Creighton appeared on the bracket as a No. 2 seed, and the players clapped and cheered. That’s what you do at a selection show viewing party.
But Monday’s unveiling of the 64-team NCAA tournament field didn’t carry much drama or suspense for a team that had just experienced three exhausting days of emotional chaos at the Big East tournament.
The Bluejays secured their NCAA bid at the end of that odyssey Saturday night. The team celebrated wildly on the field then.
Together again two days later, the reactions were subdued — and somewhat purposeful.
The Jays grabbed a bite to eat at the Old Mattress Factory before reconvening on campus an hour later to meet with their coach and craft a plan of attack for Friday’s first-round game against Michigan. They’re ready to get to work.
“We’re gelling well as a team,” junior first baseman Jake Holton said. “We’ve been playing well this past month. I think our best baseball is ahead of us, so we’re excited.”
The first test will come against the Wolverines (41-18), who put themselves on the right side of the NCAA bubble by winning three times during last weekend’s Big Ten tournament.
If CU wins Friday’s 3 p.m. opener, it would likely face site host Oregon State (36-18-1), last year’s national champion and this season’s No. 16 overall seed. Cincinnati (30-29) is the No. 4 seed in the four-team, double-elimination regional.
The Jays (38-11) are welcoming the challenge.
Senior pitcher Mitch Ragan, who’ll start Friday, had the rest of his day planned out by the time he spoke with reporters Monday.
Finish lunch. Dive into scouting reports. Get some light arm work in. And game plan some more.
“A lot of stuff to do yet, but yeah, I’m excited,” Ragan said.
After all, this postseason opportunity has been a goal for Ragan and his teammates since the offseason. The Jays hadn’t been to an NCAA regional in seven years.
But a ballclub full of veterans recognized the team’s potential early. The players set a high standard. The coaching staff did, too.
And that’s one of the reasons why the Jays insist they feel comfortable with what lies ahead.
Technically, it’s uncharted territory for the players — many of whom got their first glimpse of pressure-packed college baseball during three tense wins at last weekend’s Big East tournament.
Michigan, on the other hand, is in its third regional in five years. Oregon State is a juggernaut. Cincinnati is playing with house money.
How will CU respond?
On Monday, coach Ed Servais was already providing glimpses of the tone he’ll try to set with his group of regional first-timers.
They practice on turf so they’ll be ready for Oregon State’s artificial playing surface, he said.
Servais talked Monday about he and his staff’s familiarity with the Wolverines’ system and style — CU just played them two years ago. Plus, Cincinnati will look a lot like conference rival Xavier since former Musketeer coach Scott Googins now leads the Bearcats.
“We’re not starting from scratch in our preparation,” Servais said. “This team has won in a lot of different ways. They’re very resilient.”