Rating every team's chances to win the College World Series
It’s almost here … the first College World Series in 2 seasons. The SEC leads the pack, placing 3 of the 8 teams in Omaha. The ACC and Pac-12 each sent 2 teams; the Big 12 sent 1.
We’ve spent all spring discussing and dissecting the SEC. It’s time to get familiar with entire bracket … and get a feel for just who might emerge from (throat clearing) OMAHA (thanks, Peyton) with the trophy. Here’s the skinny on the field, rated in terms of least likely to most likely to claim the hardware.
Best Player: OF Kyle Teel (.320. 9 home runs, 40 RBIs)
Chance of winning it all (on a 1-10 scale): 1.
Virginia is the 1983 NC State hoops of this field. They’re lucky to be here. They ended up in the Columbia Region as the No. 3 seed. But of course, South Carolina wasn’t the top seed in its own region, and UVA outlasted the Gamecocks and top-seed Old Dominion. That put them in Columbia for a rare neutral-site Super Regional. UVA came back on Dallas Baptist, led by a Game 3 grand slam from freshman Teel, and here they are. Opening against Tennessee won’t help Virginia’s chances any. It’s likely to be tough sledding, but then, the Cavs really “shouldn’t” be here at all.
7. NC State
Best Player: OF Jonny Butler (.377, 13 home runs, 48 RBIs, 16 stolen bases)
Chance of winning it all: 2.
Yes, NC State did take down Arkansas, in large part due to Butler’s 2-run homer off Kevin Kopps. But this is also the NC State team that lost to Arkansas 21-2 in the opener. State has plenty of hitters. But the odds of them cobbling together another Fayetteville-like run from their pitching staff would be pretty long. And of course, Vanderbilt is on their side of the bracket. Nothing to stop a bunch of big hitters like Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter. It wouldn’t be shocking to see State make some more noise, but they don’t feel likely to win the title.
6. Mississippi State
Best Player: OF Tanner Allen (.392, 10 home runs, 62 RBIs, 9 stolen bases)
Chance of winning it all: 3.
Maybe State has everybody right where it wants them. They slid under the radar in the SEC West due to Arkansas and then punched the last ticket to Omaha by knocking off hot-hitting Notre Dame. The pitching is capable, as they proved by outlasting the Fighting Irish’s fierce offense. The hitting might surprise — they don’t have the most power in this field, but this is a good doubles-and-stolen-bases kind of group. Could they win? Stranger things have happened.
Best Player: P Brendan Beck (9-1, 2.96 ERA, 128 strikeouts in 100 1/3 innings pitched)
Chance of winning it all: 3.
The Cardinal got here by wiping the floor with Texas Tech, 15-3 and 9-0. Beck and Alex Williams are 2 of a very small number of NCAA pitchers who could conceivably do head-to-head battle with Rocker and Leiter and hold their own. Can Stanford keep hitting? Considering the way they played in the NCAA Tournament so far, it’s reasonable to think so. To be honest, if Stanford didn’t have Vandy in its bracket, they’d rank a couple of spots higher.
Best Player: IF Jacob Berry (.359, 17 home runs, 70 RBIs)
Chance of winning it all: 4.
Arizona and Vandy could be very interesting. The Wildcats can hit the ball all over the yard, as they proved in taking down Ole Miss. But it’s one thing to hit and another to hit against Vandy’s aces. Essentially, that side of the bracket might come down to whether Vandy’s offense can outlast Arizona’s pitching. Given that none of UA’s starters have been outstanding, it feels like they probably will.
Best Player: IF Jake Rucker (.331, 9 home runs, 55 RBIs)
Chance of winning it all: 5.
Inexperience hasn’t bitten the Vols yet, and who’s the say that now is the time? Can UT outlast the other UT? Tennessee isn’t the highest wattage group of stars in Omaha, but the Vols have had a run of getting the timely hit, whether it’s Rucker or Drew Gilbert or on-base machine Liam Spence. One thing to watch is that UT hasn’t really hit significant adversity yet in the Tournament. How they respond with their backs against the wall could be the difference between a nice run and a title.
Best Player: P Ty Madden (7-4, 2.41 ERA, 119 strikeouts in 100 2/3 innings pitched)
Chance of winning it all: 6.
Texas and Vanderbilt are kind of similar. Both have outstanding pitching and depth, a group of underrated hitters, and massive stolen base threats. The guess is that the weekly grind of SEC play will have Vanderbilt a little sharper tuned than the Longhorns. But if Vandy is somewhat shy of form (and UT doesn’t pull off a mild upset), Texas will probably nab the title.
Best Player: Leiter. Rocker. Rocker. Leiter. Who knows?
Chance of winning it all: 7.
It’s really about the 2 guys above, who are the biggest weapons in the sport. Each had some periods of struggling around midseason. Each seems to have fixed his problems. It’s probably extra beneficial that Rocker has been here before, in a field where plenty of players won’t be able to say that. He was the Most Outstanding Player when Vandy won it all in 2019. The ‘Dores also have an easier path than Texas or Tennessee, and while they’re far from a shoo-in, the road to the championship goes through Vandy.