Just a day away from his first Super Regional at LSU, Tigers coach Paul Mainieri is nervous, but not because of LSU’s impending matchup with the UC-Irvine Anteaters, but because Mainieri does not know the future of several of his players who will be drafted in this week’s MLB draft.

“I always worry about the draft,” Mainieri told the Shreveport Times earlier this week. “The draft is like that cloud that hangs over your head and you don’t know if you’re going to get poured on or if it’s going to pass over. Nobody can really predict what’s going to happen with the draft.”

But so far so good, for the Tigers’ skipper as no current Tiger has been selected in the first five rounds of the draft. LSU signees Ryan Chaffee and JonMichael Redding were taken in the third and fifth rounds respectively and I suspect that it is safe to assume that neither of those players will ever be Tigers.

I suspect tomorrow will be a busy day for LSU players as I expect 6-10 Tigers to be picked with the first one off the board to be junior slugger Matt Clark.

But despite the draft, LSU’s biggest focus is still on the very capable Anteaters who reached the College World Series this past season with the same pitching-savvy team they field this year. With our eyes on this weekend’s Super Regionals, here are my eight College World Series picks.

No. 1 Miami over Arizona in 2
North Carolina State over No. 8 Georgia in 3

No. 4 Florida State over Wichita State in 3
No. 5 Cal State Fullerton over Stanford in 2

No. 3 Arizona State over Fresno State in 2
Texas A&M over No. 6 Rice in 3

No. 2 North Carolina over Coastal Carolina in 3
No. 7 LSU over UC-Irvine in 3

I think the Tigers will lose their winning streak this weekend, but will hang on to win a critical Monday game because of home field advantage and an overall more deep squad.

For the Anteaters, they have to do the following things if they expect to win the Baton Rouge Super Regional:
1. Control Crowd – The Anteaters can not play scared or let the 7,000+ in Alex Box Stadium affect them, or it will be a long weekend. UC-Irvine has not seen anything like they will see this weekend and they better control their emotions to have a chance.
2. Get Clark, Dean out- Easier said than done, I know, but UC Irvine has to find some sort of way to contain LSU’s slugging 1-2 punch of Matt Clark and Blake Dean. If the duo combines for six home runs in three games like they did last weekend, this series will be an LSU sweep.
3. Timely hitting- For a team that does not slug very well, the Anteaters need to make the hits they do get, count. Batting average with runners in scoring position and runners left on base will be critical stats for the series. The Anteaters hit well in the clutch, they win. They don’t, they lose. Sounds simple, but that’s the way I see it.

vs.
The Celtics struck first in the NBA Finals last night, dominating the second half en route to a 98-88 win. The Eastern Conference Champions outscored the Lakers by 15 in the second half to overcome a five point halftime deficit to earn the win.

Celtic fans had their hearts in their throats in the third quarter when Paul Pierce collapsed to the floor clutching his knee. The former Kansas star had to be carried off the floor but quickly returned and sparked the Celtics run with 15 third quarter points. The Big Ticket, Kevin Garnett, led the way for the Celtics with 24 points and 13 boards, but struggled down the stretch missing his last eight shots. In Garnett’s absence, Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo picked up the slack combining for 56 points.

For the Lakers, Kobe Bryant was not his usual self, shooting just 9-26 from the field. The Lakers wasted away good efforts from Derek Fisher, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol who each scored double digits for the Lake Show.

Game 2 is Sunday and for the Lakers to win, they will need a more dominant performance from Bryant, as well as a more consistent bench effort. For the game, the Celtics bench outscored the Lakers bench 17-15, a stat that absolutely has to be reversed for the Lakers to have a chance in the series.

Gisclair’s Unsung Gamer of the Night: PJ Brown 2 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists

Brown’s stat line of two points and six boards is not the most impressive on paper, but the NBA senior citizen made the Celtics better on defense, providing phenomenal help defense on Bryant to keep him off balance. The Celtics were +10 with Brown on the floor, the highest +/- of any Celtic other than Ray Allen.

Gisclair’s Goat of the Night: Kobe Bryant 24 points and 6 assists 9-26 shooting

Kobe played well through three quarters and did his thing to keep the Lakers in the ballgame, but with the game on the line and the chips on the table, the game’s best closer let a chance to steal Game 1 slip through his fingers, rimming out several key shots in the fourth quarter. The Lakers were -13 with Bryant on the floor, the worst +/- of any player in last night’s game.

US OPEN:

Tiger Woods played his first practice round Wednesday in preparation for the US Open next week. I love Tiger as much as anyone, but as history showed two years ago, it is not very easy to have a long layoff and return at the world’s most difficult tournament. What will help Tiger is being paired with rival Phil Mickelson in rounds one and two. I don’t see Tiger allowing himself to be embarrassed while playing with Phil and I expect El Tigre to be one of a select few competing for the title on Sunday.

What this pairing will do is help some of the second tier golfers. Imagine being a hot player like Sergio Garcia or Vijay Singh and knowing that for the first two rounds, you have no pressure because all eyes will be on the Woods/Mickelson/Scott pairing. Expect a lesser-known to emerge from the pack and lead through 36 holes. I will cover this all much more next week.

Monday begins Football Mondays here. There are 12 Mondays to go until LSU opens the season against Appalachian State on August 30, and each Monday, I will break down LSU’s opponents in order, beginning with Appalachian State.

That’s all for me, folks. Have a blessed weekend,

Casey

P.S. I would like to send Get Well Soon wishes to a friend of mine, Chicago Sky center Sylvia Fowles who will miss the next 4-6 weeks after re-inuring her knee. Get well soon, Big Syl — both the Sky and Team USA need you!

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