NCAA Tourney Time: Cougs to face familiar foe

WASHINGTON STATE is headed to the NCAA baseball tournament -- dare we call it May Madness? -- for the first time in 19 years, the NCAA revealed Monday morning on ESPN. And the Cougs' first opponent will be the same Arkansas Razorbacks they opened up this remarkable season with back in February.

The Cougars, fresh off a series sweep of Washington to close the regular season, are headed to the regional in Norman, Okla..

The Sooners are the top seed there and will open with Wichita State. The Cougs and Razoracks will square off Friday.

Each of the NCAA's 16 regionals feature four teams, playing a double-elimination format. The regionals run from Friday to Monday. Super-regionals then follow, with the College World Series starting June 13 in Omaha.

The Cougars and Razorbacks played a three-game series in Fayetteville. The 'Backs, then ranked No. 22 in the nation, won all three but they were tight: 4-2, 7-5 in 10 innings, and 4-3.

WSU is no stranger to Oklahoma, either. The Cougs hosted the then-No. 16-ranked Sooners in Pullman a week after facing Arkansas. The Cougs and Sooners split a four-game series -- and one of the WSU losses came in an 11 inning affair.

That series, immediately followed by a WSU win over Gonzaga, presaged the turnaround year the Cougs would enjoy in 2009. They finished second place in the Pac-10 with a 19-8 conference record and 31-23 overall mark.

Besides WSU, only two other Pac-10 teams were invited to the tournament: ASU and OSU. Gonzaga was lone invitee from the West Coast Conference.

This is WSU's first trip to the big baseball dance since the days of Aaron Sele and Scott Hatteberg in 1990.