NCAA baseball tourney bracket set
Round-robin Regional action begins today
The Division I NCAA Tournament bracket has been set, the road to the College World Series is paved and a batch of the country's top prospects are set to step out under the bright lights for the thrilling finale to the college baseball season.
The field of 64 was unveiled Monday afternoon and features eight top overall seeds: No. 1 Florida (42-18), No. 2 UCLA (42-14), No. 3 Florida State (43-15), No. 4 Baylor (44-14), No. 5 Oregon (42-17), No. 6 North Carolina (44-14), No. 7 LSU (43-16) and No. 8 South Carolina (40-17).
The Gamecocks are going for a rare three-peat after winning the last two national titles. Only Southern California (1970-74) has won three or more consecutive titles.
The state of Florida boasts three top squads, including Florida (the nation's preseason No. 1, making its 28th NCAA Tournament appearance), Florida State (14 College World Series appearances under coach Mike Martin) and Miami (hosting a regional in Coral Gables, Fla., and making a record 40th consecutive appearance).
Each regional -- the games begin Friday -- consists of four teams playing a double-elimination bracket. The winners of the Regionals advance to best-of-three Super Regionals, and those eight winners move on to the College World Series from June 15-25/26 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.
"It's just the time of year that's exciting for our college ballplayers with school being out," South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said on the ESPN Selection Show.
Right-hander Mark Appel, the No. 2 overall player on MLB.com's 2012 Prospect Watch and the top college player in the rankings, leads Stanford into the Palo Alto, Calif., Regional against WAC Champion Fresno State. His club is also backed by the No. 15 prospect, third baseman Stephen Piscotty. Michigan State, making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1979, and Pepperdine round out that Regional.
The winner of that foursome will meet the winner of the Tallahassee Regional, with Florida State standing in as the top seed in its bracket. The Seminoles boast the No. 41 prospect, outfielder James Ramsey, who has hit .382 with 12 homers and 49 RBIs this year.
"It's still a brand new season," Martin said on the ESPN Selection Show. "These young men have played good baseball all year long and, like everybody else in this field, we're very excited to still be playing."
Overall, 12 of the top 50 MLB.com Draft prospects (and four of the top nine) will be participating in the 64-team tournament.
Florida has two top-25 Draft prospects in catcher Mike Zunino (No. 3) and left-hander Brian Johnson (No. 24). Texas A&M has two players in the top 30, as well -- right-hander Michael Wacha (No. 9) and outfielder Tyler Naquin (no. 26).
In potential prospect clashes, Miami and LSU -- both top seeds in their respective Regionals -- could meet in the Super Regional, pitting LSU right-hander Kevin Gausman (No. 4 prospect) against Miami catcher Peter O'Brien (No. 43).
South Carolina has a rocky road back to Omaha, with rival Clemson in its Columbia, S.C., regional. Infielder Richie Shaffer (No. 17 prospect) leads the Tigers with a .339 batting average to go with 10 homers and 46 RBIs.
Here is a breakdown of all the Regional matchups:
No. 1 Florida vs. No. 4 Bethune-Cookman
No. 3 College of Charleston vs. No. 2 Georgia Tech
No. 1 North Carolina State vs. No. 4 Sacred Heart
No. 3 UNC Wilmington vs. No. 2 Vanderbilt
No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 4 Army
No. 3 Appalachian State vs. No. 2 Oklahoma
No. 1 South Carolina vs. No. 4 Manhattan
No. 3 Coastal Carolina vs. No. 2 Clemson
No. 1 Oregon vs. No. 4 Austin Peay
No. 3 Indiana State vs. No. 2 Cal State-Fullerton
No. 1 Purdue vs. No. 4 Valparaiso
No. 3 Kent State vs. No. 2 Kentucky
No. 1 Rice vs. No. 4 Prairie View
No. 3 Sam Houston State vs. No. 2 Arkansas
No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 4 Oral Roberts
No. 3 Texas-Arlington vs. No. 2 Dallas Baptist
No. 1 UCLA vs. No. 4 Creighton
No. 3 New Mexico vs. No. 2 San Diego
College Station, Texas
No. 1 Texas A&M vs. No. 4 Dayton
No. 3 Ole Miss vs. No. 2 TCU
Coral Gables, Fla.
No. 1 Miami vs. No. 4 Stony Brook
No. 3 Missouri State vs. No. 2 UCF
Baton Rouge, La.
No. 1 LSU vs. No. 4 Louisiana-Monroe
No. 3 Belmont vs. No. 2 Oregon State
Chapel Hill, N.C.
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 4 Cornell
No. 3 St. John's vs. No. 2 East Carolina
No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 4 Missouri
No. 3 Louisville vs. No. 2 New Mexico State
Palo Alto, Calif.
No. 1 Stanford vs. No. 4 Fresno State
No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 2 Pepperdine
No. 1 Florida vs. No. 4 UAB
No. 3 Samford vs. No. 2 Mississippi State