College baseball season has nearly arrived. Opening Day is a week away and around the country teams are getting ready to start on the Road to Omaha.
There is a notable change in the way the Field of 64 is constructed this season. Instead of the selection committee seeding the top eight teams in the country and pairing them with another host site based primarily on geography, the committee will seed all 16 host sites and pair the regionals accordingly.
It is a change for which college coaches around the country have long clamored. The previous system led to oft-repeated super regional matchups such as Florida vs. Florida State and Cal State Fullerton vs. UCLA. Now, instead of allowing travel costs and conference affiliation to govern the super regional matchups, the bracket will now have more competitive balance.
With the change, the conversation around the Field of 64 will change as well. Gone are the days of teams striving to be one of the eight national seeds. Instead, all 16 regional hosts are effectively national seeds now.
Despite the change in seeding, the Projected Field of 64 does yield one familiar super regional matchup: Texas A&M vs. Texas Christian. Those two teams met in back-to-back super regionals in 2015-16.
The tournament bubble is difficult to determine before any games have been played. But early indications are that it could be a tough year for mid-majors. The Southeastern Conference has eight teams ranked in the Preseason Top 25 and longtime observers believe the league is as deep as it has been in years. If that is the case, the conference could challenge the record for most teams from one conference to advance to the NCAA Tournament (10). The Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big 12 Conference again look to be deep, and the Pac-12 Conference is bouncing back from its 2016 low. Those conferences are projected to use 26 of the 33 available at-large bids, which would put a squeeze on conferences such as the Big Ten, the Big West and Conference USA.
But this is just a starting point. Much will change between Feb. 16 and Memorial Day when the NCAA Tournament field is officially announced. Baseball America will update the Projected Field of 64 weekly throughout the spring.
|NCAA FIELD OF 64|
|Gainesville, Fla.||Oxford, Miss.|
|(1) Florida^*||(16) Mississippi^|
|Florida Atlantic||Oklahoma State|
|Corvallis, Ore.||Charlottesville, Va.|
|(2) Oregon State^*||(15) Virginia^|
|(3) Florida State^*||(14) Texas^|
|Fayetteville, Ark.||Los Angeles|
|(4) Arkansas^||(13) UCLA^|
|Sam Houston State*||UC Santa Barbara|
|Belmont*||San Diego State*|
|Lubbock, Texas||Clemson, S.C.|
|(5) Texas Tech^*||(12) Clemson^|
|Chapel Hill, N.C.||Fullerton, Calif.|
|(6) North Carolina^||(11) Cal State Fullerton^*|
|Fort Worth, Texas||College Station, Texas|
|(7) Texas Christian^||(10) Texas A&M^|
|North Carolina State||Duke|
|Lexington, Ky.||Stanford, Calif.|
|(8) Kentucky^||(9) Stanford^|
|Wright State*||St. Mary’s*|
|*-Automatic bid; ^-Regional host|
Last Four In
First Four Out
Next Four Out
Long Beach State