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Preseason Bracketology Fun: Projecting NCAA Tourney Before Play Begins

By Micah Beutell


College Baseball's Opening Day is this Friday, and of course, that means it is time to talk postseason baseball! To preface, this bracket comes with ZERO results in the 2024 season. This is 100% guessing, with a formula that is 25% what we heard out of the teams in the Fall, 25% of the talent on the roster, 25% the history of the programs (especially at the small conference level), and 25% using outside sources who are around the clubs year round.


That being said, this exercise is to get us talking. Sports are the most fun when people (you) are talking about it and debating your opinion versus mine. So, without further ado let's get into it!



This bracket will always be broken down by the college football/basketball named Power Five, Mid-Majors, and Small Conference. The image will always take into consideration the matchups for Super Regionals & Omaha, so you will see 1 vs 16 and 8 vs 9 side by side with the remaining 6 regional sites that would be paired with them in Omaha on the left side of the image. Below I will breakdown bids per conference and reasoning for certain situations.


POWER FIVE:

  • SEC (10): Florida, Arkansas, LSU, Texas A&M, Tennessee, South Carolina, Auburn, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, and Georgia

  • ACC (9): Wake Forest, Clemson, Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, NC State, Miami, Louisville, and Florida State

  • Big 12 (7): TCU, Texas, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Kansas State, West Virginia, and Oklahoma

  • Pac 12 (6): Oregon State, UCLA, Arizona State, Stanford, USC, and Oregon

  • Big 10 (2): Iowa & Indiana


Let's start with the outlier in the Power Five, the Big 10. The Big 10 is viewed by some, including CBC's own Jake McKeever, as a mid-major conference, but for the sake of this exercise, they are Power Five because of the athletic department's overall budget.


That being said, we can clearly see the lack of investment in baseball. For a conference that plays their tournament in the mecca of college baseball, it is quite disappointing to see only a few ball clubs each year as potential Field-of-64 teams. In my eyes, I see a maximum of four Big 10 teams making the NCAA field, with Nebraska and Maryland just missing the cut in my initial bracket. With a new head coach in College Park and a Nebraska program which has some question marks, it is hard to have them in at this time.


Now to the remaining four conferences. Many of the teams you see in are ones we can all see as in the tournament. Seeding may change by individual team, but for the most part, many of those listed above are viewed as locks.


However, lets defend some of the Last Four In. For starters, Oregon may be a lock soon enough. On the other hand, we do not know a lot about the position player group, as a lot of the lineup is new. We can expect improvement as the season goes on, but for now, I am assuming the pitching staff carries the Ducks which has me hesitant on them being a lock for the tournament.


Florida State is a dark horse team. Link Jarrett is a winner, and this FSU team is talented. The ACC may be the best it's ever been, so the 'Noles will be battling to get an at-large spot, but the lineup is deep enough to carry this team back to the NCAA Tournament.


The final "Last Four In" team is Oklahoma, and this one may come with some controversy. I believe the Big 12 is a better conference than some experts give them credit for. I feel I am more confident in Oklahoma than programs like Alabama, Rutgers, and Ole Miss at this time. I would hear out any of my 8 teams that I left out to be in that last spot. For now, I will ride with the potential of this elite weekend rotation in Norman.


Mid-Majors:


  • CAA (3): Northeastern, Campbell, and UNC-Wilmington

  • C-USA (2): Dallas Baptist & Sam Houston State

  • Sun Belt (2): Coastal Carolina & Southern Miss

  • Big West (2): UC-Santa Barbara & UC-Irvine

  • American: (1): East Carolina

  • A10 (1): Davidson

  • Mountain West (1): San Jose State

  • Mid-American (1): Kent State


The definition of Mid-Majors comes from the college football Group of Five and college basketball's mid-major Top 25 conferences. That being said, these conferences are not created equally. For starters, the Mid-American Conference does not spend as much on baseball as a Big West school, and you could make an argument for them to be in the Small Conference portion of this article. I hope this base will allow you to follow along easier as the season goes on.


In my opinion, the Sun Belt and Coastal Athletic (CAA) are the clear-cut best of the best in this category. UNC-Wilmington makes my Last Four In due to the strength of the CAA, their OOC schedule, and overall talent in that unit. I could definitely see a program like Elon being in the mix for an at-large spot, as well.


The Sun Belt, on the other hand, may be deeper top to bottom than the CAA. My question is, how many of these teams are the caliber of a Top 50 team to get an at-large bid. Coastal Carolina and Southern Miss are clearly the cream of the crop in the Sun Belt. However, programs like Troy, Louisiana, Texas State, and Old Dominion all could contend for an at-large spot.


Let me talk about Troy for a second. The Trojans were the First Team Out of my Field of 64. I really like this ballclub Head Coach Skylar Meade has. I don't see a weak link in the lineup, and this team can hit for power. The athletic department at Troy has really invested into this program, and selfishly, I would love to see this investment pay off. With that being said, I do not know if Troy's non-conference schedule will do enough for its RPI if the team struggles in- conference. The Trojans travel to three of the four best programs in the Sun Belt (Texas State, Coastal Carolina, and Southern Miss), and they also host Louisiana. If Troy can take three of those four series in-conference, then they should be a lock for the Field of 64. However, only time will tell if this team takes another step forward under Meade.


Small Conference:


  • Missouri Valley (1): Indiana State

  • Southern (1): Samford

  • West Coast (1): Santa Clara

  • Southland (1): Southeastern Louisiana (SELA)

  • Big South (1): USC-Upstate

  • WAC (1): Grand Canyon

  • ASUN (1): Lipscomb

  • America East (1): Binghamton

  • Horizon (1): Wright State

  • Ohio Valley (1): Southeast Missouri State (SEMO)

  • Patriot (1): Army

  • Ivy (1): Penn

  • MAAC (1): Rider

  • Summit (1): Oral Roberts

  • NEC (1): Central Connecticut State

  • SWAC (1): Alabama State


Welcome to the small conference side of baseball. Personally, I love small conference baseball. I am very in-tune with the Southern Conference, so I am always looking into what is going on around the smaller conferences in the sport. That being said, I predicted the team representing these one bid leagues mainly by what happened last year. Many times, these smaller conferences can be a real tough thing to predict. You will see some programs are given the benefit of the doubt for past successes, and some are given it because of the depth of the roster. With the transfer portal taking and giving quality players to schools at this level, you never truly know how these teams will gel.


There are two conferences in this category I want to touch on, that being the Big South and America East. The Big South lost its top dog, Campbell, to the CAA this academic year. This allows a program like USC-Upstate to become a more recognizable brand in the sport.


The Spartans are a very talented ball club that have been a thorn in the side of the Camels in years past. I expect this team to take advantage of Campbell's departure and be a feisty 4, maybe even 3 seed this season. America East will be a fun conference, as last year, the Maine Black Bears won the auto-bid and rolled through the conference tournament. However, Binghamton is out for revenge, as the Bearcats had a disappointing 2023 season that had them finish third in the America East regular season. I expect Head Coach Tim Sinicki's ballclub to use the experience and leadership from their 15 seniors/graduates to return to the top of the conference.


Let me know what you think in the comments. Did I wrongly seed your favorite team? Who am I sleeping on? What team am I way too high on? All feedback is good, and I look forward to talking baseball all season long with you. Never stop being a passionate fan, because that is what makes this game so fun. Buckle Up! First Pitch is just days away.


*****

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