UNLV is in the Corvallis Region which pairs them in the bracket with the No. 1 overall seed Oregon State as well as UC Irvine and North Dakota State. The Rebels first game is against UC Irvine this Friday but odds are good that Oregon State and UNLV will meet up this weekend.
We reached out to Building the Dam to give us a better look at what makes Oregon State so good.
1. The Pac-12 is always a tough conference historically, and was this year, so is this first round of the NCAA tournament easier, on par or tougher than league play?
Good question. I'd say it's going to be tougher than the majority of league play. You have a UNLV team loaded with potential that would challenge for a finish in the upper third of the Pac-12. UC Irvine is right there with them although a late-season losing streak may have some people overlooking them. North Dakota State would likely finish towards the bottom of the conference, but they did compete well with fifth place USC for two games early in the season.
2. What makes Oregon State so good that they earned the No. 1 overall seed?
The pitching staff. Specifically, the three weekend starters. Sophomore Andrew Moore has won five games on the year to go with a 2.88 ERA and would be considered far and away as the "worst" of the trio. That should tell you something.
3. What are the expectations for Oregon State in the NCAA tournament?
I think anything less than an appearance in the best of three final series would be considered a disappointment. And while that may seem excessive, last year's team was only two wins away from that series. That team was excellent, and this one is even more talented and consistent (at least they were before last week).
The bracket also sets up nicely. Regional play will be a nice challenge but doesn't seem overly difficult. We could very well end up facing a two or three seed in the Supers since the selection committee looked down upon Oklahoma State and sent some loaded Nebraska and Cal State Fullerton teams their way. And by virtue of having the top national seed, the Beavers should have the "easiest" road of all eight teams once they get to Omaha.
4. Would type of game would suit Oregon State better, an offensive game or a relatively low scoring game?
Haha; Definitely low scoring. Oregon State has scored 13 runs in its past eight games, and most fans would be ecstatic if the team could average more than two runs per game throughout the tournament.
5. Who are the key players that UNLV should watch out for?
On the mound, it sounds like Southpaw Jace Fry well get the start on Friday, so UNLV won't have to face him unless he comes on out of the bullpen later in the weekend. That means the Rebels would probably see Ben Wetzler, Moore, or Jake Thompson starting on the bump depending how the bracket plays out.
You can't start a discussion on players to watch at the plate without mentioning junior Michael Conforto. He'll be picked within the first 15 selections of next week's MLB Draft, if not the top ten. He is going through a slump that is growing more and more concerning with each game, but I don't doubt he'll clutch up for the postseason.
6. Who wins and why?
I think Oregon State will beat UNLV for the Regional title, but not before the Rebels force the "if necessary" game on Monday night. With Fry and Wetzler on the bump Friday and Saturday, the Beavers should win with relative ease. Moore has been a bit shaky as of late, so I say he loses on Sunday night as Vegas wins its second game of the day. That Monday game will most likely be the most high scoring and exciting of the weekend, with the Beavers surviving and advancing to the Super Regionals.