The School: North Carolina State University, the kid brother to UNC and Duke. (This is absolutely the test for any NC State fans stumbling across this article. If you respond angrily in the comments, congratulations! You do not get the tone of this article.)
Location: Raleigh, North Carolina. Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina, and while I dutifully memorized all of the state capitals in elementary school geography, Raleigh is one of those that I simply have trouble accepting to be true. Not in the same way as Georgia, where you galaxy-brain yourself into thinking they made the capital Macon or something because Atlanta seems too obvious, and not in the manner of Frankfort, Kentucky, where they simply cannot be making up the fact that a town of 25,000 was chosen as the capital over Louisville and Lexington. Nor is it like Salem, Oregon, which I do not believe is a real place and you cannot convince me otherwise.
No, Raleigh draws the reaction of “really? It’s not Charlotte? I could have sworn it was Charlotte, and anyway that would make total sense. Why is it not Charlotte? Hell, why did they pick Raleigh over Durham?” The point is that Raleigh being the capital of North Carolina is something that I consistently find to be very confusing, and my elementary-school geography learnin’ continues to baffle me on this fact.
Also, I am not a crazy person, I swear.
(Tune in for next week’s edition of Drunk Geography with Tom, where we discuss whether North Macedonia is a real country.)
The Mascot: Mr. and Mrs. Wuf, a presumably married couple of wolves. Not, however, a pack of wolves.
Record: 35-18, 19-14 in the ACC.
How’d they get here? Swept the Ruston Regional, including two wins over host Louisiana Tech by a combined 22-10 score. And then, they just went into Fayetteville and eliminated #1 overall seed Arkansas. Nothing big or anything.
Best win: You mean, aside from that? Well, they started Pittsburgh’s slide from “potential national seed” to “missing the NCAA Tournament entirely” with a three-game sweep from May 14-16. They also swept UNC on the road from March 26-29.
Most embarrassing loss: They also got ACC play started by getting swept by Georgia Tech, and they would also get swept by Louisville from March 17-19, which didn’t seem too embarrassing at the time (Louisville was ranked #7 in the country) but does seem pretty embarrassing now (Louisville missed the NCAA Tournament.) Did I write this just to remind everyone that Louisville missed the NCAA Tournament? I’ll let you be the judge of that.
Most terrifying batter: The Wolfpack have six batters with 10 or more home runs, which usually means park effects more than anything else. (Combine that with the pitching staff’s 5.12 ERA, and it’s probably park effects.) But, Jonny Butler’s .377/.451/.665 is terrifying even if you assume there are park effects in there. He’s also 16-for-17 stealing bases this season.
Most terrifying pitcher: The Wolfpack have five pitchers who have pitched more than 14 innings all season, and none of them are truly terrifying, at least not in terms of their ability to get batters out. On the other hand, closer Evan Justice, who’s pitched 55 innings this season, has 8 hit batsmen and 13 wild pitches, which is terrifying in a different way.
Best NCAA Tournament result: They’ve made the College World Series twice before, in 1968 and 2013. In 2013, they won their first game (against #1 overall seed and hated rival North Carolina) before dropping their next two; in 1968, they managed to make it all the way to the semifinals under the old format before losing. I’ll let you decide which is the better result.
Should Vanderbilt be scared? Logically, no. Logically, this is an above-average-ish ACC team that got hot at the right time and found itself in Omaha.
On the other hand, taking out #1 overall seed Arkansas — a task that eluded Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament — after losing 21-2 in the first game of the super regional is giving me serious Team Of Destiny vibes, and Vanderbilt should be scared of that.