Although Tulane’s 40 losses entering the Baton Rouge regional are the most ever for an NCAA regional participant, its sub-.500 record is not that uncommon.
The fourth-seeded Green Wave (19-40), which will face No. 1 seed LSU at 2 p.m. on Friday, is one of 37 teams in the last 16 tournaments with more losses than wins. The number has ranged from a high of five in 2008 to a low of one in 2007, 2009 and this season.
Coach Jay Uhlman certainly was not apologizing for the Wave playing its way in, having beaten American Athletic Conference No. 2 seed Houston twice in the AAC tournament before surprising regular-season champion East Carolina in the title game.
“It wasn’t an accident,” he said. “It was purposeful and intentful. This is something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. We are going to do our best to mimic that environment again.”
The sub-.500 teams have fared poorly in those regionals, with 27 going 0-2. Seven went 1-2, including 2014 Youngstown State (16-36), the only tournament participant with a worse winning percentage (.308) than Tulane (.322). Utah in 2009 and Creighton in 2012 went 2-2, losing in the championship round before they could force a winner-take-all game.
Only two of the 36 upset a No. 1 seed in their opener. In 2016, Utah (25-27) beat Ole Miss, leading to a losers’ bracket game between Tulane and the host Rebels that the Wave won on Jake Rogers’ home run in the ninth inning. In 2019, AAC tournament champion Cincinnati (28-29) beat Oregon State in extra innings.
Both teams lost two straight after their initial victory, with Tulane eliminating Utah in 2016.
After bucking history in Clearwater, Florida, the Wave will try to do it again in Baton Rouge.
“You do try to prove people wrong,” Uhlman said. “At least that’s my nature.”
Two of Tulane’s hottest hitters at the AAC tournament are relishing the opportunity to face LSU for different reasons.
Senior Brennan Lambert, a Catholic High in Baton Rouge product who went 8 for 21 with 11 RBIs in the tourney, will play his first game in Baton Rouge since transferring from Delgado in 2022. He did not get off the bench in the Wave’s 7-5 loss at Alex Box Stadium a year ago. He went 0 for 4 in the Wave's 11-5 loss to LSU this season in New Orleans.
“It’s pretty special to go back home and play in front of the people and the fans and my family,” he said. “I’m very excited. It’s going to be fun.”
Sophomore shortstop Gavin Schulz, from Holy Cross in New Orleans, is a lifelong Tulane fan who is well versed in the series history. He would love to pick up where he left off in Clearwater with 10 hits in five games.
“Growing up, these are the things you dream of,” he said. “Facing LSU, you always wanted to beat them, and that’s how I’m approaching it. We’ve proven we can hang with the big dogs.”
Tulane’s nonconference schedule, which is rated eighth-hardest nationally, contributed to its miserable record in the regular season. The Wave played nearly as many road games (26) as home games (28), took three long trips out West and was the only NCAA team with zero games against opponents rated 200 or worse in the RPI.
On Monday, Uhlman admitted he would change his scheduling philosophy a bit moving forward after watching his players’ confidence sag as the losses mounted early in the year.
“When you play that schedule, it’s tough,” he said. “We’ll play some more home games and more regional games next year.”
LSU has won seven of the eight regionals it has been in with Tulane, including one at UNO in 1987. … Tulane is 3-0 all-time against No. 2 seed Oregon State and 6-1 against No. 3 seed Sam Houston State. … The Wave is 3-11 against RPI top-50 teams, beating No. 36 Washington and winning two of four from No. 26 East Carolina. ... LSU is No. 5 in the RPI. The highest-rated RPI team Tulane faced, No. 13 Campbell, won 17-7 and 13-11 at Turchin Stadium.