Last Modified: Friday, July 26, 2013 2:55 PM
Granted, LSU has been away from the College World Series for a while, four whole years.
But it must have seemed like the whole world had changed when the Tigers landed in Omaha Thursday morning.
The CWS used to be a cozy little gathering where the usual old gang would get together every year, wonder which one of them missed the party this year, but mostly making sport of and snickering at the couple of three upstarts that might try to wander up unannounced and join the club.
Hey, the Tigers are back!
But LSU must be walking around Omaha’s rustic Old Market area wondering where everybody went.
Where’s Miami? Stanford must be here somewhere. No Oklahoma State? Southern Cal, where you hiding? There must be a Texas Longhorn around somewhere.
And, do you mean to say they’re going to hold this thing without Florida State and folksy Mike Martin holding forth?
For that matter, didn’t there used to be a ballpark over here?
Rosenblatt Stadium, where the Tigers won six national championships while winning over the city of Omaha, Neb., is now a dadgum parking lot.
Somehow, Ameritrade Ballpark just doesn’t have the same, familiar ring to it as an old friend like Rosenblatt.
This will take some adjusting to.
The times, they are a changing.
LSU is going to need to introduce itself to some of these people.
UCLA sounds vaguely familiar and Oregon State won this thing back-to-back just a few years ago, but that was when the Tigers were in temporary exile.
North Carolina, yeah, that’s sounds right, and the Tar Heels have been a thorn in LSU’s side here.
North Carolina State, though, is a new one on me, although it’s not unusual for ACC teams of lesser pedigree to show up now and again.
When did that happen?
I missed the memo on that one, too.
Yet Louisville looked as good as anybody in super regionals and doesn’t seem in awe of anything.
Hard to believe, but Indiana is the first Big 10 team to reach Omaha since Michigan in 1984, and it took a shortstop named Barry Larkin to get the Wolverines in that year for a quick two-and-out toe-tap.
Maybe the Hoosiers can lean on that Big 10 arrogance and educate LSU and Mississippi State on how to read and write real proper.
Of course, the Tigers will recognize Mississippi State as conference cousins.
But, even being from the same SEC, it’s not like they are best of buddies or anything.
In fact, the last two meetings — in Starkville this year, which was a carry-over from the previous year’s SEC Tournament — they almost resorted to bloodshed before getting the full nine innings done with.
This bad blood has been simmering a little over a year now, two programs that just don’t see eye to eye and don’t mind posturing about it.
Like most of these silly feuds, there’s probably a bit of blame to be shared by both sides. At any rate, they tend to spend a lot of time staring purposefully at each other’s dugouts.
But it’s not a matter of whether Omaha is big enough for the both of them.
Fortunately, the Tigers and Bulldogs are not in the same bracket, but in its infinite wisdom the NCAA — perhaps unaware of the bad blood — has assigned them to same downtown Omaha hotel.
That bears close scrutiny as the tournament meanders toward the finals and begs the question: Does Nebraska have a National Guard on standby?
Preferably across the street from the Downtown Doubletree.
Of course, the Tigers once shared lodging with UL-Lafayette and the two got along just fine, even their often combustible fans.
The thing is, although newbies tend to freeze up on the big stage, it’s not always true. Truly, any of the eight teams has to feel like they have just as good of a chance as anybody.
The best thing that happened to LSU was North Carolina.
The Tar Heels, who were ranked No. 1 most of the year, were the No. 1 national seed, but seemingly spent the tournament determined to find a way to get sidetracked on the road to Omaha.
Somehow, they showed up, sparing LSU the role over heavy favorite.
The No. 1 seed hasn’t won it all since 1999, and LSU raised some fears when it won the SEC Tournament over Vanderbilt that it might be saddled with the dreaded top national seed.
That was dodged, but if North Carolina had cashed in on any of several opportunities to lose in the last two weeks, LSU would have surely been the odds-on favorite.
I think the Tigers might be anyway.
Just don’t tell anyone.
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Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org