The NCAA Division I Baseball Championship tournament field was unveiled Monday, and it's headlined by a record 10 SEC teams, a mid-major club with an NCAA-best 53 wins and a slew of 2014 MLB Draft prospects.
The field is led by eight national seeds: No. 1 Oregon State (42-12), No. 2 Florida (40-21), No. 3 Virginia (44-13), No. 4 Indiana (42-13), No. 5 Florida State (43-15), No. 6 Louisiana-Lafayette (53-7), No. 7 TCU (42-15) and No. 8 LSU (44-14-1).
Florida State is a national seed for the 10th time, while Big 12 Tournament champion TCU earns a national seed for the first time in school history. The top-eight seed for Indiana is a first for any Big Ten club.
Louisiana-Lafayette is one of the most intriguing clubs in the tournament, bringing a well-rounded resume (NCAA-best .500 slugging percentage to go with 63 homers, 102 stolen bases and a .978 fielding percentage) to the table to accompany its 53 wins, which is eight more than any other club in the country. The Ragin' Cajuns will host Jackson State in the first round, with San Diego State and defending national runner-up Mississippi State also in the four-team regional.
"I think any time you narrow something down from around 297 to 64, you're going to get some very salty baseball teams, so you can't look for an easy regional," Louisiana-Lafayette coach Tony Robichaux said on ESPN's Selection Show Monday. "The bottom line is if you utter the words, 'Omaha,' you gotta be prepared to take down whoever you face."
The field of 64 is broken into 16 four-team double-elimination Regionals (May 30-June 2), which feed into eight best-of-three Super Regionals (June 6-9). Eight teams then advance to Omaha for the College World Series, held June 14-25. Defending national champion UCLA did not make the field.
"This year was extremely challenging because of the parity in college baseball," NCAA baseball selection committee chair Dennis Farrell said. "We talked about it as a committee, but the number of games that are one-run games, number of extra-inning games -- it seemed to be extraordinary this year.
"It just kind of reflected on the parity that you see in college baseball today. Just weeding through all of that -- peeling the onion, so to speak -- and really delving in and scrubbing the teams."
The 10 SEC teams in the tournament is a record for a single conference. The ACC follows with seven participants, while the Big 12 and Pac-12 each have five.
While top college prospect Carlos Rodon's N.C. State club did not make the field, there's plenty of elite talent in the field that could become household pro names.
MLB.com's No. 5 Draft prospect Aaron Nola leads LSU, the hottest team in the country coming off an SEC Tournament championship, eight straight wins and an 87-8 run differential in that span. No. 7 prospect Tyler Beede's Vanderbilt hosts a regional that includes Xavier, Clemson and Oregon. No. 15 prospect Kyle Schwarber leads Indiana, which is searching for its second consecutive College World Series appearance.
No. 48 Draft prospect A.J. Reed -- Kentucky's first baseman/starting pitcher and the likely Golden Spikes Award winner -- will join his Wildcats teammates in the first round against Kansas in the Louisville regional.
Kennesaw State (Atlantic Sun) and Sacramento State (Western Athletic Conference) are the two first-time participants. On the other end of the spectrum, Miami is participating in its 42nd consecutive tournament (a record), while Cal State-Fullerton is playing its 23rd in a row.
2014 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship (all times Eastern)
Baton Rouge Regional hosted by LSU
#1 LSU (44-14-1) vs. #4 Southeastern La. (37-23), 3 p.m., ESPN3
#2 Houston (44-15) vs. #3 Bryant (42-14), 8 p.m., ESPN3
Bloomington Regional hosted by Indiana
#1 Indiana (42-13) vs. #4 Youngstown State (16-36), 7 p.m., ESPN3
#2 Indiana State (35-16) vs. #3 Stanford (30-23), 2 p.m., ESPN3
Charlottesville Regional hosted by Virginia
#1 Virginia (44-13) vs. #4 Bucknell (30-19-1), 2 p.m., ESPN3
#2 Arkansas (38-23) vs. #3 Liberty (41-16), 7 p.m., ESPNU
Coral Gables Regional hosted by Miami (Florida)
#1 Miami (Florida) (41-17) vs. #4 Bethune-Cookman (26-31), 7 p.m., ESPN3
#2 Texas Tech (40-18) vs. #3 Columbia (29-18), 2 p.m., ESPN3
Corvallis Regional hosted by Oregon State
#1 Oregon State (42-12) vs. #4 North Dakota State (25-24), 11 p.m., ESPNU
#2 UNLV (35-23) vs. #3 UC Irvine (35-22), 5 p.m., ESPN3
Columbia Regional hosted by South Carolina
#1 South Carolina (42-16) vs. #4 Campbell (40-19), 7 p.m., ESPN3
#2 Maryland (36-21) vs. #3 Old Dominion (36-24), 1 p.m., ESPN3
Fort Worth Regional hosted by TCU
#1 TCU (42-15) vs. #4 Siena (26-231), 8 p.m., ESPN3
#2 Dallas Baptist (40-19) vs. #3 Sam Houston State (41-217), 3:30 p.m., ESPN3
Gainesville Regional hosted by Florida
#1 Florida (40-21) vs. #4 Col. of Charleston (41-17), 7 p.m., ESPN3
#2 Long Beach State (32-24) vs. #3 North Carolina (34-25), 1 p.m., ESPN3
Houston Regional hosted by Rice
#1 Rice (41-18) vs. #4 George Mason (34-20), 8 p.m., ESPN3
#2 Texas (38-18) vs. #3 Texas A&M (33-24), 4 p.m., ESPNU
Lafayette Regional hosted by La.-Lafayette
#1 La.-Lafayette (53-7) vs. Jackson State (31-23), 7 p.m., ESPN3
#2 Mississippi State (37-22) vs. #3 San Diego State (42-19), 2 p.m., ESPN3
Louisville Regional hosted by Louisville
#1 Louisville (45-15) vs. #4 Kent State (36-21), 6 p.m., ESPN3
#2 Kentucky (35-23) vs. #3 Kansas (34-24), 2 p.m., ESPN3
Nashville Regional hosted by Vanderbilt
#1 Vanderbilt (41-18) vs. #4 Xavier (29-27), 8 p.m., ESPN3
#2 Oregon (42-18) vs. #3 Clemson (36-23), 1 p.m., ESPN3
Oxford Regional hosted by Ole Miss
#1 Ole Miss (41-18) vs. #4 Jacksonville State (36-25), 8 p.m., ESPN3
#2 Washington (39-15-1) vs. #3 Georgia Tech (36-25), 4 p.m., ESPN3
San Luis Obispo Regional hosted by Cal Poly
#1 Cal Poly (45-10) vs. #4 Sacramento State (39-22), 9 p.m., ESPN3
#2 Arizona State (33-22) vs. #3 Pepperdine (39-16), 4 p.m., ESPN3
Stillwater Regional hosted by Oklahoma State
#1 Oklahoma State (45-16) vs. #4 Binghamton (25-25), 7 p.m., ESPN3
#2 Nebraska (40-19) vs. #3 Cal State Fullerton (32-22), 1 p.m., ESPNU
Tallahassee Regional hosted by Florida St.
#1 Florida State (43-15) vs. #4 Ga. Southern (39-21), 6 p.m., ESPN3
#2 Alabama (34-22) vs. #3 Kennesaw State (37-21), Noon, ESPN3