When we last left you there were 16 teams fighting to spend a week or more in Omaha, Nebraska, the ultimate destination, for every college baseball team when they start practice in late January.
Six months later, eight teams have earned the right to play at least two more games, with the possibility of claiming a national title still in their sights.
Before we make our predictions, let’s take a quick look back at a few story lines from Super Regional Weekend, the first-round matchups, how you can watch the College World Series (CWS) unfold, and how many teams yours truly picked to go to Omaha!
The Biggest Question Emerging From Super Regional Weekend
We’ll go with dual questions that go hand-in-hand…
How many Tennessee fans were canceling hotel rooms and selling CWS tickets on third-party websites following the Vols upset loss to Notre Dame?
Is being the top seed a curse?
Tennessee was the clear #1 team all-season long. Yet, they fell short of their national title hopes without even getting to Omaha, losing a deciding game three to Notre Dame 7-3. The last time the #1 seed won a national title was over 20 years ago, the 1999 Miami Hurricanes. This is also the third straight year the top-seed did not get to the CWS.
Super Regional Highlights
1. Texas A&M took care of business. Heck, the Aggies were the first team to book its ticket to the CWS. They swept Louisville and were celebrating, then resting, before some of the other Super Regionals had even thrown their first pitch.
2. The SEC reigned supreme again as half the field plays in the conference where “It Just Means More”. By the way, that does not include Texas or Oklahoma who will be joining the SEC soon. For this year anyway, Omaha is Hoover, Alabama north (the site of the SEC baseball tournament for those who are not as connected to college baseball as us here at AaronTorresOnline.com).
3. Five of the eight series needed a winner-take-all third game. Only the Aggies, Arkansas, and Ole Miss won both games. Let us remind you that Ole Miss was the last at-large selection into the field. If you want another great Rebel story, how about star hitter Tim Elko? He tore his ACL one month ago. Yes, four weeks ago. He hit two grand slams in the regionals before helping his squad to a sweep of in-state rival Southern Miss last weekend. The Rebels are the only team in Omaha that has yet to lose a game in the NCAA Tournament.
4. Stanford and Texas managed to survive after losing the first game of the series. The Longhorns also had to navigate an eight-hour rain delay in the deciding third game. This is Texas’ NCAA leading 38th CWS appearance.
5. Only four of the 16-seeded teams by the NCAA made it to Omaha - #2 Stanford, #5 Texas A&M, #9 Texas, and #14 Auburn, the latter two teams winning their Super Regional Matchup on the road.
Matchups in Omaha
The CWS format is a mirror image of the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. There are two brackets with teams placed there based on the original seeding by the committee. Each bracket consists of four teams and will be played in a double elimination format.
The two teams that emerge from their respective bracket will then face off in best-of-three series to crown a national champion.
Friday, June 17
2 pm - Oklahoma vs #5 Texas A&M
7 pm - Notre Dame vs #9 Texas
Saturday, June 18
2 pm - Arkansas vs #2 Stanford
7 pm - Ole Miss vs #14 Auburn
The CWS will conclude with the champion series starting on Saturday, June 26.
All games will be carried on one of the ESPN Networks.
National Championship Prediction
Six of the teams that have made it to Omaha were correctly picked in our Super Regional Preview. The two that were missed were Tennessee and Oregon State.
Three of these eight teams have won a national title in their history - Stanford, Oklahoma, and Texas, of course.
In full disclosure, picking the earlier rounds were easier than these selections. Like its’ basketball counterpart, these are the best teams and an argument can be made for each team to dogpile at Charles Schwab Field.
This isn’t the football playoffs where the Irish haven’t fared too well as of late. Notre Dame has won 85 games the last two years. They are as veteran a team that is in Omaha. Oh yeah, they just beat the juggernaut known as the Tennessee Volunteers. If they can win in Knoxville, they can win in Omaha. Notre Dame also boasts the best ERA of the eight teams left standing.
Their opponent will be … the lone non-SEC team in the other bracket. Stanford is ranked second in the country for a reason. They lost their first game of the Super Regional to our fearless leader Aaron Torres’ hometown UConn Huskies before rallying for two straight wins. Stanford has the best pitcher in this bracket in Alex Williams and a stud in center field in Brock Jones.
Who will dogpile the last weekend in June? Notre Dame has won 20 national titles in school history. That number becomes 21 as the Irish claim the first baseball national championship in school history.
Follow Stephen Kirck on Twitter @SKirck