Oklahoma Tops TV Viewers for Regional

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Oklahoma’s Patty Gasso

The drama around Oklahoma coming out of loser’s bracket in Norman Regional captivated TV audiences.  The Sooners two games vs North Dakota State provided two of the four most watched regional games of the weekend with Sooners win over North Dakota State on Sunday being the most watched game of the weekend with 637,000 viewers edging out Florida State-Georgia which had 634,000 viewers according to ShowBuzzDaily.com .

Minnesota not getting to host became a national story and viewers followed the Gophers all weekend long.

Saturday’s winner bracket game between Minnesota and Alabama on ESPN was watched by 616,000 viewers according to ShowBuzzDaily.com. Sunday’s game on ESPNU was watched by 505,000 viewers which is most watched Softball game on ESPNU.

Below are some of numbers from some of regional games this weekend.

Sunday May 21, 2017

North Dakota State at Oklahoma 637,000 viewers. 

Georgia at Florida State on ESPN  634,000 Viewers 

Minnesota at Alabama on ESPNU 505,000 Viewers

Wisconsin at Oregon on ESPN2 331,000 viewers

Saturday May 20th

Minnesota at Alabama on ESPN  616,000 viewers

North Dakota State at Oklahoma on ESPN 596,000 viewers

Oklahoma vs Arkansas on ESPN 2  570,000  viewers

ESPN’s Softball Bases Loaded on ESPN2 457,000 vewers

Michigan at Washington on ESPN 448,000  viewers

Wisconsin at Oregon on ESPN 2 373,000 viewers

Oklahoma travels this weekend to take on Auburn in Super Regional. We chatted with radio voice of Auburn Softball Brit Bowen about the matchup as well as the success of SEC Softball and early look on Super Regional Matchup.

In The Circle with Brit Bowen

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Minnesota Not Hosting Is a Black Eye for Softball

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Jessica Allister led Minnesota to Big Ten Regular season and Conference Tournament Championships and highest ranking in program history in 2017

No matter how you look at it. Sunday May 14th was black eye for the sport of Softball.  In what is supposed to be an exciting time for sport with NCAA Tournanent teams being announced instead was a dark day for the sport with lots of anger and  more questions then answers.

Despite being ranked No 1 in the NFCA Coaches Poll on May 16th. The Gophers will not be hosting a regional this week.  Many people have expressed outraged to the point where the NCAA came out with a statement Monday night addressing Minnesota not hosting.

“The NCAA DI Softball Committee spoke at length over a three-day span about the University of Minnesota’s softball team, noting that many factors were considered regarding team seeding and that the final decision was difficult. As a part of the selection criteria, the committee reviews each team’s body of work individually when selecting the field of 64 teams for the softball tournament.  When selecting the top 16 seeds the committee emphasizes a team’s performance against Top 25 teams along with other variables including strength of schedule.  Additionally, two regular-season rankings were released, however, the rankings are not used by the committee when determining the seeds and final bracket that was released yesterday.

When the committee compared Minnesota against other teams being considered for the top 16 seeds, Minnesota did not have as many regular-season Top 10 and Top 25 wins as compared to other teams. The teams that were selected as the 16 seeds had at least one or more Top 10 wins and between four to 18 Top 25 wins. Minnesota did not have any Top 10 wins and only two Top 25 wins.

Furthermore, Minnesota’s strength of schedule was 114. The top seeded teams had strength of schedules ranging from 1 to 36.

Again, this was a very difficult decision and should not take away from the season that Minnesota has had thus far. We are excited about the parity in Division I Softball and look forward to a great tournament. ” 

Now there some questions as a result from the statement.

“Additionally, two regular-season rankings were released, however, the rankings are not used by the committee when determining the seeds and final bracket that was released yesterday”

My Reaction :  What was purpose of two regular -season rankings that were released if the commitee does not use it? Plus this statement contradicts what we were told back in April.  Below is an excerpt.

  “For the second straight year, the sport committee will reveal the rankings ahead of Selection Sunday. The early reveals will give a first glance at potential teams competing for top seed positions in the upcoming 2017 DI Softball Championship tournament.”

If i don’t reflect what you will do on Selection Sunday then what is the point of it?

Another issue that  is not issued in the NCAA Statement Monday night is how does Minnesota who was ranked 7th on the May 6th release drop 10 spots to 17 in 8 days considering the Gophers won Big Ten Tournament adding two wins against top 35 teams in llinois and Ohio State who both made the NCAA Tournament.

Now the statement attacks Minnesota not having enough Top 10, Top 25 wins compared to the teams that are hosting and having weaker schedule then the 16 hosts site.

No one will debate the SEC and Pac 12 are by far better than the Big 10.  SEC ranked No 1 in RPI with 13 teams in NCAA Tournament, Pac 12 is 2nd in Conference RPI with 8 teams making the field. The Big Ten is 8th but still was able to get five teams into the field of 64.

However Minnesota cannot control how good the Big 10 is. They have to play Big 10 schedule that is scheduled for them which included the Conference not scheduling Michgan-Minnesota as a result of Inbalance schedule. So Minnesota loses 3 quality games to no fault of theres.

SEC Teams and Pac 12 teams will always have more opportunities for quality wins then Big 10 teams due to Geography. Easier to play quality teams in South then in the Midwest especially with weather and budgets for traveling.

Just because you dont play in the top conference of the sport does not mean you can’t be one of the best teams in the country.  Villanova won National Title in 2016 in College Basketball playing in the Big East Conference which was not close to the ACC, or Big 12 in Conference RPI.

2 years ago Michigan played for National Championship and was one win away from winning the title in Softball and got to host regional and super regional with the Big 10 being 6th best RPI conference.

So that is a flaw way to determine who are the best teams in a sport and who should host.  One thing that is a good way to determine if a team tried to play a tough schedule is look at what they did out of conference. Minnesota spent the first two months of the season on the road and did not play a home game until April 4. The Gophers only played 16 games at home out of 57. Were 20-3 in true road games  which is more then any of the team that is hosting.

Here is breakdown of Minnesota versus host teams In Non Conference quality wins thru May 7th going into the final week before Selection Sunday.

 

Team             Wins vs Top 25 Non Conf,  Wins vs Top 50 Non Conf,   Schedule Strength

Florida               4-1                                                 6-1                                       26

Oregon               5-0                                                9-0                                        45

Auburn                3-2                                              9-2                                         75

UCLA                   7-5                                              12-5                                        3

Arizona               3-1                                               8-1                                         30

Washington        6-2                                             10-3                                           7

Florida State      4-6-1                                           8-6-1                                         2

Texas AM             4-1                                            10-1                                         37

Tennessee            1-1                                             4-2                                          112

Baylor                   5-1                                             10-4                                        4

Oklahoma            3-4                                              6-5                                         28

Minnesota             2-2                                             8-2                                         81

Alabama                1-4                                             2-4                                          32

LSU                          0-3                                            4-4                                          31

Utah                        2-1                                            2-3                                           67

Kentucky                2-2                                           2-2                                          52

Ole Miss                  0-1                                            1-3                                        149

Minnesota has more top 25 wins outside of the conference than Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss and Tennessee.  Has more Top 50 wins outside of conference then Alabama, Utah, Kentucky and Ole Miss combine.

Keep in mind that all Minnesota wins happen away from home.  The Gophers non conference Schedule ranking was better than Tennessee, Ole Miss and right there with Auburn and Utah.

Sara Groenewegen (Courtesy of GophersSports.com)
Sara Groenewegen Photo Courtesy of GophersSports.com

The Gophers did what they could do outside of the conference. You can’t predict how your opponent’s end up doing after you play them.

But these numbers shows that Minnesota is right there with the host teams when it comes to quality games and quality wins. The big difference is the other hosts get more opportunities than Minnesota because of the conferences they play.

Plus Minnesota has better RIP (11) from Monday May 14th then then Oklahoma (12), LSU (14), Alabama(15), Kentucky (17), Ole Miss (18), and Utah (19).

Yet the Gophers were seeded lower while Kentucky, Ole Miss and Utah were seeded higher than the RPI.

One has to wonder if the committee panicked when Ole Miss won the SEC Tournament and had to take a host team out to put in Ole Miss in that spot?

That still does not justify Minnesota not hosting. If you had to flip Ole Miss in and take someone out. Utah, Baylor and Kentucky would be candidates to take out in favor of Ole Miss. Not Minnesota.

No matter what statements come out and any defense is used. It will not hold water and it will not change the fact that the sport integrity has been hurt and the NCAA Tournament has been compromised.

Here hoping for the sport sake in the future that we learn from this and that people take the time to do research or more importantly take the time to watch these teams play because anyone that has watched Minnesota play on TV or in person and have knowledge of sport would agree that Minnesota is one of the best 16 teams in the country.  Too Bad the committee didnt take the time catch a Gophers game.

Check out our podcast as we go in depth on what happened to Minnesota and why and field of 64.

In The Circle Podcast  Breakdown of Field of 64 

 

Big 10 Season Outlook

The Big 10 has been a two team race the last few years with Michigan and Minnesota on top of the conference. That should not change this season except for one thing. The Wolverines and Golden Gophers do not play each other in the regular season. The only time Michigan and Minnesota can play is in the Big 10 Tournament which is hosted this year by Penn State.

So Michigan and Minnesota do not have to go through each other to win the regular season title.  While Michigan has been the established dominant program in the Big 10 for decades and is one of the favorites to win the National Championship this season. The Gophers have become perennial postseason stalwarts and are quietly and quickly elevating to one of the top programs in the country under Head Coach Jessica Allister. The Gophers have high expectations coming into 2016 led by 2014 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year and All-American Sara Groenewegen  who continues to put together an incredible career resume leading Canada to a Gold Medal in the Pan American Games this past summer.

The Wolverines however come in as the heavy favorites in the Big 10. Michigan opens its 2016 campaign with the same ranking it finished last year’s season with the No. 2 ranking in the USA TODAY/NFCA Division 1 Softball Coaches Poll following its runner-up finish in the 2015 Women’s College World Series championship losing to Florida in three games.

The Wolverines return eight of their nine regular starters on offense led by  National Player of the Year finalist Sierra Romero. In the circle the Wolverines bring back 31-game winner Megan Betsa and will look to fill Haylie Wagner’s spot in the rotation with senior Sara Driesenga who returns after an injury in 2015.

One of the bigger questions is can anyone in the Big 10 challenge Michigan and Minnesota?  Two teams that come to mind is Northwestern and Nebraska who both made the NCAA Tournament last season. The Wildcats have a favorable schedule hosting Minnesota and Nebraska this season although they do have travel to Ann Arbour to to play the Wolverines. Nebraska who got to the Big 10 Tournament championship game last season losing to Michigan gets to host the Wolverines this season but have to travel to Northwestern and Minnesota.

Another storyline this season in the Big 10 is how will first-year Big Ten Head Coaches  Tyra Perry at Illinois coming over from Ball State and Julie Wright at Maryland who comes from Idaho State where Wright won three straight Big Sky titles. Wright hired Lisa Norris away from Louisiana-Lafayette to be the pitching coach. Since 2009, Norris has played for the Akron Racers of the National Pro Fastpitch League, where she was named NPF Pitcher of the Year in 2010 and All-NPF in 2009 and 2010.

On In The Circle Podcast, Eric Lopez and Victor Anderson spoke to Justin McLeod of Justin’s World about the outlook of the Big 10. Among the topics discussed :

  • Can Michigan bring the Big 10 the National Title?
  • Can Minnesota knock off Michigan for Big 10 title?
  • Outlook on Northwestern and rest of teams in Big 10

In The Circle Podcast : Big 10 Preview

Big 10 Players to watch :

Sierra RomeroMichigan– A two time Big 10 Player of the Year (2013,2014) as well as National Player of the Year finalist looks to lead Michigan to the National title and perhaps this is the season Romero gets the nod for the elusive National Player of the Year award. Romero was named Michigan’s Female Athlete of the Year in 2014-15 and the inaugural espnW Softball Player of the Year after leading the Wolverines with a .449 average, 22 home runs and 83 RBI. Romero is a three-time NFCA All-American, including a two-time first-team selection, and is already Michigan career record holder in six offensive categories.

Sara Groenewegen- Minnesota – Just entering her junior season, Groenewegen already became the third player in conference history to win Big Ten Player, Pitcher and Freshman of the Year awards in her career.  Groenewegen won the Big Ten Player of the Year  beating Romero for the award last season was the only underclassman to be named a USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award top-10 finalist.

Andrea Filler, Northwestern– Filler might be the best kept secret in the Big Ten conference.. The former Boston College transfer has played a variety of positions since arriving in Evanston, including first base, designated player, and, most recently, shortstop. If she had a good year in 2014 (.333/6/40), her 2015 season was great. With a .395 batting average, a .735 slugging percentage, twelve home runs and sixty RBI, she earned first-team all-B1G honors as well as a spot on the all-region first team. Continuing a lengthy line of Wildcat stars, she is in position to have a huge senior campaign that can not only set her up for a spot on a professional roster according to McLeod, but help her team make some noise in the postseason.

 Sara Driesenga, Michigan– What could have been the Wolverines’ 2015 pitching staff – Haylie Wagner, Megan Betsa, and Driesenga – are what beat reporters’ dreams are made of. Unfortunately, that trio never got to realize their full potential as a staff after Driesenga went down with injury and missed most of the 2015 season, including the postseason. After receiving a redshirt and clearance to return for her fifth year, Driesenga will play second-fiddle to Betsa thanks to Wagner’s graduation. She can get some innings and has shown over time that she has the stuff to be an elite hurler. If she can return to her form of 2012 and 2013, she will play a large role in helping the Wolverines return to Oklahoma City.

Eric Lopez Projections for the NCAA Tournament – 4 Teams

Michigan

Minnesota

Northwestern

Nebraska

You can check out the Pac 12 Preview Right here.

You can check out the SEC Preview right here.

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