The South College World Series was held, but the team everyone was expecting to see in Omaha didn’t make the trip.
Tennessee, the No. 1 team in the country, was disappointed against Notre Dame in the superzones of Knoxville, leaving an open field for the national championship.
The eight teams are divided into two groups of four, a doubles knockout, with the winners of each group going head to head in the best three team final scheduled to begin on June 25. Matches will air on ESPN or ESPN2 and are available on the ESPN App.
The first game kicks off Friday with Oklahoma against No. 5 Texas A&M (ESPN, 2 ET) in the opening game, and Notre Dame against No. 9 Texas (ESPN, 7 ET) in the opening game.
In another game on Saturday, Arkansas played No. 2 Stanford (ESPN, 2 ET) and Ole Miss played No. 14 Auburn (ESPN2, 7 ET).
To get you ready for the action, we asked college baseball pros Ryan McGee, Mike Rooney, Chris Burke, and Kiley McDaniel to analyze the top contenders, storylines, and picks. they put the two teams in last place.
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Before we get into the Omaha field, what’s your biggest takeaway from when the #1 Tennessee lost in the super-regions?
Ryan McGee: You mean, unlike my college friends and my wife – damn, my wife! – calling and yelling at me because they ran out of people to shout at? Honestly, this is just the way to the national #1 seed. The Vols’ expressions were similar to the one of shock that Arkansas had a year ago and UCLA had in 2019. That’s three times in a row the top team has lost in the Super League, and the No. 1 seed hasn’t won. winning CWS since Miami in 1999! Perhaps Tennessee could take comfort in knowing they were traveling together. Oh, who am I kidding?
Mike Rooney: This is a huge disappointment with two things to note: 1) This is the third year in a row that the overall No 1 seed has struggled in the super division. 2) Notre Dame has been one of the best teams in the country for the past three seasons. That said, it was shocking to see a historic Vols team lose twice in Knoxville. Notre Dame feels slighted by the committee with its seeding, but in hindsight, it may be Tennessee who shortened the rope.
Chris Burke: Tennessee’s loss in the Super League is just more proof that carrying the #1 all year round is the hardest thing to do in college baseball. The fact that no team can win all the time like this century’s No. 1 seed is a trend that cannot be ignored.
Kiley McDaniel: Baseball is a bit too random so it’s never safe to predict how some games will play out. That, and Notre Dame has plenty of solid ballparks.
Who do you think the team will beat in Omaha?
McGee: There’s a lot of momentum from a lot of teams right now, but I’ve never given up on Texas in the middle of the year like so many people have done. The Longhorns were No. 1 pre-season, and they’re back on track. They were never shuffled in East Carolina, and that streak was supposed to end on Saturday. A year ago, they looked like a machine in Omaha. Now they are a machine with the Omaha experience.
Rooney: Texas feels like the favorite because they’re the No. 1 team pre-season. The group of players in that position is very special, and Pete Hansen is possibly the best starter on the field.
Burke: I can’t remember a year when CWS felt more expansive. That said, I was asked to pick a favorite and I would go with Arkansas. I picked them to win the title of the year (I admit I switched mid-season to favorite Tennessee) and I will stick with them now that we are here. Attack, top to bottom, was the best of the year, and Connor Noland’s performance in the super game made me think he was ready to lead this team from the very beginning.
McDaniel: With Tennessee out, there is no clear favorite. I would choose Arkansas due to its combination of depth, youth, and professional prospects, but I think Stanford and Texas are up there with Arkansas because of pure talent.
Which plot intrigues you the most?
McGee: The SEC West takes up half the field, and two of the other four teams will be on the convention sooner, perhaps as early as the 2024 baseball season. It’s really great. But in the immediate future, on the field this year, there are many familiar opponents. And that also means some grudges. Bring it in.
Rooney: The reality is that there is no clear favorite. This CWS can go in a million different directions. Also, will the power we saw in the first two rounds of the tournament be transferred to Omaha’s hands?
Burke: Continuing the Arkansas theme, I’m most interested in whether we see “team after team” go on to win. Think about this: Vandy 2014, Virginia 2015, Oregon State 2018 and Mississippi State 2021, you could make the case that each of those teams won the following year when they were “supposed”. If Arkansas wins this year, it will be an interesting trend to pursue going forward.
McDaniel: For all the chatter about what post-production can prove in terms of conference power, SEC schools (and SEC soon-to-be schools) make up six of the eight slots in Omaha. And that’s after the best team in years (also the SEC) lost at home in a super-terrible game in great sadness, along with Florida losing a home in the area.
Which players are you most excited to see?
McGee: Thicc King (Auburn’s Sonny DiChiara) and the Spanish Titanic (Texas ‘Ivan Melendez)! All those two do is mix and match, have great nicknames, and love the game. If they were selling rambunctious NASCAR-style t-shirts with their nicknames on them, I’d buy both right away.
Rooney: Oklahoma’s Peyton Graham could take over the game in several ways. He has developed into an excellent defender at short range. And we don’t often see three-hole players who can impact the game with power, speed, and a pure hitting engine. Graham is all of those things.
Burke: We have a lot of guys here in Omaha, but there are two that really stand out to me (and McGee, obviously): Sonny DiChiara and Ivan Melendez. Two of the best players in the country and they both carry the greatest monikers of all time. Sonny D and the Hispanic Titanic were “must-see TVs” as they entered the box.
McDaniel: I like hosts, so first-time Oklahoma player Graham and first Texas Melendez are at the top of my list. Also, keep an eye out for Arkansas’ third horseman Cayden Wallace and Stanford’s third horseman Drew Bowser.
Which two teams will compete for the championship?
McGee: Horns and Hogs. Speaking of t-shirts, if Texas and Arkansas were to end up in the championship series, I’d have to find a three-quarter sleeve shirt with the old Southwest Conference Iron-on logo, circa 1987. I was in Fayetteville for Texas- Arkansas Football Weekend in September. It was utter chaos. I can’t imagine what it would be like with a national title on the line.
Rooney: I’m going to compete against Stanford and Texas in the final.
Burke: Although I think a case can be made for all eight teams, I’ll be with Texas vs Arkansas in the final. The two teams made it to the Top 5 ahead of the season because their talented rosters have both weathered some rough times in their seasons and come to Omaha playing their best football. This CWS is set up as a classic.
McDaniel: Texas and Arkansas.
https://www.espn.com/college-baseball/story/_/id/34098472/2022-men-college-world-series-roundtable-omaha-field-heavy-sec-flavor World Men’s Roundtable Roundtable 2022