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Road to Omaha 2024

-Jaron Ruth, @Jaron_033 @SSN_SEC @SSN_HailState

The popularity surrounding the exciting product of College Baseball has tons of new eyes watching a game we love. So please allow me a few minutes of your time to get new fans up to speed on how Postseason play will develop as we get into the dog days of May and into June. If you are a tenured fan, go ahead and scroll down for my thoughts on how the tournament seeding will layout and some predictions.

To the new fans, most regular season play has ended or will be ending this weekend. Most conferences will have a week of Conference Tournaments, this plays out just like basketball conferences where schools will be hoping to make a run and pop one of the "at-large bubbles". After, conference play is concluded the field of 64 will be set on Memorial Day (5/27/2024). There will be sixteen schools that are chosen as "host sites" these teams will be joined by three other schools in a round robin style of play. Each of the four schools will play each other to determine who will advance to the super regional sites, where the higher seeds will host and the first team to win two out of three games will advance to Omaha. While in Omaha the two sides of the bracket will play each other in a four-team double elimination tournament. From there the College World Series Champion is determined by a best of three game series. (This link will take you to the 2023 College World Series Bracket: 2023 Division I Baseball Official Bracket |

Now time for the fun part, the predictions. I've taken the time to go through and rank the schools one through sixteen and pair up their regional opponents. I tried to predict the final outcomes of the season when ranking these schools, so there will be plenty of debate. When it comes to picking teams to make it to Omaha, you can typically rely on the normal strengths to get you through Regionals and Super Regionals. Once you get to Omaha the tables turn and pitching and defensive ability becomes the main focus. Omaha is a very large ballpark that does not favor the long ball, so hitting for average and being smart on the base paths are the strongest way to have a championship offense.

1 - College Station, TX Regional - Texas A&M, Nebraska, Texas, Florida A&M

Texas A&M might have the flashiest batting order in college baseball with Braden Montgomery and Jace LaViolette. Of their starting nine only three players are batting sub .300 (lowest sitting at .288), so this is one of the most high-pressure lineups in College Baseball this season. Add to that a pitching staff that is currently throwing a sub 4.00 ERA, and an ace pitcher Ryan Prager who is just under 100 strike outs going into the last weekend of the season.

This Regional will have the future SEC matchup of the Aggies vs the Longhorns as well as a strong Nebraska program, but this shouldn't be too much of a challenge for the Aggies. I expect a fun three games and A&M to advance on.

2 - Fayetteville, AR Regional - Arkansas, Dallas Baptist, TCU, Saint Thomas

Arkansas has arguably the best pitching staff in the nation, back by future top MLB Draft pick Hagan Smith who has a 1.65 ERA with 136 strikeouts through 71 innings pitched. The flaw with Arkansas is their batting order that can go cold at times, so that opens the door for teams who can execute well on the base paths and take advantage of any Razorback mistake.

This Regional features some strong baseball programs, but I don't think you'll see much of a struggle from the very strong Razorback team.

3 - Chapel Hill, NC Regional - North Carolina, Vanderbilt, Charleston, Princeton

After 2 SEC programs at the top, we run into our first ACC program. North Carolina has the offensive power to bully most of their opponents but have struggled finding a solid third starter this season while flaunting a great overall quality of pitching.

This Regional features a Vanderbilt program that has struggled greatly away from home, a bubble team in Charleston and the Ivy League conference winner. Not expecting much of a struggle from the Tar Heels here.

4 - Knoxville, TN Regional - Tennessee, Connecticut, Georgia Tech, Wright St

Tennessee is a team that I believe to be one of the highest ceiling teams in the country. This team is led by two players well over 200 plate appearances and touting .350 or greater batting averages, Christian Moore and Blake Burke. Another strong SEC team that has a great lineup and a pitching staff to support.

This Regional has two solid schools in Connecticut and Georgia Tech. I would say there is a slight possibility Connecticut could get hot and steal one from Tennessee, but it would need to be a situation of everything hitting just right for the Huskies to overcome the Volunteers' strength. I fully anticipate Tennessee to advance from their home regional.

5 - Lexington, KY Regional - Kentucky, West Virginia, Illinois, Bowling Green

Kentucky has shown a quality level of consistency throughout most of the season, is highlighted by the bat of Nick Lopez who currently touts a batting average over .350 and is backed up by four other regular players flirting with or are above .300. The Wildcats also have a team era that sits below 5.00 and a starting rotation of three pitchers who are over 60 innings pitched each and are averaging just under one strikeout per inning.

This Regional features a fan favorite West Virginia program, a pesky Illinois program and a strong MAC champion that won't be too far from home. Kentucky's offense is strong enough to overpower each of these programs, but the pitching could make this mor difficult than it needs to be. I'm still projecting Kentucky to advance.

6 - Clemson, SC Regional - Clemson, Louisiana, UCF, Sacred Heart

Clemson has a very exciting team that kept fighting at the top of the ACC all season long. The pitching staff doesn't have a big named star, yet, but Aidan Knaak is featuring a sub 3.00 ERA and 97 strikeouts through 73 innings of work. If Knaak can keep up his strong outings, this gives the Tigers a huge advantage each step of the way. The Tigers also have a strong offensive power, with a team batting average just under .300 and a homerun just under 100 total.

This Regional features a strong Louisiana program and a solid UCF team, Clemson hasn't shown much reason to doubt their capability. But I do like Louisiana to make things a little spicy for the tigers. If the Cajuns can get their pitching staff lined up correctly, I like them to advance and pull the upset in Clemson.

7 - Athens, GA Regional - Georgia, Duke, Xavier, Bryant

Georgia has the favorite for the Golden Spikes Award this season in Charlie Condon. Condon has set the single season homerun record in the BBCOR era, with 34 bombs going into the final weekend. This entire lineup has been overshadowed by Condon, but there are quality pieces that can deliver any night. Pitching has been the downfall of the Bulldogs with a team ERA above 5.00. Should the pitchers get hot, this team could easily make a quality run into June.

This Regional does feature a very strong Duke program, that has one of the strongest pitching staffs in the country. Should Jonathan Santucci be able to get back 100% healthy, they will have the pieces to shut down Georgia and advance. Due to that uncertainty, I will back the powerful offense of Georgia to advance through.

8 - Tallahassee, FL Regional - Florida St, Louisiana Tech, LSU, Stetson

Florida State in my opinion has everything necessary to be a threat to win the College Baseball World Series. Their problem lies with the third starter and how they will handle the need for a third and fourth starter throughout the Post Season. Jamie Arnold, the Friday night starter, has shown the ability to eat innings and get plenty of strikeouts, should he be able to give you 7 or more innings you'll have no issues getting to Omaha.

This Regional will have two very strong opponents with Louisiana Tech and LSU. LSU, being last year's National Champion, does give a false sense of fear; but I do believe they will not match up well against Louisiana Tech to be able to get their best pitching in line to play against Florida St. But the Tigers are dangerous on offense and are getting hot at the right time. Louisiana Tech is a strong program that is always pesky in Regionals, I don't believe they will have enough to give the Seminoles any issues. Florida St should advance and get a very favorable draw in the Supers.

9- Terre Haute, IN Regional - Indiana St, Oklahoma St, Northeastern, Saint Louis

Indiana St might be one of the hardest to predict teams because we just aren't entirely sure we are looking at a top-level program. While they dominated their schedule that included teams like Louisville, Connecticut, Southern Mississippi, and Xavier; we just don't know how good any of these programs will fair going against the top competition. Almost all of their production came from the starting players on offense, and two starters who are responsible for 28 of the team's starts. The depth of the team is a major concern for a deep Post Season run.

This Regional will have tough opponents for the Sycamores, Oklahoma St will be in the hosting discussion and Northeastern could easily be a 2 seed. I believe Oklahoma St in this scenario will come out feeling disrespected and dominate this Regional.

10- Norman, OK Regional - Oklahoma, UC Irvine, Oregon, Southeast Missouri St

Oklahoma has been a very solid team in the Big 12 this season, they seem to have just enough to make any team in post season play want to avoid them in their side of the Regionals. The Sooners have a team batting average over .300 and have two solid starters who can eat innings as well as two or three pitchers who have shown they can start and will be vital if there is a needed 4th game in the Regionals.

This Regional has a very strong UC Irvine team and a quality Oregon team that had an argument to be on the two line. UC Irvine poses a real problem for the sooners if they can get their team to travel with their best games to Norman. While Oregon can also poses issues for the top seeds in this Regional, I will choose to ride with the Anteaters advancing.

11- Charlottesville, VA Regional - Virginia, Alabama, James Madison, Niagara

Virginia seems like one of the under the radar teams in this Post Season. Riding the bats of 5 players hitting over .350 and the arm of Evan Blanco, this team could get the pieces falling in the right spots for a deep run into Omaha. While I'm praising the team keep in mind that the pitching depth is a major concern as their team ERA is over 5.50 and would be significantly higher were it not for the 3.79 ERA for Blanco through 73.2 innings pitched. Should the bats continue to do their thing, pitching woes can be hidden.

This Regional will feature a retooled Alabama team and a James Madison team that has been very surprising coming out of the Sun Belt. With a lot of these teams being very similar, I will play the home advantage and ride with the (UVA) Wahoos to advance.

12- Santa Barbara, CA Regional - UC Santa Barbara, Arizona, Kansas St, Grand Canyon

UC Santa Barbara was a team that caught my eye in the preseason, and I thought they'd be able to make some noise in the Big West this year. This lineup seems to know how to take full advantage of situational hitting as they have seven guys with over 30 RBI and over 45 hits each. The pitching staff is nothing to shake a stick at either, two pitchers with a sub 2.60 ERA with over 75 innings pitched shows this team has the power all around to upset some of the big-name programs throughout this tournament.

This Regional features solid opponents, but honestly, I believe that the Gauchos will be able to dominate if they simply play their game at home. Santa Barbara to advance on to the next round of play.

13- Corvallis, OR Regional - Oregon St, San Diego, Lamar, Air Force

Oregon St features a team that offensively dominant with a great stable of pitchers that have done very well in Pac-12 play. Travis Bazzana is a projected top 5 pick in the upcoming MLB draft, and his numbers truly show how important his is while standing out on a great team. The Beavers are poised with every piece a team could want to be very loud when it comes to a trip to Omaha.

This Regional features a strong San Diego team and an over performing Lamar program. While these teams will be fun to watch, I doubt they have the level of performance needed to compete with Oregon St. Beavers advance easily.

14- Greenville, NC Regional - East Carolina, South Carolina, Coastal Carolina, UNC Greensboro

East Carolina is a perennial hosting school that just can't get over the hump needed to get to Omaha. This year's team is much like the teams that have come before, strong offensively and quality pitching in the rotation and in the bullpen. If the powder purple uniform magic can continue to roll, this may be the season the Pirates break through and get to Omaha and make some noise.

This Regional may be the most exciting of them all this year. Each of these teams can hit and they have just enough pitching to make any team fear them. I will support East Carolina moving forward, but this is more of a want to see them get over that hump than it is an analytical call.

15- Winston-Salem, NC Regional - Wake Forest, Southern Mississippi, Xavier, High Point

Wake Forest was in the hosting discussion for me before this past weekend. This is a dangerous team, and they have all of the pieces to make a deep run in the Post Season. There is nothing that stands out more than the strength of Chase Burns their ace who touts a 2.63 ERA and 169 Ks through 89.0 innings pitched.

This Regional has the teams that could upset if the pieces fall right, but overall, I think Wake will gladly accept these opponents and should do just fine working through these teams and moving on to the next round of play.

16- Raleigh, NC Regional - North Carolina State, Mississippi St, UNC Wilmington, Army

NC State is a program getting hot at the right time, with their performance to finish out the season they will play their way into a hosting position. There is a clear-cut rotation for the Wolfpack and they will need to continue their positive trend to be able to make it out of their home Regional. Their offense seems to rely on the long ball to move runs across, but as mentioned before, homeruns will get you to Omaha but do nothing for you to win a championship.

This Regional has Mississippi St who has been significantly more impressive than what many projected in the preseason and a UNC Wilmington team that could have an argument for a 2 seeding. I will be looking at a strong starting pitching staff from Mississippi St and their offense to overcome the strengths in this Regional.

First Four out - Cincinnati, St. John's, Maryland, Florida

Next Four out - Ole Miss, E Tennessee St, Utah, Louisville

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