The start of the NCAA Baseball Tournament is just a few days away. While we at BTD have been neck deep in providing you with content previewing Oregon State’s chances of getting back to Omaha, we thought we’d take a look at the rest of the tournament field as well.
Our own Joe Londergan, Ross Parker, and John Severs tossed around a few topics and names that college baseball fans should get familiar with.
Disagree with any of our thoughts or opinions? Let us know in the comments!
This year, the committee seeded the top 16 teams instead of the top eight. What’s your impression of the result of that?
RP: I’m indifferent to it. Nothing really changes in terms of regional setup or selection. The only difference is we can see how the Super Regional bracket is selected now. The NCAA seeding remains fairly consistent to national rankings of teams. It’s nothing I’m overly looking into.
JS: So far I don’t think it’s made much of an impact, but that might be because the team I care most about was unaffected. If in the future Oregon State ends up in that 9-16 slot I might have reason to complain, but I’m generally in favor of the NCAA being more transparent in its selections, so I’m happy for now.
JL: Having definitive seeds certainly makes figuring out Super Regionals easier. As far as the teams in it, the entire western part of the country isn’t exactly well represented in there, but what are you gonna do.
Of the 16 regionals, which one looks the toughest?
RP: The Stanford regional looks miserable to be in. We all know the story on Stanford, they handled the Pac-12 almost the entire season up until the last 3 weeks of the season. However, they have been missing their star catcher and his absence has been felt, so Stanford will be weaker 1 seed heading into this regional. Big-12 champion Baylor is another tough squad that has been on and off the top 25 who just took down baseball-power TCU in the championship. Big West champion Fullerton is a perennial baseball powerhouse who took down Stanford in regionals last year in their run to Omaha, so they are no joke as a 3 seed. Oh, and the Horizon League Champion Wright State has been one of the hottest teams in the nation over the past month. Be glad you aren’t in this regional.
JS: I would really feel bad if, as hosting team, I had to play Mississippi State in Regionals. Not just because the one time I got myself to Omaha I saw them beat the Beavers twice. So I would not want to be Florida State right now, hosting the Tallahassee Regional. The Bulldogs played an up and down season, but those ups were ridiculous. They swept Florida, the best team in the nation. They won three games over Ole Miss, the #4 overall seed. It’s a hot team, and they could easily ride that momentum into a regional victory. Even if Florida State gets by them, they’ve got a good chance of being matched up with Clemson in the Super Regionals, a team that just won a series against them a few weeks ago. The other teams in the Tallahassee Regional include Oklahoma, a tournament perennial who hasn’t gone deep in a few years but could still pull off a win; and Samford, winner of the Southern Conference, who may not be a threat to advance but should at least enjoy the trip.
JL: Another one that fans should keep an eye on is the Oxford regional. Ole Miss powered through most of their schedule to a 46-15 record and SEC tournament championship. Then you have Missouri State, the MVC champions who have a habit of going farther than they’re supposed to in the NCAA tournament. Then on top of that, you have Tennessee Tech, who despite playing in the lowly OVC, has one of the best team offenses in baseball. And then St. Louis is there too...But it wouldn’t be that surprising to me if whoever wins this regional get to Omaha.
Give us a few players you expect to turn in big performances in this tournament.
RP: I’m going pitching-heavy impact players. I expect Nick Madrigal to have a big postseason for the Beavs, Blaine Knight from Arkansas is a pitcher that I like a ton after a tremendous season in the SEC, and you’d be foolish to forget about North Carolina’s ace pitcher, Gianluca Dalatri, after he missed most of the year with an elbow injury. I will also be keeping an eye on Florida’s ace, Brady Singer, after he was injured to end the year for the Gators. His status will dictate how far Florida can go.
JS: Auburn probably wishes they could start Casey Mize every game. The probable first pick in the MLB Draft threw a no-hitter against Northeastern earlier this year and may get the rematch in the first game of the Raleigh Regional. This year’s tournament is lousy with amazing pitchers, and Stetson’s ace Logan Gilbert is the latest star from a program that has produced Corey Kluber and Jacob deGrom. In terms of batters, Florida’s Jonathan India is the best batter on the best team in the nation and can do just about anything at the plate. For the Beavers, their bats need to wake up after disappearing in the past week. I want Nick Madrigal, Trevor Larnach, and Adley Rutschman to make big statements in this year’s tournament.
JL: There are a few small school guys that could make a huge impact for their team. Nick Sandlin from Southern Mississippi has the best ERA in the country at 1.13. Joey Murray from Kent State is another pitcher who could do some big things after posting 139 strikeouts this year. Then on the offensive side, you have Devin Granberg of Dallas Baptist who enters the tournament with the highest batting average of all players competing in the tournament (.426). And remember how I said Tennessee Tech has one of the best offenses in the country? Kevin Strohschein and Chase Chambers were big reasons for that.
Who were you most surprised to see not make the NCAA Tournament?
RP: The Kentucky Wildcats immediately jump out to me. After competing in the insanely difficult SEC, they were sitting on the bubble after finishing the year at 34-22. Not to mention, Kentucky ranked ahead of other teams, such as Northeastern, in terms of RPI (32 to NE’s 35). Kentucky has one of the better rotations in college baseball. Even though I’m no fan of the SEC, not being able to watch the Wildcats in the postseason will be a shame.
JS: You might be able to make a case for Illinois or Arizona, but Kentucky is straight up being punished for playing in the strongest conference in the country. The Wildcats are an excellent team who made the mistake of playing against Titans.
JL: Like Ross and John said, Kentucky not getting in is a little crazy. But Ray Tanner indicated that conference record is a big thing for the committee. And UK just didn’t have enough wins against the multitude of strong programs in the SEC. Also, I’m a little surprised Louisiana Tech isn’t in there. But it’s hard to stand out aside from the automatic qualifier in a league like C-USA.
How do you feel about how the Pac-12 is represented in this field?
RP: Decently. Not crazy about it, but not too low on it. The Pac-12 falls about the middle of the pack in terms of the number of teams represented, but it could be worse. The only other team that had an argument that missed out on getting in was Arizona, so about all the expected teams made it into the tournament. Now, every conference looks poorly represented when the compared to the SEC, who is sending 10 teams to the tournament, so take that with a grain of salt.
JS: I think it’s fair. Arizona should have been in the tournament, but they’re not even the best team that was left out, so I guess the PAC-12 is being robbed as much as other conferences are. I’m sure UCLA feels like they should have hosted a regional, but that’s a stretch.
JL: With OSU, Stanford, UCLA, and UW, there are some quality programs in there. You mentioned Arizona had something of a case, and I think that’s fair. But like Kentucky, they just had one too many issues in conference play. But I think the Pac-12 truly has all its best teams in the tournament this year.
What smaller school/non-traditional baseball power should fans watch to make a deep run?
RP: Stetson is going to stand out immediately for most people, and deservedly so. However, I’m going to go with 15 seed Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers handily won the competitive Sun Belt conference for the first time in team history, and also took on a tough non-conference schedule over the course of the season. This non-conference schedule included a matchup against #4 North Carolina, which they won. CCU comes into the tournament with an RPI of 20. Seriously good. CCU won the natty just 2 years, ago, but they look primed for another deep run this postseason as well.
JS: That a small school in DeLand Florida scored a top 16 seed actually shouldn’t be that surprising. The Stetson Hatters have already produced stars in the MLB. They’ve been to the dance a few times before, but this is their best chance ever to prove themselves as a program. Behind ace Logan Gilbert, Stetson has the best ERA in the country, so if you were planning on scoring runs in the DeLand regional, better come up with a new strategy. This feels like a hungry team ready to prove some things.
JL: Tennessee Tech is another one. I’m not kidding, these guys can hit. 723 hits, 128 home runs, 596 runs, and a team .342 batting average. We’ll see how well they do against the high-level pitching in this tournament, but I expect some good things from them. Also, they may have their work cut out for them going up against Stanford out of the gate, but Wright State could be a problem for some teams if they aren’t careful.
Which eight teams are going to make the College World Series?
RP: Florida, Oregon State, Texas, Louisville, Clemson, Arkansas, Houston, and Coastal Carolina. Book it.
JS: Florida, Oregon State, Louisville, Coastal Carolina, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Arkansas, and Stetson.
JL: Florida, Louisville, Arkansas, Texas, Stanford, Mississippi State, Houston, and Oregon State.