WVU faces TCU in opening round of a Big 12 tournament with a different format

MORGANTOWN — This will not exactly be the traditional Big 12 tournament the WVU baseball team will take part in at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

With the league expanding from nine to 13 baseball schools this season, the conference tournament also expanded from eight to 10 teams, which has eliminated the old pod format.

No longer will teams in one side of the bracket play against teams only in that bracket until the championship game.

Depending on when a team wins or loses, schools will now bounce from one bracket to another, meaning rematches will become less likely in the early rounds.

Under the prior format, WVU played Texas Tech three times in the 2019 tournament over its first four games in that tourney.

“There are so many little idiosyncrasies to a tournament like this to where things can get jacked up and you play someone you’re not expecting at a time when you’re not expecting,” WVU head coach Randy Mazey said. “It depends on what happens in the other games. The old format, it wasn’t ideal to play the same team three times in the same tournament, but it happened.”

As the No. 4 seed, WVU (33-20) can be rewarded through the new format if the Mountaineers were able to beat ninth-seeded TCU (31-19) on Tuesday.

In the current format, No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 2 Oklahoma State will not play until Wednesday, while No. 3 Texas and WVU will earn an off day Wednesday if they win in the first round.

“That would be a godsend to have that day off on Wednesday to give a day of rest and recover,” Mazey said. “You can’t attempt to even think about Wednesday before you think about Tuesday. To win Tuesday, take Wednesday off and have Thursday not be an elimination game, if you had to script this thing, that’s how you would script it.”

If the Mountaineers lose against TCU, they face elimination the rest of the tournament and would play at 10 a.m. Wednesday against the loser of the Kansas-Kansas State game.

The oddity in WVU’s first-round matchup is the Mountaineers and TCU just concluded the regular season against each just three days before the start of the tournament.

WVU took two of three in the series, but had to hold off a ninth-inning rally to win 6-5 on Saturday, and needed four home runs to win 7-2 on Friday.

TCU was the Big 12 favorite heading into the season, and while finishing 14-16 in conference play, the Horned Frogs began the season 13-0 and are still ranked No. 40 in the RPI (WVU is No. 33).

“When that happens, the team that lost the series has a little bit of momentum going into the (rematch), because they’re playing as the underdog,” Mazey said. “They are going to playing to prove something and they’re fighting for their (NCAA) tournament lives. We’re going to get their best effort from the first pitch.”

The other thing of note in this Big 12 tournament is the overall competitiveness of the 10 schools, who are all ranked in the top 60 of the RPI.

“There’s not a team in here that can’t win this thing, that’s the beauty of playing in the Big 12,” Mazey said. “Literally anyone from the No. 1 seed to the No. 10 seed could win this thing if they get hot at the right time, which everyone is capable of doing.

“There’s nothing in this tournament that would surprise me.”

WVU vs. TCU

WHEN: 1:30 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Globe Life Field, Arlington, Texas
TV: ESPN+ (Online subscription needed)
RADIO: 100.9 JACK-FM
WEB: dominionpost.com