2008 College Baseball: The Road to the College World Series

Corey GautreauxSenior Analyst IMay 29, 2008

Coral Gables Regional featuring (No. 1 seed) Miami Hurricanes

1. Miami     2. Missouri     3. Ole Miss     4. Bethune-Cookman

What to expect:

While there has been some talk about the toughness of this regional, Miami is still the No. 1 team in the country for a reason. While Missouri and Ole Miss both showed signs of brilliance throughout the season, both have shown just how bad they can be too. Ole Miss lost four of their final five SEC series, but thanks to a Mississippi State series win over Arkansas, they were able to make the eight team SEC Tournament. Although the Rebels made it to the Championship game, the Rebels are still fighting to find any consistency. Bethune-Cookman enters the regional after going 17-1 in MEAC action and wining the conference tournament. All four of these teams played in a Regional last year. Regardless of the competition, Miami is still the No. 1 team in the country. Don’t expect Miami to take any of these teams lightly.

Ann Arbor Regional

1. Arizona     2. Michigan     3. Kentucky     4. Eastern Michigan

What to expect:

The NCAA expressed interest in hosting a Regional outside of the South and West Coast, and Michigan offered the opportunity. The Wolverines have hung around the top 25 most of the season and won the Big 10 regular season and tournament championships. Arizona appeared to be a lock for a national seed early in the year, but after getting roughed up in the Pac-10, the Wildcats get the one spot, but will have to play on the road. Kentucky made a strong run through the SEC, winning four of their final five series, but went 1-2 in the SEC Tournament. Eastern Michigan won the MAC title under first year skipper Jake Boss. Arizona appeared in a regional last year while Michigan advanced to a super regional. Kentucky’s last appeared in 2006 when the Wildcats hosted a Regional, and Western Michigan last appeared in the 2003 Lincoln Regional.

Cary Regional featuring (No. 2 seed) North Carolina Tar Heels

1. North Carolina     2. UNC Wilmington     3. Elon     4. Mount St. Mary’s

What to expect:

This regional paves an easy path for the Tar Heels. After going 1-2 in the ACC Tournament, North Carolina gets Mount St. Mary’s in game one, their first ever NCAA appearance. UNC Wilmington completed a successful season in the Colonial Conference, finishing 25-4, to earn an at-large bid. Elon enters the Cary Regional with an impressive 43-16 record, including a 2-1 record against North Carolina and UNC Wilmington combined. However, these games will be much more important for their competition. Last year North Carolina finished runner up at the CWS, while UNC Wilmington and Elon last appeared in the NCAA Tournament in 2006, both losing in Regional play.

Conway Regional

1. Coastal Carolina     2. East Carolina     3. Alabama     4. Columbia

What to expect:

Coastal Carolina finished a successful regular season going 47-12 and 17-3 in the Big South. However, the Chants will certainly be challenged by East Carolina and Alabama. East Carolina proves it can be a force to handle when things are clicking, but consistent play has been a problem all year long. Alabama enters the Conway Regional after being eliminated in the semi-finals of the SEC Tournament by the eventual champions LSU. The Tide won their last five SEC series, and eliminated both No. 1 seed Georgia and Kentucky in the SEC Tournament. Columbia won the Ivy Group to claim a spot in their first NCAA Tournament since 1976.

Tempe Regional featuring (No. 3 seed) Arizona State Sun Devils

1. Arizona State     2. Vanderbilt     3. Oklahoma     4. Stony Brook

What to expect:

Arizona State will look to return to the CWS after playing in Omaha last year. The path appears to be set for just that.  While Vanderbilt was a preseason top 10 club, the Commodores have struggled down the stretch, splitting their last six SEC series. Although the Commodores were one win away from playing in the SEC Tournament Championship Game in Hoover. Oklahoma has created more uproar than any other tournament team. The Sooners were given an at-large bid despite going 9-17 in the Big 12. The Sooners have plenty of bulletin board material from all the naysayers, so there should be no need for motivational speeches before taking the field in game one. Stony Brook claimed the Am East Tournament Title and will make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2004.

Long Beach Regional

1. Long Beach State     2. San Diego     3. California     4. Fresno State

What to expect:

Long Beach State received their No. 1 seed after sharing the regular season Big West title with Cal State Fullerton. San Diego enters as a two seed thanks to a sub-par RPI, but the Toreros have one of the best pitchers in the country in left-hander Brian Matusz. After putting together an impressive Pac-10 run, the Golden Bears could easily win this Regional. Cal is feeling a little slighted by the selection committee which could spell bad news for their opponents. Fresno State won the WAC Tournament to earn an automatic bid. California is making their first Regional appearance since 2001, while the other three teams all appeared in the NCAA Tournament last season.

Tallahassee Regional featuring (No. 4 seed) Florida State Seminoles

1. Florida State     2. Florida     3. Tulane     4. Bucknell

What to expect:

Florida State is looking to avenge last season’s early exit with a trip to the College World Series. The Seminoles were one of the favorites to win the national championship last year, but in one of the biggest surprises in NCAA Regional history, the Seminoles were eliminated by the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The Florida Gators appeared to be on track to host a Regional themselves, but after dropping five of their final seven SEC series, and going 0-2 in the SEC Tournament, the Gators are forced to take the short drive over to Tallahassee. Florida won one of three from the Seminoles this season. Tulane also looked prepared to host a Regional in the early part of the season, but thanks to a sweep by Rice and a pair of losses to Marshall in the Conference USA Tournament, the Wave will be forced to try their luck on the road. Bucknell earned an automatic bid after winning the Patriot League and finishing the season 10-10 in league play. Florida State is the only team in the Regional to have played in the post season last year. Florida returns after finishing as runners-up in the 2005 CWS. Tulane returns to the post season after a one year absence, while Bucknell makes their first appearance since 2003.

Stillwater Regional

1. Oklahoma State     2. Wichita State     3. Texas Christian     4. Western Kentucky

What to expect:

Oklahoma State is by far the best team not to receive a national seed. After going 18-9 in Big 12 action, the Cowboys are looking to prove they deserved the final national seed spot. Although Oklahoma State is playing great ball, Wichita State will not be a club to take lightly. The Shockers capped off the season with a Missouri Valley Conference Tournament win to finish 44-15 overall. Just when things looked clear, TCU enters the Stillwater Regional after claiming the Mountain West Conference Tournament.  The Horned Frogs have flown under the radar much of the season, and they will be looking to make this as competitive of a Regional as any. Western Kentucky won the Sun Belt Tournament to earn an automatic bid. Oklahoma State and Wichita State both made it to Super Regional action last year, while TCU played in the Houston Regional. Western Kentucky is making their first appearance in the NCC Tournament since 2004.

Fullerton Regional featuring (No. 5 seed) Cal State Fullerton Titans

1. Cal State Fullerton     2. UCLA     3. Virginia     4. Rider

What to expect:

The Titans are looking to return to the CWS, and it could be smooth sailing to do just that. The only possible speed bump appears to be UCLA, but the Bruins have disappointed all season long, except for the final two weekends. After a No. 1 preseason ranking, the Bruins finished just 31-25 overall and 13-11 in Pac-10 play. Virginia could give the Titans and Bruins fits, if they can find consistency, something they have searched for all season long. Rider should post no problem for Cal State Fullerton in the opening game. They will be making their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 1994. Virginia will play in the post season again, after their 2007 appearance in the Charlottesville Regional. UCLA was eliminated by Cal State Fullerton last year in this same Regional.

Stanford Regional

1. Stanford     2. Pepperdine     3. Arkansas     4. UC Davis

What to expect:

Stanford faces a UC Davis club that has already beaten them in both regular season games this season. UC Davis also has series wins against UC Santa Barbara and Long Beach State. Pepperdine finished 39-16 to earn an at-large bid. Arkansas is playing their best baseball of the season right now, winning four of their final six SEC series, despite missing the SEC Tournament. Although UC Davis owns a couple of wins over Stanford, the Aggies are playing in their first ever NCAA Regional, while Stanford returns after a one year absence. Pepperdine and Arkansas both played in Regional action last season.

Houston Regional featuring (No. 6 seed) Rice Owls

1. Rice     2. Texas     3. St. John’s     4. Sam Houston State

What to expect:

After sweeping Tulane in the final regular season series, the Owls went 0-2 in the Conference USA Tournament. Texas has found a rhythm late in the season, claiming the Big 12 Tournament Championship. The Longhorns could be a huge hurdle for the Owls, if they get past St. John’s.  After a disappointing showing in the Big East Tournament, St. John’s is hoping to turn things around against Texas. Sam Houston State claimed the Southland automatic bid after winning the conference tournament. All four teams appeared in Regional play last season, but only Rice made it out of the first round and played in Omaha.

College Station Regional

1. Texas A&M     2. Dallas Baptist     3. Houston     4. Illinois-Chicago

What to expect:

The Aggies have no excuse not to make it out of this cake-walk Regional. After a going on a losing streak to end the season, the Aggies hope to bounce back and should have no problem doing that. Dallas Baptist earned an at-large bid, their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance. Although Houston claimed the Conference USA Tournament Championship, their pitching has not been extremely stellar, except for reliever Chase Dempsay. Illinois-Chicago won the Horizon Tournament to claim an automatic bid. Houston missed last year’s tournament, while Illinois-Chicago was eliminated in the Long Beach Regional. Texas A&M advanced to the Houston Super Regional last season.

Baton Rouge Regional featuring (No. 7 seed) LSU Tigers

1. LSU     2. Southern Miss     3. New Orleans     4. Texas Southern

What to expect:

No team in the country is hotter than the LSU Tigers. LSU enters the Regional on a 20-game win streak, including 16 straight SEC victories and the SEC Tournament Title. The Tigers have not lost a game since April 19. Southern Miss completed a successful season with a 40-20 record, although the Golden Eagles did drop their April 9 contest against LSU. New Orleans enters Regional play after a disappointing ending to their season. The Privateers were one of the hottest teams in the country towards the end of the season, winning 13 straight, including two against LSU, before the Tigers snapped their streak on May 13 in Metarie. New Orleans bounced back to advance to the championship game of the Sun Belt Conference, before losing to Western Kentucky. LSU’s Alex Box Stadium, which is set to be torn down at the end of the season, will host its 18th NCAA Regional this weekend. The Box hosted 16 straight from 1990-2005 when the Tigers won their five national championships in 10 years. If the Tigers can get the Regional win, the Box will host its 4th Super Regional in its final year.

Lincoln Regional

1. Nebraska     2. UC Irvine     3. Oral Roberts     4. Eastern Illinois

What to expect:

It appeared Nebraska was all set to be a national seed, until Missouri destroyed the Huskers in their final Big 12 series. Adding that with a bad showing at the Big 12 Tournament, Nebraska will be forced to hit the road if they can win their Regional. UC Irvine will be no slouch for the Huskers. Irvine enters the Regional with series wins against Long Beach State, Tulane, and UC Davis. Oral Roberts may not have played the opponents Nebraska has this season, but the Eagles will come ready to play. Eastern Illinois claimed the Ohio Valley Tournament to earn an automatic bid. Eastern Illinois is appearing in their first Regional since 1999. Nebraska and Oral Roberts played in Regional action last year, while UC Irvine made it all the way to Omaha.

Athens Regional featuring (No. 8 seed) Georgia Bulldogs

1. Georgia     2. Georgia Tech     3. Louisville     4. Lipscomb

What to expect:

Georgia dominated in SEC play, losing only two series the entire season. The Bulldogs wrapped up the regular season SEC Championship before the regular season series finale. There has been talk about Georgia not deserving the final national seed, so the Bulldogs will have plenty to prove on the diamond this weekend. Georgia finished regular season SEC play with a 20-9-1 record, but the Bulldogs have lost nine of their last fifteen games, including going 0-2 as the No. 1 seed in the SEC Tournament. Georgia Tech is no stranger to the Bulldogs, and the Jackets have already won two of three against the Bulldogs. Louisville seems to have finally found some consistency, so don’t look for Louisiville to go away quietly. The Cardinals won the Big East Tournament, and a looking to continue their consistent play. Lipscomb claimed the A-Sun Conference Tournament Title to claim the automatic bid, their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance. Louisville made it all the way to Omaha last year, and Georgia and Georgia Tech were part of the CWS two years ago.

Raleigh Regional

1. NC State     2. South Carolina     3. Charlotte     4. James Madison

What to expect:

While the ACC may be a bit top heavy, NC State was able to compile a rather impressive 18-11 record in the conference. South Carolina is from another great conference, the SEC. South Carolina has struggled at times too, but finished SEC play by winning four of their final six series. The Gamecocks went 1-2 in the SEC Tournament, after surrendering a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth of game one. Charlotte finished the season with an impressive 43-14 overall record, including an Atlantic 10 Tournament Championship. James Madison claimed the Colonial Conference Tournament, after posting a 20-9 record in league play. The Dukes are making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2002, while NC State and Charlotte played in Regional action last year. South Carolina made it to the Super Regional last year, before losing to North Carolina.