They'll start by trying to help their teams advance from the 64-team field to the round of 16 in the first weekend of tournament play (June 3-5). Then they'll wait to see which team will pick them in Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft. For those on the 16 teams that survive the tournament's first weekend, they'll get the chance to participate in the the Super Regionals on June 10. Eight teams will advance from that round to the College World Series, which begins June 18 in Omaha, Neb.
Live coverage of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft begins with a one-hour preview show on Monday, June 6, at 6 p.m. ET on MLB.com and MLB Network, followed by the first round and supplemental compensation round. MLB.com will provide exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
On Monday, the NCAA announced the 64-team field, naming eight national seeds and placing the teams into 16 regionals of four teams each. Not surprisingly, several Draft-eligible players (freshmen and sophomores at Division 1 schools are ineligible to be taken, unless they are 21 years old at the time of the Draft) have played critical roles in getting their teams this far.
2011 ncaa tournament bracket
|1 Virginia||2 Florida|
|East Carolina||Miami (Fla.)|
|San Francisco||Austin Peay|
|UC Irvine||Mississippi St.|
|Fresno St.||Southern Miss|
|Oral Roberts||New Mexico|
|8 Rice||7 Texas|
|5 Florida St.||6 Vanderbilt|
|Texas A&M||Oregon St.|
|Clemson||Cal St. Fullerton|
|Coastal Carolina||Kansas St.|
|4 South Carolina||3 North Carolina|
|NC State||James Madison|
Virginia has ridden its ace, Danny Hultzen, to the top overall seed and a team ERA (2.34) that ranked second in the nation. Hultzen, a left-hander, earned a 10th-round selection from the Arizona Diamondbacks out of high school, and has since excelled in the tough Atlantic Coast Conference. He is a candidate to be the Pittsburgh Pirates' No. 1 overall pick. The Cavaliers will play in a regional that includes Navy, East Carolina and St. John's.
Joining Virginia among the top eight seeds are, in order: Florida, North Carolina, defending champion South Carolina, Florida State, Vanderbilt, Texas and Rice. Those eight teams are in line to host the best-of-three Super Regionals that will determine the eight teams that advance to the College World Series. If form holds, those eight would play in Omaha, but it rarely does. Only once since 2000 has a national No. 1 seed won the title.
UCLA, the runner-up to South Carolina in 2010, will host a regional, but not as one of the top eight seeds. Still, the Bruins boast two likely Top 10 picks, in starters Gerrit Cole, who elected to enroll after being drafted by the Yankees in the first round of the 2008 Draft, and Trevor Bauer, who went undrafted out of high school but led the nation with 189 strikeouts this year. Thanks to the draw, however, UCLA and Virginia would match up in the Super Regional if each team advances. That means only one can advance to Omaha.
Rice, which boasts an illustrious baseball history highlighted by the 2003 national title and a list of alumni that includes Lance Berkman, is also hosting a regional. Anthony Rendon, who went 820th in the 2008 Draft, will go higher on June 6. He is on the shortlist of candidates for the No. 1 overall selection.
Connecticut, not a traditional baseball power, was one of three Big East teams named to the field after Seton Hall's upset win in the conference tournament. In outfielder George Springer and right-hander Matt Barnes, the Huskies (a No. 2 seed) boast two likely first-round picks. St. John's earned one of the final at-large selections and helped nudge out tournament fixture LSU.
LSU's absence means a tournament without center fielder Mike Mahtook, a likely first-round pick. Texas A&M missed out on a national seed in large part to the torn labrum suffered by ace John Stilson, who saw his Draft stock fall with the serious shoulder injury.
"It certainly was a reason," said Tim Weiser, the chairman of the selection committee in a telephone interview during the selection show on ESPN. "We talked about it as a committee. Obviously one of the criteria for us is the availability of the student-athletes."
Just as it is in the Major Leagues, scoring is down in college baseball -- thanks to new rules governing the types of bats used in the NCAA. Texas has only 13 home runs but is a favorite to reach Omaha because of pitchers like Taylor Jungmann, a 6-foot-6 right-hander. Vanderbilt, alma mater of Rays ace David Price, has a shorter but equally effective star in Sonny Gray. In lefty Jed Bradley, Georgia Tech has a run-suppressing force of its own. All three are candidates to go in the first half of the first round.
North Carolina has four College World Series appearances since 2006 but no titles. The Tar Heels have one of the more highly regarded college seniors in shortstop Levi Michael, another first-round candidate.
After 61 years at Rosenblatt Stadium, the College World Series will be played at TD Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha. The eight qualifying teams will be divided into pools of four and play a double-elimination tournament to determine the pool winners. Those two schools will play in a best-of-three championship series that begins June 27.
Thomas Boorstein is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.