After a long and arduous regular season, the road to the College Baseball World Series is finally set to commence on Friday. The 64-team field is in place, and every team believes it has a chance to be crowned champion of college baseball.
The tournament will begin in the regional stage with 16 groups of four. Each group will take part in a double-elimination round, so the last team remaining with less than two losses will advance to the Super Regionals, which are the baseball equivalent of the Sweet 16.
The No. 1 seed in each group obviously has a distinct advantage in terms of overall talent level, but there are no guarantees until the games have been played.
Here is everything you need to know about the upcoming college baseball regionals, including when and where to watch every game.
Where: Multiple Venues
When: Friday, May 31 through Monday, June, 3
Live Stream: ESPN3
|Troy vs. Alabama||Friday, May 31||12 p.m.||ESPNU||Tallahassee, Fla.|
|Coastal Carolina vs, Oklahoma||Friday, May 31||1 p.m.||ESPN3||Blacksburg, Va.|
|Towson vs. Florida Atlantic||Friday, May 31||1 p.m.||ESPN3||Chapel Hill, N.C.|
|Liberty vs. Clemson||Friday, May 31||1 p.m.||ESPN3||Columbia, S.C.|
|Florida vs. Austin Peay||Friday, May 31||1 p.m.||ESPN3||Bloomington, Ind.|
|Army vs. Virginia||Friday, May 31||1 p.m.||ESPN3||Charlottesville, Va.|
|William & Mary vs. Ole Miss||Friday, May 31||2 p.m.||ESPN3||Raleigh, N.C.|
|Oklahoma State vs. Miami (FL)||Friday, May 31||2 p.m.||ESPN3||Louisville, Ky.|
|Illinois vs. Georgia Tech||Friday, May 31||2 p.m.||ESPN3||Nashville, Tenn.|
|Wichita State vs. Kansas State||Friday, May 31||3 p.m.||ESPNU||Manhattan, Kan.|
|UC Santa Barbara vs. Texas A&M||Friday, May 31||3 p.m.||ESPN3||Corvallis, Ore.|
|Mercer vs. South Alabama||Friday, May 31||3 p.m.||ESPN3||Starkville, Miss.|
|Jackson State vs. LSU||Friday, May 31||3 p.m.||ESPN3||Baton Rouge, La.|
|San Francisco vs. Rice||Friday, May 31||5 p.m.||ESPN3||Eugene, Ore.|
|Savannah State vs. Florida State||Friday, May 31||5 p.m.||ESPN3||Tallahassee, Fla.|
|San Diego vs. Cal Poly||Friday, May 31||5 p.m.||ESPN3||Los Angeles, Calif.|
|UConn vs. Virginia Tech||Friday, May 31||5:30 p.m.||ESPN3||Blacksburg, Va.|
|Canisius vs. North Carolina||Friday, May 31||6 p.m.||ESPN3||Chapel Hill, N.C.|
|Bowling Green vs. Louisville||Friday, May 31||6 p.m.||ESPN3||Louisville, Ky.|
|Elon vs. UNC-Wilmington||Friday, May 31||6 p.m.||ESPN3||Charlottesville, Va.|
|Valparaiso vs. Indiana||Friday, May 31||7 p.m.||ESPN3||Bloomington, Ind.|
|Binghamton vs. NC State||Friday, May 31||7 p.m.||ESPN3||Raleigh, N.C.|
|East Tennessee State vs. Vanderbilt||Friday, May 31||7 p.m.||ESPNU||Nashville, Tenn.|
|Saint Louis vs. South Carolina||Friday, May 31||7 p.m.||ESPN3||Columbia, S.C.|
|New Mexico vs. Arizona State||Friday, May 31||7 p.m.||ESPN3||Fullerton, Calif.|
|Texas-San Antonio vs. Oregon State||Friday, May 31||8 p.m.||ESPN3||Corvallis, Ore.|
|Central Arkansas vs. Mississippi State||Friday, May 31||8 p.m.||ESPN3||Starkville, Miss.|
|Bryant vs. Arkansas||Friday, May 31||8 p.m.||ESPN3||Manhattan, Kan.|
|Sam Houston State vs. Louisiana-Lafayette||Friday, May 31||8 p.m.||ESPN3||Baton Rouge, La.|
|South Dakota State vs. Oregon||Friday, May 31||9 p.m.||ESPN3||Eugene, Ore.|
|San Diego State vs. UCLA||Friday, May 31||9 p.m.||ESPN3||Los Angeles, Calif.|
|Columbia vs. Cal State Fullerton||Friday, May 31||11 p.m.||ESPNU||Fullerton, Calif.|
*Remaining schedule on June 1, 2 and 3 depends on winners and losers of May 31 games
*Schedule courtesy of NCAA.com
Teams to Watch
No team in college baseball had a stronger season than the North Carolina Tar Heels, who finished with a 52-8 record and were rewarded with the No. 1-overall seed in the tournament for the first time in team history, according to LaSalle Blanks of 13NEWS in Norfolk, Va. UNC has a ton of depth and star power, which should easily carry the team into the Super Regional round.
CTLaSalle Blanks @CTLaSalleBlanks
UNC ranked #1 in college baseball world series for first time ever2013-5-28 08:01:37
Offensively, the Tar Heels are led by junior third baseman Colin Moran, who was second on the team with a .357 average and led North Carolina with 13 home runs and 84 RBI. UNC's biggest strength may be its pitching, though, as the flame-throwing trio of Trent Thornton, Kent Emanuel and Hobbs Johnson each had an ERA of 2.14 or better this year.
There are a lot of good teams in the tournament, but North Carolina has to be the odds-on favorite to win it all right now.
The LSU Tigers had plenty of top-flight competition to contend with in the SEC this year, but they were able to come away smelling like roses with a 52-9 overall record. LSU certainly earned a No. 1 seed, and it has the players necessary to make a very deep run in the tourney.
Balance is the name of the game for the Tigers on offense, as they had five players hit .314 or better during the regular season, each of whom also had an on-base percentage over .400. Their most notable contributor was senior utility man Mason Katz, who hit .377 and racked up 14 homers and 64 RBI.
LSU has an impressive stable of arms as well, but the unquestioned leader is the appropriately named Aaron Nola. The sophomore righty was dominant for the Tigers this year, as he went 10-0 with a 1.94 ERA and 105 strikeouts in 102 innings. Everyone must contribute in order for LSU to thrive, but the team's success rests largely on the strong arm of Nola.
Like LSU, Vanderbilt competed in arguably the toughest conference in the nation this season in the form of the SEC. Vandy took its lumps here and there, but with an overall record of 51-9 and an SEC mark of 26-3, the Commodores enter the tournament with a ton of confidence and momentum.
One of the big reasons for Vandy's success this season is the fact that there isn't an easy out in the lineup. That includes table-setter Tony Kemp. The junior second baseman hit an astounding .402, reached base over 48 percent of the time and stole 30 bases. With Kemp wreaking havoc on the basepaths, it was much easier for the lineup's run producers to succeed.
Also, Vanderbilt boasts a pair of aces in the form of Kevin Ziomek and Tyler Beede. Ziomek and Beede ended up with a 2.05 and 2.10 ERA respectively and finished the season with a combined record of 24-2. Each man also struck out more than a batter per inning, so Vandy has a great chance to win essentially every game it plays.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter