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College Baseball Playoffs

John Rowland

Posted on May 28, 2018 16:56

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The NCAA Division I College Baseball brackets have been released. 64 teams; 16 regionals (four schools in each), the 16 winners of which advance to eight super-regional rounds at separate locations. The winners of these super-regionals advance to the College World Series in Omaha.

As a full disclosure, this writer is biased towards teams from the West. So go Stanford, Oregon State, UCLA, Washington, San Diego St. and Cal State Fullerton.

But as defending champion, top national seed Florida appears to have the easiest road to Omaha, with NC State or Auburn as their main obstacle. Other top regional seeds will have a tougher time.

On the face of it, some regionals appear competitive; some don't.

The Fayetteville regional looks somewhat contentious with Arkansas (and its deep pitching roster), Southern Miss. and a Dallas Baptist team that's pulled some surprises in past years.

Also, the Courvalis regional is relatively stacked with two of last year's national semi-finalists in Oregon State (cheated out of the tournament two years ago) and LSU; throw in San Diego St. for good measure.

Seeded fourth nationally, Ole Miss. basically gets a free pass in its regional round. And to a lesser extent, same with North Carolina, Georgia and Texas Tech.

The tournament contains some automatic qualifiers, including the winners from certain ho-hum conferences.

Like Hartford from the America East conference. Bet that one really makes the opposition tremble. How about LIU Brooklyn from the Northeast conference? Scared yet? The Metro Atlantic's Canisius … and on and on.

Money, politics and legalities notwithstanding, this NCAA design helps democratize the sport. The problem is that these lower-talent additions keep more deserving teams out altogether. Just ask California, Arizona, Illinois and South Alabama. Anyone care to argue that Ivy-leaguer Columbia (who made the tournament) is better than any of these four squads? Can you say Robin Hood.

In dramatic fashion though, some long-shots make huge Cinderella runs.

Seeded dead last at the Long Beach regional in 2008, Fresno State survived and then beat a powerhouse Arizona State team in the Supers. Fresno went on to win the national championship in Omaha. Virginia won it all in 2015 as a lower seed.

So anything can happen.

This year's super regional matchups seem normal enough (presuming the top seeds win their regionals), but none really take your breath away. I don't know, does Stetson vs. North Carolina make a fan's heart race? How about Arkansas-East Carolina? Unless of course these are your teams. I guess Texas vs. Ole Miss. sounds pretty good.

But getting back to the Robin Hood effect, where's the names like Miami, Wichita State, Arizona, USC? 

USC, the country's most prolific national champion by far, didn't make the tournament. Perhaps its schedule was too brutal; playing in a very difficult conference along with some tough non-conference games. Should have played Columbia.

It used to be that the baseball talent would, more or less, stay local — there wasn't as much national recruiting as there is now. This developing dynamic has helped put more teams into contention.

Heck, Stetson could be this year's Coastal Carolina of 2016.

But these are just young men, and no matter which teams are involved, it will surely be entertaining.

Anything can happen.

John Rowland

Posted on May 28, 2018 16:56

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