A week ago, coach Tim Jamieson's Missouri Tigers were hoping to finish their final Big 12 baseball season with a respectable performance in the conference championship tournament before departing in various directions for summer vacation, summer ball and, for even a select few, decisions to make resulting from the upcoming MLB amateur draft.
Of course, the Tigers entered the Big 12 Baseball Championship last Wednesday with the goal of winning it all, they they also realized that their chances of doing so were remote, at best, as the No. 6 seed. Moreover, they knew that their only realistic chance of going on to postseason play hinged on winning the conference baseball tournament.
By now, you know the rest. Missouri proceeded to defeat Texas A&M, Texas, Texas A&M a second time and then Oklahoma in the championship final Sunday to capture its first Big 12 championship in baseball. And fittingly, they accomplished the feat in their final Big 12 game in their final conference season. On July 1, Missouri and Texas A&M will become the newest members of the Southeastern Conference.
As a result, Missouri became one of four schools from the Big 12 to receive bids to the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship, which gets under way on Friday. Going into this past weekend, the Big 12 felt its chances were good to get at least four teams in the NCAA Tournament, and after Missouri earned the automatic qualifier selection by winning the conference postseason tournament, the hope was that five teams would gain bids.
Unfortunately, only four teams from the Big 12 were selected for the NCAA 64-team tournament field. Missouri was in, along with Baylor, Texas A&M and Oklahoma, and, surprisingly, Texas was the odd man left out, a highly unusual development in the world of college baseball. The Longhorns finished third in the Big 12 regular season standings with a 14-10 record (30-22 overall), but failed to win a game in the conference tournament, losing 5-0 to Kansas in the opening round before being eliminated by Missouri in their next game.
With the most wins in the history of college baseball, including 77 conference championships (dating back to the Southwest Conference) and six national championships, it is a very unusual year when Texas is not playing in the postseason.
Ironically, Missouri (32-26, 10-14) not only delivered the KO blow in the Big 12 Tournament but also ostensibly took the Longhorns' place in advancing to the NCAA Tournament regional round later this week.
Texas head coach Augie Garrido had this to say about his team's surprisingly poor performance in the Big 12 Tournament: "Tournament play is about getting hot at the right time, and we didn't do that," Garrido said. "We knew the meaning of this going into it. By losing two games, we put it in the hand of the committee."
It would have been quite interesting to see what Selection Committee would have done had Missouri lost to Oklahoma in the championship final Sunday. Chances are, Texas would have gotten the nod, given that scenario.
"The fifth time is the charm for me," said Jamieson, referring to the Tigers' four previous appearances in the Big 12 Championship title game, all on the losing end. "It was an awesome effort by our guys. There were so many different situations where one pitch, one play or one at bat (could) change the game. We've had a hard time putting Oklahoma away over the years," he said.
Texas wasn't the only school from the Lone Star State that stubbed its toe in the Big 12 Championship. No. 1 seed Baylor and Texas A&M, the two seed, won their first-round games, but couldn't get by Oklahoma (Baylor) and Missouri (A&M) in two tries.
Both the Bears and Aggies were ranked in the top ten nationally, however, which held more weight with the NCAA Selection Committee than their 2-2 performances in the conference tournament.
Missouri is making its first NCAA appearance in baseball since the 2009 season. The Tigers will begin play in the Tucson Regional, where they will be joined by Arizona (38-17), the Tigers first-round opponent, Louisville 39-20) and New Mexico 35-22). Missouri is the four seed in that regional.
Baylor (44-14) and Texas A&M (42-16) were chosen as regional hoist sites. The three other teams that will be playing in Waco this weekend are Dallas Baptist (39-17), which has done well historically against Big 12 teams, Oral Roberts (37-23) and Texas-Arlington 36-23). The Bears will start off against Oral Roberts.
A&M will host TCU (36-19), which will be joining the Big 12 next season, Ole Miss and Dayton (31-28). The Aggies's first-round opponent on Friday is Dayton.
Oklahoma (38-22) travels to Charlottsville, Va., site of the Sooners' Super Regional victory over Virginia in 2010 that sent OU to the College World Series for the 10th time in program history. The Sooners will play Appalachian State (38-22) in their first-round regional game, and either Army (41-13) or host Virginia (38-17-1), depending on the winner and loser of each game.
The Sooners have won 20 of their last 28 games to place themselves in the NCAA postseason conversation. "After six weeks and close to the halfway point in the season, we sat with an RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) around 129," said OU coach Sunny Golloway, whose team was ranked in the top 20 in the preseason national rankings. "For us to finish with an RPI in the 20s speaks volumes for the character, fight and toughness of our program."
Golloway will be taking a team to the NCAA Tournament for the 13th time.
Florida is the top seed in the 2012 NCAA Baseball Championship. The other top seeds are 2. UCLA, 3. Florida State, 4. Baylor, 5. Oregon, 6. North Carolina, 7. LSU, and defending champion South Carolina, 8.
Texas probably doesn't take much comfort in knowing that the Big 12's four bids to the 2012 NCAA Tournament is the first time since1997 that the conference has sent fewer than five teams to baseball's Big Dance. In 2009, eight teams from the Big 12 participated in postseason play, the most during the Big 12 era.
Follow the Big 12 teams throughout the NCAA Baseball Tournament at SB Nation Kansas City