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The Big AAC Baseball Tournament Preview

The Bulls are on the precipice of returning to the NCAA Tournament. Can they get back on track under Mark Kingston?

The last time USF was in an NCAA Tournament the reigning World Series champions were the Arizona Diamondbacks, your cell phone was either a Sidekick or a Startac (if you had one), and there was a new Star Wars movie everyone was dying to see: Episode II Attack of the Clones.

13 years is a ridiculous and unacceptable postseason drought for a D1 school with a great facility based in possibly the biggest high school baseball hotbed in the country. But the journey back to national recognition has to start somewhere, and it looks like USF could get back to their birthright in 2015.

USF enters the tournament with a 32-22-1 overall record, and at 13-11 in the AAC which got them the #4 seed in Clearwater. Their RPI is #25, and they've played the 11th toughest schedule in America, but are just 6-12 against the Top 50. This might change however as the Bulls have gone 3-3 against C. Florida, who might leap into that Top 50 by the time this weekend is over. Here's the seeds:

Unlike last season's round-robin pool system, this year we go back to old school double-elimination (until the championship game, that's a one-off). The Bulls are on the 1-4-5-8 side of the bracket with #5 Memphis, #1 Houston, and #8 Cincinnati.

If USF wins today at 3 p.m. (live on CBS Sports Network!), they're off until Thursday at 3 p.m. and will face the winner of UH-UC. If they lose they're back on the field tomorrow at 7 p.m. playing the loser of UH-UC, and get face the daunting challenge of having to win five in a row to win the tournament (and the automatic NCAA bid that comes with it).

USF goes with first team all-AAC junior Jimmy Herget (8-3, 2.64 ERA) today vs. the Tigers. Herget threw 46 pitches last weekend in an abbreviated start on Thursday (25 pitches) and a relief appearance on Saturday (21 pitches). He certainly struggled against the Knights, but has been the Bulls ace for three seasons and won't want his career to end here.

Herget was joined on the all-conference first team by junior catcher Levi Borders (.304/.392/.517 9HRs's), & redshirt sophomore closer Tommy Peterson (4-1, 1.77 ERA, 15 saves) was named second-team all-conference.

We'd complain about the all-conference snubs, but they were so preposterous that they invalidated the awards that were given. Kevin Merrell hit .346, .433 in conference play (the only AAC player over .400), and stole 20 bases on 25 attempts. He was completely left off the first team, the second team, and wasn't named Freshman of the Year. I'd call this a farce, but that would be unfair to the Kardashian family.

USF has come to Clearwater with high hopes before, but this is the closest they've been to postseason since they started playing conference tournaments in Pinellas County as an at-large bid hasn't been in play before. No matter the result, the Bulls will have a rooting interest while watching the selection show for the first time in 13 years. And with a top 10 recruiting class nationally hauled in by Mark Kingston already, things are certainly bright for USF Baseball.

But it would be nice to get back on The Road to Omaha. Because we never should have pulled over in the first place.