The NCAA Baseball Tournament field has been announced. The Florida Gators are the #1 overall seed in the field. Four SEC teams, Florida, Texas A&M, Mississippi State and LSU are National seeds which means they will not have to travel on the road to Omaha. The ACC is also well represented among the National Seeds with Clemson, Miami and Louisville. The other National Seed is Big 12 heavyweight, Texas Tech.
Three other SEC teams will host in next weekend’s regionals, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Ole Miss, all of who were in the running for a National Seed late into the season. North Carolina State, Florida State and defending national champion Virginia also got picked to host next weekend out of the ACC. So of the 16 host sites next weekend, 13 will be in the ballparks of the SEC and ACC. The remaining four sites will be at Texas Tech, another Big 12 team in TCU, and the only (mid-major) picked to host a regional, Louisiana Lafayette.
So all 16 host sites are in the south. Is this a problem for college baseball? Or is it just something that was inevitable? College baseball was traditionally a western sport for many years with USC, Arizona State, Cal State Fullerton, Stanford and Long Beach State always in the mix. Now the power has shifted to SEC country. Will this mean at some point it will go back out west?
In reality, there probably were even more teams from the SEC and ACC that should have gotten in. Alabama, Kentucky and North Carolina all have a beef. The Tide and Wildcats both played .500 ball in the SEC which clearly is the nation’s best conference. Yet Neither got in. But the selection committee had to let some teams from other conferences in at some point. But in a conference with seven teams hosting out of their 14 teams, nobody from this conference deserved a shot to go on the road to see if they could pull an upset?
So what regionals look to be the ones that college baseball fans will want to be sure not to miss this weekend? The Clemson regional includes Oklahoma State and Nebraska who will meet on Friday. Oklahoma State is one of those programs that helped build this sport. They were a powerhouse in the early days of ESPN which first brought the College World Series to the nation. The Mississippi State region has Cal State Fullerton as the #2 seed. That’s a big time match-up between two more of those programs like Oklahoma State who were part of the building of the sport.
How about the Ohio State Buckeyes going to #2 seed Louisville? The Big Ten is getting a boost form the Big Ten Network coverage and their baseball continues to improve. The Buckeyes could go a log way into making them a major player in the sport and perhaps taking some of the mojo away from the SEC and ACC.
The Vanderbilt regional is another one you’ll want to watch. It has Washington from the PAC 12 and also UC Santa Barbara from out west. If some of the West teams can go into SEC country and win, that might help shift some of the balance back to the west coast.
College Baseball is perhaps in the best shape it has ever been, with TV coverage and fan interest. With the many fans who religiously tune in to the SEC Network to watch Paul Finebaum instead got the SEC Tournament all of last week, the sport likely gained even more fans. So this would be a great time for Northern and Western schools to show the fans they can play too.