No one would cop to it, so there was little need to belabor the discussion. But after flying to Charleston, W. Va., last Thursday, playing three games there over the weekend before flying back to Houston late Sunday afternoon, the Owls bused from campus to IAH first thing Tuesday morning, from where they flew to Oklahoma City, bused to Stillwater, and faced Oklahoma State Tuesday evening. They played exactly as they looked - flat - in falling 12-5.
At this late stage in the season, the Owls have contested half of their 48 games on the road. That is a remarkable statistic for an established national power, and a quick perusal of the RPI top 25 reveals that only one other team has played as many road games to this point: UConn. Incidentally, the Huskies have played fewer than half of the Owls' 18 games against top 50 teams, so it's safe to assume that their road slate hasn't been nearly as challenging.
[Ed. note: By comparison, let's take a gander at the current road records of the Owls' regional rivals rated highly in RPI - Texas (10-3), Arkansas (11-6), LSU (4-8) and TCU (16-6).]
What's done is done. The Owls have one final chance to improve their 11-13 road record next week against UH at Cougar Field, but a sub-.500 finish away from The Reck will negatively impact their opportunity to host an NCAA Tournament regional. So be it. If the Owls can take solace in one thing as they prepare for the increasing likelihood of having to take to the road for the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament, it's that they are battle tested away from home. Wherever the committee ships them - Austin, Fort Worth, Fayetteville, Baton Rouge - they can rest easy knowing they've been there and done that. Willie Nelson is their homeboy.
What the Owls can control is what happens between May 14-29. During that two-week span they will play as many as 11 games all within city limits. Six of those contests will take place at The Reck against league rivals Southern Miss and UAB, and what they hope are five more games will be held at Cougar Field a few miles away. Win all 11, or at the very least 10, and the Owls can keep their fingers crossed when the regional hosts are announced. Even if they come up empty that day, they will ride a 27-6 or 26-7 run into the postseason, a record so gaudy that even a team with pressing pitching depth concerns should feel justly emboldened.
The Owls aren't flawless, but 40 victories before the NCAA Tournament opens would do a lot to assuage fears that this team has been cursed since that fateful weekend in Palo Alto. Perhaps it will require a Herculean effort for the Owls to battle their way to Rosenblatt Stadium, but they could very easily rediscover their strength by sleeping in their own beds.