhardt will have to watch their team in the NIT.
They won’t be the only ones, either, Alabama alums Alex Avila and Cale Iorg and Cal product Brennan Boesch will find their school in the NIT as well.
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