It’s a special day for baseball fans today! The 2022 NCAA baseball tournament kicks off today, and by the time you’re reading this, it’s probably already started, with the first game of the tournament between Miami (FL) and Canisius College (Buffalo, NY) having started at 10 AM.
With a 64-team field full of talented players, storylines, and a plethora of games upon us, there’s so much to talk about. Who’s the best team in the tournament? Who do we look out for? What breakout performances will take place? Which MLB draft prospects are there to keep an eye on? While I can’t answer all these things, I can say what I believe are the big headlines that must be watched out for, as well as who might be on upset alert.
For those who have never watched the NCAA baseball tournament before, here’s a quick explanation on how it works:
- The 64 team field is divided into 16 regionals.
- Each regional has four teams, seeded 1-4, with the one seed hosting that regional.
- The 16 top seeds are themselves seeded 1-16.
- Regionals are double elimination.
- The regional final has an additional rule; if one of the teams playing was eliminated by the other earlier, they have to win two games to advance instead of one.
- Each regional has four teams, seeded 1-4, with the one seed hosting that regional.
- The regionals are grouped into 8 super regionals, hosted by the higher 1 seed (i.e. East Carolina hosts the super regional, as they are ranked 8th, while Texas, ranked 9th, does not).
- The two teams to come out of each regional play in a best of 3 series, with the winner advancing to the College World Series.
- The College World Series consists of the final 8 teams standing, in a double-elimination bracket identical to the regionals in the first round.
- The last two teams face off in a best of 3 to declare the champion.
With that explained, let’s get right into it with our preview!
Here’s a list of every super regional and regional, along with the teams playing in them (the numbers next to the regional hosts signify their ranking among the one seeds):
Knoxville Super Regional:
- Tennessee (1)
- Georgia Tech
- South Alabama
- Georgia Southern (16)
- Notre Dame
- Texas Tech
- UNC Greensboro
Greenville Super Regional
- East Carolina (8)
- Coastal Carolina
- Coppin State
- Texas (9)
- Louisiana Tech
- Dallas Baptist
- Air Force
College Station Super Regional
College Station Regional:
- Texas A&M (5)
- Texas Christian
- Oral Roberts
- Louisville (12)
- Southeast Missouri State
Blacksburg Super Regional
- Virginia Tech (4)
- Wright State
- Florida (13)
- Central Michigan
Corvallis Super Regional
- Oregon State (6)
- San Diego
- New Mexico State
- Auburn (11)
- Florida State
- Southeastern Louisiana
Coral Gables Super Regional
Coral Gables Regional:
- Miami (3)
- Ole Miss
- Southern Mississippi (14)
- Louisiana State
- Kennesaw State
Stillwater Super Regional
- Oklahoma State (7)
- Grand Canyon
- Missouri State
Chapel Hill Regional:
- North Carolina (10)
- Virginia Commonwealth
Stanford Super Regional
- Stanford (2)
- Texas State
- UC Santa Barbara
College Park Regional:
- Maryland (15)
- Wake Forest
- Long Island
A handful of teams jump out as the favorites to win it all in 2022.
Tennessee, the tournament’s number 1 overall seed, has five 2022 MLB draft prospects that sit within MLB Pipeline’s top 200:
Jordan Beck, OF
Blade Tidwell, RHP
Drew Gilbert, OF
Ben Joyce, RHP
Trey Lipscomb, 3B
So yes, the Volunteers have an incredibly talented roster and are geared up for a massive run to Omaha. The squad made it last year, only to get washed out by losses to Virginia and Texas. If there’s a team that can make it purely on starpower, it would be Tennessee. Keep an eye out for one of Georgia Tech or Campbell to possibly upset them in the Knoxville Regional, but if there’s a year they get it done, this is it.
A lot of noise has also come out of Blacksburg, with the Virginia Tech Hokies powering through the ACC, led by stud outfielder Gavin Cross, as well as Tanner Schobel at short and Cade Hunter at catcher. The four seed in this tournament, VT’s draw is only seriously threatened by Gonzaga, and the possibility of facing Florida or Oklahoma in the super regional.
Speaking of Florida, they’re another team to watch for. A difficult regional with Oklahoma and Liberty is there, but if the team gets hot, their talent pool (3 top prospects), led by Jud Fabian, an outstanding outfielder who was drafted by the Red Sox last year in the second round but didn’t sign, can take the Gators seriously far. Their toughest matchup would be against OU or Virginia Tech in the super regional.
Oklahoma State, Oregon State, and Miami are all worth your attention. If anybody could take down Tennessee in the College World Series, it could be one of them.
Don’t Be Surprised By These Teams
Every year, a handful of good teams that aren’t nationally ranked make some serious noise in the tournament, knocking off a few favorites in the process. Who would those teams be this year?
Gonzaga is an intriguing team, led by RHP Gabriel Hughes, the best pitching prospect in the tournament, along with two other great starters in Tristan Vrieling and William Kempner. This fantastic pitching trio can carry the Bulldogs a long way, and combined with some decent offense, could take the boys from Spokane through the Blacksburg Super Regional.
As a UVA student, I feel obligated to mention Virginia and their scrappy baseball team. While they’ve been inconsistent this year (getting washed out of the ACC tournament in somewhat embarrassing fashion), the Cavaliers are famous for deep tournament runs that appear out of thin air. Just last year, the team made it all the way to the second round of the CWS with a team that wasn’t projected to go very far. If UVA can make it through East Carolina and Texas, we’ll be looking at another run by the men from Charlottesville. Kyle Teel home runs in Omaha would be nice to watch.
Georgia Tech and Campbell are two schools facing each other tomorrow that have potential to do some serious damage. GT is led by Kevin Parada, the best overall prospect in the whole tournament and the best catcher in the ACC (also a potential future National), with a core that can be incredibly dangerous (5 MLB Pipeline prospects). Campbell is a bit sneakier (2 prospects), but Zach Neto is an exceptional shortstop, and Thomas Harrington anchors their rotation well. There’s definitely a chance these two teams meet more than once in the Knoxville Regional.
Oregon, Texas State, UCLA, and LSU are teams to watch as well.
Not at the Top, but Always Present
In this section, we talk about the teams that aren’t seeded this year, but are tournament mainstays who always find a way to make a dent. Not surprisingly, this description mostly matches ACC and SEC schools.
Vanderbilt is back again as a 2 seed in the Corvallis Regional, and with three top prospects, the Commodores could be the team that takes down Oregon State, UCLA, or Auburn. They will always be a problem for anybody who faces them.
Arkansas, who was the number 1 overall seed in last year’s tournament, missed the CWS after dropping back to back games to NC State in the super regional final (this was after scoring 21 runs in game 1. Ouch.), is back as the 2 seed in the Stillwater Regional. Cayden Wallace is the best third baseman in the tournament, with Robert Moore impressing at second as well, and the pitching staff anchored by RHP Peyton Pallette (whose draft comparison is Walker Buehler) looks to make an impact too. The Razorbacks don’t immediately stick out, but they’ll be around.
North Carolina hasn’t gotten a lot of respect despite being the 10 seed in the tournament. Making their fifth straight appearance in the NCAA tournament, the Tar Heels are coming in hot after a surprising win in the ACC tournament. Led by outfielder Angel Zarate, UNC actually does not have a single top prospect, showing how their team cohesion has gotten them this far. While their regional is not super tough (Georgia, VCU, and Hofstra), they’ll face some trouble in the super regional against Oklahoma State or Arkansas. Can the Heels continue their incredible run?
Florida State, Miami, and Louisville are just some of the 9 ACC teams that could at any point make a run all the way to the championship.
Dallas Baptist and Coastal Carolina are some mid-major teams who could make noise, but haven’t been given A-list status this year. CCU has become a tournament mainstay after their championship run in 2017, and DBU caused fits for teams in their outing last season before narrowly losing to Virginia in the super regional round. Keep an eye out for them as well, as they could frustrate some top seeds, even without taking them down.
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Of course, there are always going to be some teams whose inclusion in the tournament came by way of winning their conference tournament. There’s a few schools nobody’s ever heard of, and others that make you scratch their heads. No Cinderella runs are happening for these guys.
The San Diego Toreros entered the field after stealing Gonzaga’s autobid in the West Coast Conference tournament, taking it in an 11-inning thriller in the final round against the Bulldogs. San Diego is making their first NCAAT appearance since 2013, but unfortunately, it’s probably going to be short lived, even with the likes of lefty pitcher Brycen Mautz leading their staff. Being in a regional with Oregon State and Vanderbilt makes that likely.
The Air Force Falcons are making their first appearance in the tournament since 1969. Yeah. That long. Service academies are becoming less competitive in team sports as NIL deals and the specialization of college sports make their teams weaker, so props to them, and also to Army, even though they made it last year. However, don’t expect Air Force to make it out of a regional with Texas, Louisiana Tech, and Dallas Baptist.
Canisius? Long Island? Hofstra? Southeast Missouri State? Yeah. I don’t even know. Thanks for playing.
Here’s who I think makes it to the College World Series:
I’m biased enough to believe Virginia can win it all, but realistically, I think Florida will be the team victorious in Omaha. The star power and team cohesion are balanced enough that I believe they can take on anyone and win, even Tennessee.
Games start today at 10 AM! Let’s have some fun!