The NCAA Baseball Tournament field has shrunk from 64 to the final eight, who are leaving their home fields where they played the Regionals and Super Regionals for college baseball’s largest and most prestigious stadium in Omaha, Nebraska.
While in basketball, it’s all about being one of the Final 4, in baseball, you want to be one of the final eight, for that gives you the distinction of making the College World Series.
The CWS will begin with a double elimination round, in which the teams will be divided into two groups of four and whoever in those foursomes avoids losing twice will play in a best-of-three for the national championship. Here’s a rundown of the teams in Omaha:
The Sooners played well throughout the regular season and postseason, entering Omaha with a 42-22 record, yet are still unranked in the AP Top 25. They defeated top-five Virginia Tech in the Super Regionals and will play top-five Texas A&M in their first game. Can they slay another giant?
Texas A&M Aggies
One of the top eight seeds coming into the tournament, the Aggies survived two close games with Louisville to make it to Nebraska. They are the best SEC team left in the field with Tennessee’s surprising exit against Notre Dame and could very well win it all.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The Fighting Irish! Who would’ve imagined that unranked Notre Dame would shock #1 Tennessee and all of college baseball with the upset of the year in the Super Regionals! With the series tied 1-1 and trailing 1-3 in the 7th inning, the Irish scored three runs to take the lead and end the Vols’ season on their own field a game away from the CWS. If they can beat Tennessee who knows what they’ll do just a handful of games away from the national title!
Top-10 Texas had a tough draw in the Super Regionals with also top-10 East Carolina, but the Horns prevailed to set up probably at least one game with arch-rival Oklahoma in the CWS. When you get to the final eight, the stakes just get higher and higher.
Probably one of the weaker teams left but not to be underestimated. They went through top-10 North Carolina to get here and anyone can beat anybody in baseball. Just ask Tennessee—in a couple of weeks, you might be seeing the Hogs hoisting the championship trophy.
The #2 Cardinal had to fight a bit to escape UConn but are still around (unlike #1), and will have to be prepared for Arkansas’s best punch in their first game. In fact this bracket will be the SEC vs. Stanford.
After prevailing in an all-Mississippi Super Regional with Southern Miss, the Rebels will face a familiar foe in Auburn for their first game. The Tigers from The Plains have been vulnerable at times this season but also are coming off a big upset of Oregon State, so we’ll see who wins.
The Tigers have recovered nicely from their three losses in four games to Kentucky and are fresh off an upset of the top-five Oregon State Beavers. This College World Series could belong to anyone, especially now that Tennessee is out, so Auburn’s rebuilt momentum might make them a powerful force.