The NCAA Selection Show Monday afternoon marked the beginning of the second half of the season. The announcement of the tournament field in its entirety begins the long road to Omaha. There are 64 Division I Baseball programs all fighting for a spot in the College World Series.
When? June 2 – June 28
Who? 32 automatic qualifiers via conference tournament championships plus 32 at-large selections.
Format: There are 16 host sites across the country hosting a regional with 4 teams each. The double elimination tournament will narrow the field down from 64 to 16. The following weekend the 16 teams will play a best 2 out of 3 with the team they were paired with in the Super Regional round of the bracket. The last 8 teams standing advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska at T.D. Ameritrade Park. There will be two brackets of 4 teams with the winner of each bracket meeting for one final best of three series to determine a champion.
Can a team from The Forgotten win the whole darn thing? Oh, absolutely. Baseball has always been the great equalizer in college sports. Just last year Coastal Carolina won the College World Series. Since the tournament began in 1947 there have been 7 winners not associated with a major conference. While that number is nothing to shake a stick at, a Forgotten team winning the tournament is not without precedence.
- Holy Cross, 1952
- Cal State Fullerton, 1979, 1984, 1995, and 2004
- Wichita State, 1989
- Pepperdine, 1992
- Rice, 2003
- Fresno State, 2008
- Coastal Carolina, 2016
Which Forgotten team/s can make a deep run? My Cinderella picks for the tournament are Long Beach State, Central Florida, Southern Miss, Florida Gulf Coast, Missouri State, and South Florida. Yea, I realize that is quite a few underdog picks to make it to the final 8 in Omaha, but it’s my article. Realistically Southern Miss is the only team I can see making it back to Omaha. Yes, back to Omaha. The Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles had an improbable run to the College World Series when they entered the tournament as a 3 seed. They won their regional at Georgia Tech and proceeded to knock Florida off in the Super Regional to make their first appearance in Omaha.
Let’s take a closer look at Southern Miss: Southern Miss finished the regular season with a 44-12 record. They finished as the runner-up in the C-USA tournament to champion Rice. They are currently 48-14 and sport an 11 RPI according to warrennolan.com. They have wins this year over fellow tournament teams including Xavier, Mississippi State, South Alabama, Southeastern Louisiana, and Rice. Two of those teams, Mississippi State and South Alabama, are heading to Hattiesburg to compete in the regional hosted by Southern Miss beginning June 2. The other team in the field is 4 seed University of Illinois-Chicago.
Southern Miss players to watch: Offensively the Golden Eagles are led by C-USA Player of the Year Dylan Burdeaux who is hitting .348 with 11homeruns and 68 runs batted in. Taylor Braley also has been a major contributor with 16 homeruns. Matt Wallner, C-USA Freshman of the Year and possible National Freshman of the Year has 19 homeruns on the year and 61 runs batted in. On the mound Kirk McCarty has been the most reliable starter all year posting a 10-2 record with a 2.96 era and 96 strikeouts. Taylor Braley also pitches and sports an impressive 6-2 record with a 3.30 era and 74 strikeouts. The third starter for the Eagles is Colt Smith who spent the first half of the season coming out of the bullpen. Smith is 6-1 on the mound with a 3.08 era and 41 strikeouts. Closing down things is the submarine sophomore Nick Sandlin. Sandlin has been lights out all year sporting a 10-1 record, 2.16 era, and 72 strikeouts. While those are the main arms there are plenty of relievers to cover innings such as Stevie Powers, Trent Driver, and J.C. Keys.
Forgotten conference with the most teams in: The American Athletic Conference leads the pack with three teams in. Houston is hosting a regional with South Florida and Central Florida both posing serious threats as 2 seeds at their regional. Following the AAC, the Big East, Big West, C-USA, Missouri Valley, and Southland conference all had 2 teams make the field.
A rock and a hard place: Conference USA had the 6th highest rated rpi as a conference according to warrennolan.com. With that being said, only 2 teams from the conference made the tournament. The Big 10 was the 7th rated conference and got 5 teams in. That math just doesn’t add up folks. With 6 seed Rice winning the C-USA tournament Sunday over Southern Miss a few bubble teams had their hopes busted. Charlotte and Old Dominion both had the resumes to be included but were both left out. Throughout the entire country only 3 1 seeds won their conference tournaments. This did not bode well for teams on the bubble hoping to see their name called Monday afternoon.
Hardest Regional? On paper the hardest regional draw belongs to Long Beach State. That regional pairs the Dirtbags with Texas (2), UCLA (3), and Sand Diego State (4). Long Beach State has had an amazing season and has been rewarded with multiple high spots in all the different college baseball rankings. Texas and UCLA are two classic bluebloods of college baseball that have plenty of postseason baseball experience. It is not unlikely to see one or both team in Omaha just about every year. Long Beach St. has its work cut out for them to survive this regional.
Easiest Regional? I would have to choose the Gainesville regional as the easiest. South Florida is the 2 seed there but I just don’t see a team there that poses any threat to Florida. They have a very deep pitching staff and should easily defeat whoever they run up against. The other teams in the Gainesville regional are Bethune Cookman (3) and Marist (4). I look for Florida to easily advance to the Super Regional round where a possible matchup with Wake Forest or West Virginia looms.
NCAA Tournament Schedule:
(All regionals will begin on Friday June 2 and all times listed are in the eastern time zone)
- No. 2 Nebraska vs. No. 3 Yale | 4 p.m. | ESPN 3
- No. 1 Oregon State vs. No. 4 Holy Cross | 11 p.m. | ESPNU
- No. 2 Vanderbilt vs. No. 3 St. Johns | Noon | ESPN 3
- No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 4 UNC Greensboro | 7 p.m. | ESPN 3
Long Beach Regional:
- No. 2 Texas vs. No. 3 UCLA | 7 p.m. | ESPN 2
- No. 1 Long Beach St. vs. No. 4 San Diego State |11 p.m. | ESPN 2
- No. 2 Cal State Fullerton vs. No. 3 BYU | 4 p.m. | ESPN 3
- No. 1 Stanford vs. No. 4 Sacramento State | 9 p.m. | ESPN 3
- No. 1 Texas Tech vs. No. 4 Delaware | 3 p.m. | ESPN 3
- No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 3 Sam Houston State | 7 p.m. | ESPN 3
- No. 2 Central Florida vs. No. 3 Auburn | Noon | ESPN 2
- No. 1. Florida State vs. No. 4 Tennessee Tech | 6 p.m. | ESPN 3
- No. 1 Southern Miss vs. No. 4 Illinois-Chicago | 2 p.m. | ESPN 3
- No. 2 Mississippi State vs. No. 3 South Alabama | 7 p.m. | ESPN 3
Baton Rouge Regional:
- No. 1 LSU vs. No. 4 Texas Southern | 3:30 p.m. | ESPN 3
- No. 2 Southeastern Louisiana vs. No. 3 Rice | 8 p.m. | ESPN 3
Chapel Hill Regional:
- No. 2 Florida Gulf Coast vs. No. 3 Michigan | 1 p.m. | ESPN 3
- No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 4 Davidson | 6 p.m. | ESPN 3
- No. 2 Baylor vs. No. 3 Texas A&M | 3 p.m. | ESPN 2
- No. 1 Houston vs. No. 4 Iowa | 8 p.m. | ESPN U
- No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 4 Ohio | Noon | ESPN U
- No. 2 Indiana vs. No. 3 North Carolina State | 7 p.m. | ESPN 3
- No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Xavier | 2 p.m. | ESPN 3
- No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 4 Radford | 6 p.m. | ESPN 3
Fort Worth Regional:
- No. 2 Virginia vs. No. 3 Dallas Baptist | 4 p.m. | ESPN U
- No. 1 TCU vs. No. 4 Central Connecticut State | 9 p.m. | ESPN 3
- No. 2 Missouri State vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State | 3 p.m. | ESPN 3
- No. 1 Arkansas vs. No. 2 Oral Roberts | 8 p.m. | ESPN 3
Winston Salem Regional:
- No. 2 West Virginia vs. No. 3 Maryland | 2 p.m. | ESPN 3
- No. 1 Wake Forest vs. No. 4 UMBC | 7 p.m. | ESPN 3
- No. 2 South Florida vs. No. 3 Bethune-Cookman | 1 p.m. | ESPN 3
- No. 1 Florida vs. No. 4 Marist | 7 p.m. | ESPN 3