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NCAA Baseball Tournament: Regional and College World Series staff predictions

Find out who our staff sees winning regionals and advancing to Omaha.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The Road To Omaha begins Friday morning, as 64 teams begin their journey to the College World Series and a national championship. Vanderbilt are the defending champions and this year UCLA and LSU are the top seeds in the field.

We asked some members of our staff and some outside contributors to make their projections for this year's tournament. Our predictions consist of who will win the 16 regionals and which eight teams will make it to the College World Series. We also asked which regional was most intriguing, who is their Omaha sleeper and what is the best potential Super Regional Matchup.

The Panelists

Ryan Bafaloukos - House of Sparky Co-Managing Editor (@RyanBafo)

Connor Pelton - House of Sparky Lead Baseball Writer (@ConnorPelton28)

Kerry Crowley - House of Sparky Editor Emeritus/Pac-12 Digital Networks Broadcaster (@KO_Crowley)

Dominic Cotroneo - Pac-12 Digital Networks Broadcaster (@Dom_Cotroneo)

Regional Projections

Los Angeles Regional (UCLA, Ole Miss, Maryland, Cal State Bakersfield)

  • Ryan - UCLA
  • Connor - UCLA
  • Kerry - UCLA
  • Dominic - UCLA
Lake Elsinore Regional (UC Santa Barbara, USC, Virginia, San Diego State)
  • Ryan - Virginia
  • Connor - UC Santa Barbara
  • Kerry - USC
  • Dominic - USC
Stillwater Regional (Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Oral Roberts, St. John's)
  • Ryan: Arkansas
  • Connor: Oral Roberts
  • Kerry - Oklahoma State
  • Dominic - Arkansas
Springfield Regional (Missouri State, Iowa, Oregon, Canisius)
  • Ryan - Oregon
  • Connor - Oregon
  • Kerry - Oregon
  • Dominic - Missouri State
Miami (FL) Regional (Miami, East Carolina, Columbia, FIU)
  • Ryan - Miami
  • Connor - Miami
  • Kerry - Miami
  • Dominic - Miami
Dallas Regional (Dallas Baptist, Oregon State, Texas, VCU)
  • Ryan - Dallas Baptist
  • Connor - Oregon State
  • Kerry - Oregon State
  • Dominic - Dallas Baptist
Tallahassee Regional (Florida State, College of Charleston, Auburn, Mercer)
  • Ryan - Florida State
  • Connor - Florida State
  • Kerry - Florida State
  • Dominic - Florida State
Gainesville Regional (Florida, Florida Atlantic, South Florida, Florida A&M)
  • Ryan - Florida
  • Connor - Florida
  • Kerry - Florida
  • Dominic - Florida
Baton Rouge Regional (LSU, UNC Wilmington, Tulane, Lehigh)
  • Ryan - LSU
  • Connor - LSU
  • Kerry - LSU
  • Dominic - LSU
Houston Regional (Houston, Rice, Louisiana Lafayette, Houston Baptist)
  • Ryan - Houston
  • Connor - Houston
  • Kerry - Houston
  • Dominic - Houston
College Station Regional (Texas A&M, Coastal Carolina, Carolina, California, Texas Southern)
  • Ryan - Texas A&M
  • Connor - California
  • Kerry - Texas A&M
  • Dominic - Texas A&M
Fort Worth Regional (TCU, NC State, Stony Brook, Sacred Heart)
  • Ryan - TCU
  • Connor - TCU
  • Kerry - NC State
  • Dominic - TCU
Champagne Regional (Illinois, Notre Dame, Wright State, Ohio)
  • Ryan - Illinois
  • Connor - Illinois
  • Kerry - Notre Dame
  • Dominic - Illinois
Nashville Regional (Vanderbilt, Radford, Indiana, Lipscomb)
  • Ryan - Vanderbilt
  • Connor - Vanderbilt
  • Kerry - Vanderbilt
  • Dominic - Indiana
Fullerton Regional (Cal State Fullerton, Arizona State, Clemson, Pepperdine0
  • Ryan - Fullerton
  • Connor - Arizona State
  • Kerry - Arizona State
  • Dominic - Arizona State
Louisville Regional (Louisville, Bradley, Michigan, Morehead State)
  • Ryan - Louisville
  • Connor - Louisville
  • Kerry - Louisville
  • Dominic - Louisville
College World Series Teams
Ryan Bafaloukos
  1. UCLA
  2. Arkansas
  3. Miami (Fla.)
  4. Florida
  5. LSU
  6. Texas A&M
  7. Vanderbilt
  8. Louisville
Connor Pelton
  1. UCLA
  2. Oregon
  3. Miami (Fla.)
  4. Florida
  5. LSU
  6. TCU
  7. Vanderbilt
  8. Arizona State
Kerry Crowley
  1. UCLA
  2. Oklahoma State
  3. Oregon State
  4. Florida
  5. LSU
  6. NC State
  7. Vanderbilt
  8. Louisville
Dominic Cotroneo
  1. UCLA
  2. Arkansas
  3. Miami (Fla.)
  4. Florida
  5. LSU
  6. Texas A&M
  7. Illinois
  8. Louisville
National Champion
  • Ryan - LSU
  • Connor - LSU
  • Kerry - Florida
  • Dominic - LSU
Roundtable Questions

Which Regional is the toughest?

Ryan: I'm going to say the Dallas Baptist Regional is the strongest. DBU finished No. 2 in the RPI and was in contention for a Nation Seed all year. A lot of people will argue that Oregon State should have hosted over UC Santa Barbara and the Beavers possess the best rotation of any team in this regional, led by Andrew Moore. Texas is one of the hottest teams in the postseason courtesy of their Big 12 Tournament Title. I also think that VCU is a dangerous No. 4 seed, led by their all-senior rotation.

Connor: I'll go out to Stillwater for this one. The most competitive regionals are the rare ones where all four teams have a good shot at advancing, and I think you get that here. The host Cowboys are a very solid, well-rounded club, but will have to throw their ace against arguably the best No. 4 seed in the field, St. John's. Watch out for the winner of that Arkansas-Oral Roberts opener as well. The Razorbacks were in hosting contention until the final week of the regular season, and the Golden Eagles went 2-0 against Oklahoma State this year.

Kerry: For me, this is a tossup between the Lake Elsinore Regional and the Dallas Regional. Each foursome has its flaws, with Lake Elsinore having the weakest No. 1 seed in the field in UC Santa Barbara and Dallas having a pair of seeds that needed conference tournament victories to secure entry into the field. After much debate, I think the Lake Elsinore regional is a tad bit tougher because each of the four seeds is capable of winning the regional and all four teams feature premier arms. If Virginia has a chance to win the Lake Elsinore regional, I would not be surprised to see Nathan Kirby return after being sidelined six weeks and lead the Cavaliers to an upset.

Dominic: If you can find a regional where all four teams have an equal chance to win other than Fullerton, you can't. One could say Lake Elsinore could be equal, but I think San Diego State is a puff of smoke, and Virginia doesn't have the "it" factor this season while losing Nathan Kirby will set their fate. Fullerton has the best No. four seed, Pepperdine, in all of the regional matchups. Key stats: run differential and record in one-run games.
CSF (7-10) +80
ASU (16-7) +35
CLEM (4-8) +88
PEP (8-6) +13
Basically, the numbers prove just how balanced this regional is. If you have a good record in tight games, your run differential is poor, and vice versa.

Who is your sleeper team for Omaha?

Dominic: You might have noticed in my regional picks I have Arkansas pulling off two upsets, first against Oklahoma State, then against Missouri State. Andrew Benintendi gets my nonexistent vote for the Golden Spikes Award (over David Berg) but for this scenario to become a reality, he's going to need some help from his average offense. The Razorbacks got hot at the right time, and prior to losing back-to-back games in the SEC Tournament (to national seeds LSU and Florida, no less), they hadn't dropped back-to-back games since March.

Kerry: I don't know if a two-seed qualifies as a true sleeper, but if it does, I think the Oregon State Beavers have an outstanding chance to reach Omaha. But for those who prefer analysts going out on a limb, I'll take the other Civil War participant in the Oregon Ducks. Oregon needed to take two of three from UCLA to earn a spot in the field, and that series victory in the final weekend of the regular season sent a message.

Oregon doesn't have a ton of star power, but it does have a winnable regional followed by a likely matchup with a challenging, but not overbearing Oklahoma State squad. If Oregon continues its hot pace, it's feasible the Ducks could end up in Omaha in what was once perceived as a down year in Eugene.

Connor: Florida State lost out on a chance to earn a national seed when it lost five straight games a few weeks back, but the Seminoles answered that stretch by tearing up the ACC Tournament bracket. They posted four consecutive comfortable wins in Durham and are coming into the postseason full of confidence. Dealing with College of Charleston and Auburn in regional play will be no picnic, but I think their pitching staff should lead them to a Sunshine State rivalry series in the Super Regional. The Seminoles and Gators split the two games they played earlier in the season, but I'm calling for FSU to pull the upset and make it to Omaha for the first time since 2012.

Ryan: The gentlemen above me put it really well. The only No. 2 seed I have in Omaha is Arkansas. I thin the Razorbacks are battle tested, playing well and get a favorable draw. I would not be surprised to see Oregon State make it either, Andrew Moore can matchup with just about any ace in the nation and the Beavers are playing really well. I also think Clemson has a really good chance to make it out of Fullerton and give Louisville trouble. Mathew Crownover and Zach Erwin are as solid as they come on the mound and the Tigers had a pretty successful end to the year.

What do you think is the most intriguing potential Super Regional Matchup?

Connor: After falling to LSU in its second game of the Baton Rouge regional in 2014, Houston battled back to win two consecutive games against the Tigers to advance to the super regionals. The selection committee did a great job of setting up a possible rematch this season between the two teams, providing that they both take care of business in the first round. The Cougars have won 12 of their past 14 and enter tournament play as one of the hottest clubs in the country, while the Bayou Bengals have been at the top (or near it) of the national rankings all season long. Hopefully we are treated to a rematch between the two in a couple weeks.

Kerry: There's an argument that the selection committee should seed all 16 regional hosts as opposed to awarding just eight national seeds, but I enjoy the current format, which favors local showdowns in super regionals. The possibility of watching Florida take on Florida State is intriguing, as well as the chance to see a USC-UCLA rematch with a berth in the College World Series on the line. For West Coast baseball lovers, I'm not sure any Super Regional matchup could upstage a battle in Los Angeles.

Ryan: I think the best potential Super Regional matchup is the TCU/Texas A&M matchup we could see in Fort Worth. For one thing, the atmosphere would be absolutely insane with potentially hundreds or a few thousand A&M fans making the trip of Fort Worth. A lot of people believe Texas A&M should have been a National Seed instead of TCU because of their tougher schedule and more RPI Top 50 wins. I think the pitching of TCU against the firepower of Texas A&M would be outstanding.

Dominic: So many great options here with Dillon Tate v Bubba Derby, Walker Buehler (or Carson Fulmer) v Kyle Hart...but I'm going with the Oregon State v DBU showdown of Andrew Moore v Parker French. These are two battle-tested veterans coming from complete opposite ends of the conference strength spectrum. Runs will be at a premium in Dallas.