Friday afternoon will begin this year's Dairy Queen Classic. The Gopher baseball team annually hosts this nationally competitive tournament in the Metrodome. This year's talent is as good as it gets. (And stay tuned as I tie the Dairy Queen Classic to Pamela Anderson.)
All but Tulane were NCAA Tournament participants a year ago and they are undefeated this season and #18 in the Baseball America poll. Pepperdine is ranked in some polls and TCU is among the teams on the verge of being ranked. Since my knowledge of Gopher baseball is limited at best and I know even less about the participating teams, I have called a new friend to Gopher Nation. Brian at the College Baseball Blog was kind enough to give us a little insight into the participating teams and a little about the Gopher's chances this year.
1. Before we get to looking ahead let's look back. Minnesota walked into what we all knew would be a tough 3-game series with #4 Mississippi, but I don't think anybody expected it to be quite as bad as it was (losing a combined 45-10). How good is Mississippi and should this series really be used as an accurate barometer?
tCBB - Ole Miss is picked to finish by the coaches of the SEC to grab the Western Division title over Mississippi State. Lance Lynn is one of the top pitchers in the nation in 2008 and should be a first round pick barring any major injuries. The results should be looked at by Gopher baseball fans as a barometer that this team needs to step up their game to be a National contender again.
2. Now let's just pretend that series didn't happen. Coming into the lion's den that is the HHH Metrodome are three very good teams. #30-Pepperdine, TCU were both NCAA Tournament teams a year ago and #18-Tulane is having a very good season. The first question is, can Minnesota get a win out of this weekend?
tCBB - Minnesota can always get a win out of this weekend as they can catch a pitcher on an off-day or just hit great on that day. It is baseball and anything can happen. Do I expect them to sweep those three schools? Absolutely not and would be surprised if they won 2 games in the tourney.
3. If fans head down to the Dome to watch some quality college baseball who are some players that we should pay attention to for the visiting teams?
tCBB - The best player in the tournament this weekend is Brett Hunter out of Pepperdine. He is a 6-4 right handed pitcher who has been throwing high 90's during spring workouts and should be a contender for National Pitcher of the Year awards. He is the real deal and when he is expected to start is a must see for the Gopher fans even if the Gophers are not playing in that game. TCU is expected to continue to dominate the Mountain West conference and Tulane has become a national power in Conference USA. TCU is coming off a series against Cal-State Fullerton in which they lost 2 out of 3 but picked up a victory on Tuesday over Dallas Baptist University to even their record at 2-2. Tulane enters with a perfect 4-0 record with a 3 game sweep over UIC and a single game victory over SE Louisiana.
4. As Minnesota gets into the Big Ten season, where do you see them finishing? Can they compete with Michigan or is it a fight for second place?
tCBB - Second place for Minnesota? I don't think so. I see Minnesota in a battle for third place in the Big Ten. Ohio State and Michigan are on a separate tier when compared to the rest of the conference. Ohio State had one of the best recruiting classes in the country in the last few years and the student athletes are starting to get involved in the everyday lineup. Purdue went down to Baylor and gave them a run for the money with three straight one run games.
5. Based on your expertise, is this an NCAA Tournament team? Would a second place Big Ten finish and an 8th consecutive appearance in the B10 Tourney title game be enough to get them into the Field?
tCBB - This Minnesota team is about a year away from competing for a conference title. Michigan just played the Mets on Tuesday where they tied 4-4. We don't even have to bring up the fact that Michigan qualified for a Super Regional last year and Ohio State had an excellent team which qualified for the Texas AM Regional.
6. I know the staff at The College Baseball Blog get out and see a lot of games throughout the season, can we expect to see you visiting Seibert Field? Maybe May 9-11 when we host Michigan?
tCBB - I would love to come out for that series but we are trying to develop some great advertising on my site to make this a full-time job for me. I will see what I can do about making that big series in frigid Minnesota.
** If that isn't enough to get you to go, there is a chance that you may catch a Pamela Anderson sighting at the Dome this weekend. You read it right, apparently Pam is a huge supporter of the Waves.
** What I want to know is why did we invite TCU? We have the Waves of Pepperdine, the Green Wave from Tulane and then the Horned Frogs? No, no, no, we should cancel their flight and bring in Florida Atlantic and the Blue Wave! Now THAT would have made for a tournament.
** HERE is the GopherSports.com preview of the participating teams.
** To get your Tulane fix, check out Wave Sports.
** Finally, I'd like to make a motion that the tournament be moved to Pepperdine. The Barn is cool, the Dome is functional, but playing baseball with palm trees just beyond the fences and a view of the Pacific in left field? Wow!