FAU will play in an NCAA regional outside the Sunshine State for only the third time in program history. The Owls are the No. 2 seed in Athens, Ga., where they will face No. 3 Florida State (36-21) on Friday at noon. The Seminoles tied for the fifth best record in ACC play and received an at-large bid despite owning an RPI of 50.
No. 4 national seed Georgia (44-15) is the region’s top seed, with Mercer (36-27) rounding out the bracket.
“First reaction was, University of Georgia, neat place, they’ve got a really good team,” FAU coach John McCormack said. “And then the second reaction was Florida St. which is, in the coaching profession, to be able to get on the field against [Seminoles coach] Mike Martin is going to be amazing.
Nine of the 11 times FAU has earned NCAA tournament berths the Owls have been sent to either Coral Gables or Gainesville, with Miami or Florida, respectively, hosting. However that wasn’t an option this season as there are no host sites within state borders.
The Owls have never advanced from a regional held in Florida, but fared well in both trips outside the Sunshine State. FAU won the Tuscaloosa, Ala., regional in 2002 to advance to their lone Super Regional. In 2013 FAU took national top seed North Carolina to extra innings in the deciding game before falling.
The NCAA tournament berth is the fourth in five years for the Owls.
FAU owns only one win in nine tries against Florida St., with all games having been played in Tallahassee. The two schools haven’t met since 1998. Florida Atlantic is 16-11 against Mercer and has never played Georgia.
“It’s a good regional,” McCormack said. “Looking forward to it.”
Conference USA’s regular-season champion, FAU fell to Southern Miss 4-0 in Sunday’s C-USA tournament title game. The Owls felt they’d earned an at-large bid, but there was still some trepidation in the minutes before the NCAA announced the brackets.
Their placement as a No. 2 seed indicates that the committee thought FAU, which claimed non-conference victories over Florida, Miami, South Florida and UCF, had already accomplished enough to earn a bid even before the start of the C-USA tournament. The only blemish on FAU’s resume is an RPI of 37, which the committee could have elected to hold against the Owls.
FAU’s 3-1 recorded at the C-USA tournament in Biloxi this past weekend only minimally altered the Owls RPI. Their third victory of the tournament, and 40th of the season, marked win No. 400 for McCormack.
McCormack’s win total is impressive, but in the tournament’s opening round he’ll be managing against Martin – the winningest baseball coach in NCAA history.
“People make a big deal about my 400th win,” McCormcask said. He has 2,000 – 2,000!”