It’s Tennessee’s world and we are all just living in it.
That’s what Volunteer Nation would like you to believe as the collegiate sports world begins another three-week odyssey to crown a national champion.
Oh by the way, Tennessee has played 60 games, won 53 of them, and captured the SEC championship this past Sunday. Rocky Top thinks they are rolling to Omaha.
(Tennessee fans, get your Torres Media "Bad Boys of College Baseball" shirts HERE)
This tournament does not have one iota the branding, popularity, fan interest, betting action, office cooler talk, bracket pool interest, or national television ratings that its March Madness counterpart has. However, the NCAA Division 1 Baseball Tournament may be the best tournament the folks in Indianapolis put on from a competitive balance and format standpoint.
Just don’t tell that to any NC State Wolfpack fans. More on that later.
We here at AaronTorresOnline.com like to encompass the entire college sports landscape so let’s delve into the basics of the NCAA Tournament, some of the storylines of the first weekend, where you can watch this unfold, and finally, let’s pick the March Madness nickname equivalent in this Twitter Poll.
What should the moniker of the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament be?
Campus Stud Month
Onward to Omaha
Better than March Madness?
Here are five reasons why the NCAA Division 1 Baseball Tournament is better than basketball’s March Madness. If you disagree, shout at me @skirck on Twitter! Please keep in mind I LOVE March Madness and March is the best month on the sports calendar in my book. But this format is better. Here’s why…
The first two rounds are held on college campuses. Sixteen, yes, 16 schools will host regionals this weekend. Eight next weekend! Yes sir!
It’s NOT single elimination! In fact, you can lose four times and still win a national title. I bet John Calipari would have liked this format this past March.
Texas State is a two seed. That can’t happen in March. The Bobcats would be a 15 seed on Selection Sunday in the bigger ball sport. Bonus points if you know where Texas State is or what conference they play in!
Someone you see on TV in Omaha will be playing in a pro game somewhere the week after his team is eliminated, probably as high as the AA level. Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren or Paulo Banchero won’t don an NBA uniform until November to play in a real game. Don’t believe me, seven years ago TCU’s Brandon Finnegan pitched in Omaha. Less than 50 days later, he was on the mound in the World Series for the Kansas City Royals.
The College World Series can see as many as 20 games being played over two-plus weeks in Omaha. The Final Four has three games over 48 hours.
NCAA Baseball Tournament Format
64 teams were selected (31 auto-bids and 33 at-large teams) and seeded into the bracket, announced on Memorial Day. Like March, it takes place in three rounds of competition. Unlike March, there are NO play-in, I mean, ahem, first round, games.
Starting Friday, there will be 16 double-elimination regionals hosted by the school’s that the NCAA Committee deemed as the best 16 teams in their seeding process.
The 16 teams who survive this weekend will then be matched up via the predetermined bracket and play a best two-of-three series the weekend of June 10-13. The host team will be the highest-seeded team standing. Did I mention this round will be on campus? Yes I did but it bares or bears repeating. That would be akin to Gonzaga hosting the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 in The Kennel! Yes, please!
College World Series (CWS)
The eight teams that win their super regional convene in Omaha, Nebraska and repeat that process. Teams are divided into two four-team brackets and will play a double elimination format. The two teams that emerge will then play a best two-of-three National Championship Series.
It’s long. It’s arduous. You better have a lot of pitching, especially if you play yourself into the loser’s bracket. But, one bad shooting night or buzzer beater does not end your season.
National Seed List (Hosting Regionals This Weekend)
Oregon State (44-14)
Virginia Tech (41-12)
Texas A&M (37-18)
Miami (FL) (39-18)
Oklahoma State (39-26)
East Carolina (42-18)
Southern Miss (43-16)
Georgia Southern (40-16)
Yes, there are always teams that feel like they got left out. This year’s biggest snub was definitely NC State. There aren’t a million different bracketologists, but even Joe Lunardi is scratching his head on how the Wolfpack got left out.
By the way, this is the same NC State program that got hit with Covid in the CWS last June, played a game with only 13 eligible players, some of whom were seldom-used freshman, and nearly everyone playing out of their normal position. Yet, the Wolfpack almost won (they lost 3-1 to Vanderbilt), yet was forfeited out of the tournament, technically a Covid-19 no contest ruling, even though that was their first loss.
Did the NCAA make that up to them? Uhmmm, NO!
NC State’s 2022 Resume
17-16 ACC record (arguably the second best conference)
Reached ACC Championship Game
No 33 RPI
Projected 2 seed in D1 Baseball Bracketology
Rutgers was a close second as the second-place Big 10 team did not receive an at-large bid either. Imagine Illinois or Purdue basketball not getting their name called on Selection Sunday.
In case you were wondering, the Fighting Lane Kiffin's Ole Miss Rebels were the last at-large selection into the field. The Rebels went 33-22 and were ranked #1 earlier in the season. That might have been the difference as the talent is there, even if the results or resume isn’t as good as NC State or Rutgers.
Can anyone beat Tennessee?
The Volunteers seem to have the entire package. They have four batters hitting well north of .325 on the season. They have six players with 10 or more HR’s and average over nine runs a game. Oh yeah, they can flat out pitch! Their top five pitchers all boast an ERA under 2.61 and Ben Joyce hit 104 on the radar gun this year.
Geography not important to NCAA Committee (Hello basketball committee)
Vanderbilt was sent to Oregon State. Oregon was sent to Louisville. UCLA travels to Auburn. Arizona was sent to Miami. Texas State was sent to Stanford. By the way, they are all two seeds.
Can Texas State shock Stanford?
The Bobcats earned a two-seed and were an at-large selection after not winning the Sun Belt Conference tournament. This is their sixth NCAA appearance. The Bobcats will not be an easy out. They were ranked in the top 15 of all six major baseball polls seven times this season, climbing as high as ninth by Collegiate Baseball. Their 44 wins is a school record.
What teams that are not hosting are the most dangerous?
Two seeds Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Arkansas, and Gonzaga are all teams no one wanted to see in their regional. Florida State, Ole Miss, and UConn are three seeds with metrics that suggest they can advance out of their regional.
Where to Watch the Regionals?
ESPNU, ESPN+ - You get the idea. Games will also be shown on the SEC Network, ACC Network, and the Longhorn Network (Texas).
Regional Winner Prediction: Florida State
Regional Winner Prediction: Texas
Virginia Tech (4)
Regional Winner Prediction: Gonzaga
Chapel Hill Regional
North Carolina (10)
Regional Winner Prediction: UNC
College Park Regional
Regional Winner Prediction: Wake Forest
College Station Regional
Texas A&M (5)
Regional Winner Prediction: Texas A&M
Coral Gables Regional
Regional Winner Prediction: Miami
Oregon State (3)
New Mexico State
Regional Winner Prediction: Oregon State
Regional Winner Prediction: Oklahoma
East Carolina (8)
Regional Winner Prediction: Virginia
Southern Miss (11)
Regional Winner Prediction: Southern Miss
Regional Winner Prediction: Tennessee
Southeast Missouri State
Regional Winner Prediction: Louisville
UC Santa Barbara
Regional Winner Prediction: Stanford
Georgia Southern (16)
Regional Winner Prediction: Notre Dame
Oklahoma State (7)
Regional Winner Prediction: Arkansas
Enjoy the first weekend of the NCAA baseball tournament. We will be back next week with a preview of the eight Super Regionals on the Road to Omaha and the College World Series!
Follow Stephen Kirck on Twitter @SKirck